This year’s festival was organised at the premises of the Croatian Club whose president, Joško Ivčević, is also a native of Split. The head of the CHF Split presented greetings from City of Split Mayor Željko Kerum. This year the group has donated money to the Hospital at Firule.
San Pedro, California is home to a number of Croatian associations, including the Sveti Duje (St Domnius) Benevolent Society, led by Duje Tomić, gathering natives of Split who celebrate Split’s patron saint every year. Many of the members are also active in the other associations, but this particular one links them to their native city.
This year’s festival was organised at the premises of the Croatian Club whose president, Joško Ivčević, is also a native of Split. In collaboration with the CHF branch office in Split the event, staged on April 27th, featured a performance by Split-based singer Mirella Meić. Gabriela Brajević, who has lived outside her native Split for over forty years, delighted the gathered with her poetry dedicated to her native city. She has read her poetry at the St Domnius festivals for over a decade.
The head of the CHF Split, Branka Bezić Filipović, presented greetings from City of Split Mayor Željko Kerum. Also on hand to greet the gathered was Croatian General Consul in Los Angeles Ilija Želalić. Dr Mirko Giaconi read the greetings, as he does every year. Besides the gala evening the Sveti Duje Society also organised the collection of donations for institutions in the City of Split. This year’s monetary contribution to Split from the Pacific coast will go to the Neonatal Hospital at Firule. The lottery was moderated by Joško Ivčević, president of the Croatian Club, with the event joined later by Carmen Trutanich, the candidate for Los Angeles County District Attorney, whose election campaign is already in full swing.
How Croatians arrived and stayed in Arizona
The trip to the western US seaboard was also an opportunity to meet with the Croatian community in Phoenix, Arizona—home to a Croatian-American Association founded in 1954 as a non-profit organisation with the aim of preserving Croatian traditions and culture. The group has gathered Croatians across several generations. Their settlement of the area began in the late 19th century and was then focused on the mining town of Globe near Phoenix, a site of malachite finds. There is a Croatian cemetery in Globe to this day. The influx of Croatians continued between the two World Wars, after World War II and following the Homeland War of Independence. In recent times the Croatians of Arizona once again opened their hearts and doors to many refugees who came without a hope to America and found a new home there. The Croatian-American Association was a place where all those freshly arrived in Phoenix could receive useful advice and support. It is place where they will never feel alone.
The association was founded by a small group of Croatian immigrants who came together to help one another and who, over time, purchased land on which to build their premises. They called it simply The Land. They later found a building they felt was suitable for adaptation into a community centre and, as property prices rose, The Land was sold—the proceeds of the sale covered the bulk of the cost of the new centre. The remainder of the funds were collected as donations. And so the dream of a few became a reality—a reality that has contributed to the preservation of Croatian customs and culture.
The group is currently led by Dražen Baričević and organises Croatian language mass, served by Don Mate Bižaca from St Anthony’s parish in Los Angeles. Next year the group will celebrate their 60th anniversary—an event worthy of honouring. Efforts are being made to have the first string of the Hajduk soccer club there for preparations in January of next year, hosted by the local club Valparaiso—a meeting was agreed with their head coach Sead Karaselimović.
The Croatian communities of America are numerous and always ready to work with the homeland, with which their bonds have never been broken.
Text by: Branka Bezić Filipović