The first homeland presentation of Juro Balaž, a poet from Slovakia, and his first collection featured tamburitza music and song performed by the members of the Črip folklore ensemble of Novo Selo.

The first homeland presentation of Juro Balaž, a poet from Slovakia, and his first collection was staged October 15th at the Croatian Heritage Foundation. The Vrat’anje domuom (Homecoming) collection was published last year by the Croatian Culture Federation of Slovakia and it has already been presented, in February of this year, at the Croatian Centre in Vienna.
On hand to speak about the book was Croatian Heritage Foundation director Marin Knezović MSc, the book’s reviewer and language editor professor Sanja Vulić DSc and author Juro Balaž. The presentation was moderated by Vesna Kukavica, the head of the CHF publishing department.
In the Balaž family of Novo Selo everyone speaks Croatian and they make and effort to preserve the language and their customs. The poet Juro is the son of linguist Joško, and his daughter Terezija has attended the CHF School of Folklore and initiated the publication of this unique collection. The seventy-eight poems selected for this collection were penned by Balaž thirty years ago, but chance saw to it that they were only published now. Their publication was preceded by the research paper “Concerning the Poetry and Poetic Language of Juro Balaž” (2002) penned by the book’s reviewer and language editor, and its promoter at this event.
“… Juro Balaž does not aspire … to polish his poetic language, rather he writes spontaneously, in the manner in which the people of Novo Selo speak today. His poetic language, therefore, has an abundance of Slovakianisms and numerous local phrases and is, as such, somewhat less understandable to Croatians outside of Slovakia. This characteristic of Balaž’s diction is, however, without a doubt a welcome challenge to poetry enthusiasts who wish to delve into the essence of his poetry.
Presenting himself to the public with his first collection Vrat’anje domuom, Juro Balaž brings seventy-eight of his poems to the light of day. Just as the symbolic title of the collection suggests, through his poems the author is returning to the Novo Selo of his childhood, reliving old customs, places and people as they once were. These poems are a permanent monument to the poet’s thoughts, aspiration, memories and joy. Through them we experience the spiritual world of the Croatians of Novo Selo – their great love of their village, the soil they till, their families and relatives, the joy they take in their neighbours and friends, and the wistful memories of the former way of life, the daily life of Novo Selo in times past….
Balaž’s poems contain numerous local toponyms and the names and nicknames of his acquaintances from the past and present. This personal approach to poetry to some extent sets him apart from a broader readership, for which it is not always easy to delve into the particular world of Novo Selo Croats. The many generally human themes Balaž treats in his poetry, however, bring his work closer and render it more understandable to poetry enthusiasts who may not be acquainted with the poet’s native region, but share an affinity for the Croatian word and the totality of Croatian literary heritage with all of its linguistic specificities, born out of the complex historical circumstances in which this literature was formed and is created,” noted presenter Sanja Vulić.
The author thanked everyone on hand and the presenters in his fluent Novo Selo Čakavian dialect, expressing his great happiness and gratitude for having seen his collection promoted in Zagreb.
The rainy afternoon in this Croatian Book Month at the CHF auditorium was brightened by the song and music of the young members of the Črip folklore ensemble of Novo Selo. They performed Croatian songs that have been preserved in their region for over half a millennium and the homemade specialities prepared by the venerable Croatian women from Slovakia.

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