The Tomo Periša exhibition is organised by the Croatian World Congress and the Croatian Heritage Foundation and was declared open by the CWC’s friar Šimun Šito Ćorić.

An exhibition featuring the work of Tomo Periša opened on the 30th of June, organised by the Croatian World Congress (http://hsk.hr/kontakt/) and the Croatian Heritage Foundation.

The gathered participants of a meeting of the central committee of the Croatian World Congress, the umbrella association of emigrant Croatian groups, hosted today and tomorrow at the CHF headquarters, also home of the homeland head office of the CWC, were addressed by exhibition organiser Nives Antoljak. CHF director Marin Knezović was also on hand to offer his touching commentary. The featured artist Periša took the gathered on a fascinating oral journey through the exhibition, revealing what motivated him to dedicate it to his friend Željka. His friendship with Željka Lešić, a journalist with Matica magazine, who interviewed him on several occasions, their shared associates and interests, motivated him to dedicate this exhibition in Zagreb to her memory. At the CHF headquarters Periša, a painter and a poet, is exhibiting his oils on canvas and a treasure chest of some fifteen thousand poems and a half a million lines of verse.

The exhibition was declared officially open by friar Šimun Šito Ćorić, a writer, psychologist and singer-songwriter, the author of numerous books of literary and scientific content and a great number of music albums. He served as the president of the Croatian World Congress for eleven years, from 1994 to 2005, and has since served as the organisation’s spokesman. Friar Šito also works as the head of the Croatian Catholic Mission in the Swiss town of Solothurn and as the national coordinator for Croatian Catholic missions in Switzerland. He spoke of the poetry and painting of Tomo Periša, their humanitarian and other joint efforts in Switzerland and Periša’s achievements and family life. He had glowing words when speaking of the memory of Željka Lešić – this exhibition shows once again that many, not only her colleagues at the Croatian Heritage Foundation and the CWC, have not forgotten her.

Periša, who hails from the Podravina region in northern Croatia, lived in the Luzern area after his departure from Croatia. In Switzerland he founded a small school of Croatian naïve art, exhibiting his work in Hamburg and Fribourg, and was active in the Croatian community. Moving to Malinska was a homecoming of sorts for him and he now lives with his family in the Croatian maritime port city of Rijeka. A versatile artist and a returnee from Switzerland, at his last visit during a Wednesday’s at the CHF event in 2012 he observed that, “My fifteen years in Switzerland, from 1986 to 2002, were the best years of my life. Inventions, patents, experiments, painting, social activism, projects, even working with the Israeli embassy, marked my work.”

Željka Lešić (1955–2015) worked as the head of the homeland office of the Croatian World Congress, as the secretary of the Croatian World Games, wrote articles on migrant topics and interviewed our people from around the world – interviews published in numerous Croatian media at home and abroad, print and electronic, weeklies and monthlies. She received her early education in Vinkovci, studied law in Zagreb and found employment in 1994 with the Croatian Heritage Foundation. She wrote for and served as a member of the editorial board of the monthly Matica magazine, contributed essays to the Croatian Emigrant Almanac and wrote for the CHF Internet portal.

We will always remember the words of this smiling woman from the northeastern Croatian region of Slavonia, words with which she painted the lives, hopes and dreams of many diverse people, especially of those living abroad, and her optimism. Tomo Periša honours her memory with this exhibition.

Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos by: Snježana Radoš