The work of the School was showcased by Lidija Cvikić, one of our leading experts in the field of teaching Croatian as a foreign language, Igor Matijašić, the leading writer on this project, Marina Aničić Spremo, the author of the short documentary Spomenak, and Lada Kanajet Šimić, the head of the Little School.
On the 20th of February the Croatian Heritage Foundation staged a round table and the premiere screening of the film Spomenak at the Matis Club to mark the 25th anniversary of the Little School of Croatian Language and Culture.
On hand for the event were friends of the CHF and eminent guests, including CHF Board of Directors chairperson Milan Kovač, the acting director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies Marina Perić Kaselj, the head of the Zagreb County administrative department for education, culture, sports and technical training Mirela Katalenac, the assistant head of the City of Zagreb office for education Katarina Milković, representatives of the Education and Teacher Training Agency and Biljana Petljak and Slaven Kovačević representing the City of Zagreb Red Cross.
The event programme opened with greetings from Milan Bošnjak, representing state secretary Zvonko Milas of the State Office for Croats Abroad, and Vesna Bedeković, representing the speaker of Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković. On hand to formally kick the event off was CHF director Mijo Marić.
There were a number of speakers ahead of the screening itself, including Lidija Cvikić, the vice dean for science, arts and international cooperation of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Teacher Education and one of our leading experts in the field of teaching Croatian as a foreign language; the principal of Milan Lang Elementary School in Bregana Igor Matijašić—the leading writer on this project; television journalist and the author of the short documentary Spomenak Marina Aničić Spremo; and the head of the CHF’s department for education, science and sports and the globally successful head of the Little School Lada Kanajet Šimić.
The event at the CHF headquarters in Zagreb was brilliantly and emotionally led by the head of our publishing department Vesna Kukavica.
Kukavica noted that the Little School of Croatian Language and Culture was a unique programme in Croatia with the objective of providing children aged from 9 to 16 living and receiving educations abroad an opportunity to learn and improve their knowledge of the Croatian language and to discover the culture and natural heritage of Croatia as a whole and the region in which the school is being staged. To date the programme has seen the participation of 1,352 attendees from 36 countries on five continents, with 82 specialist heads of diverse backgrounds.
The speakers noted that the short documentary premiered here expectedly follows on the Spomenak monograph published on the 20th anniversary of the Little School. It delves into the history, objectives and values espoused by the School.
The screened moving picture was successful in evoking among the viewers not only the fact that fun and play were the most effective way in which to teach the Croatian language and learn about our identity, but also the beauty of socialising and creating friendships among young ethnic Croatians that span the globe. The documentary film was shot in part on site at the Little School event staged at the Zagreb Red Cross resort in Novi Vinodolski in 2017 and in part comprises CHF archival footage and photography.
Pavao Jerolimov and Lada Kanajet Šimić wrote an excellent article for this year’s Croatian Emigrant Almanac on the first quarter century of the Little School. The idea to launch the Little School of Croatian Language and Culture was born back in 1992 when Jerolim, as a long time CHF outside associate working on our Summer School of Croatian Language and Culture programme, proposed the idea to the late Silvija Letica, then head of the CHF department for culture and education activities. She hammered out the details of the programme and laid the preparatory groundwork. In 1993 the first event saw the participation of thirteen children that came to Puntižela near the coastal town of Pula with the support of the Croatian Culture Community of Germany’s Wiesbaden, at the time led by Maja Runje.
The education segment of the Little School is conducted in the workshop form and covers language, theatre, arts, journalism, puppetry, film and dance workshops. The closing presentation is the crown of the work of all the creative workshops and offers the children an opportunity show off their newly acquired knowledge.
The Little School of Croatian Language and Culture is looking forward to a bright future and, in the 21st century, will incorporate new forms of work and activity, including online programmes for learning language and culture and textbooks for Croatian as an inherited language targeted to the age group covered by the School.
We can expect its future success to be deservingly great and for it to have a lasting impact, thanks to the worthy and professional leaders of the School, the excellent lecturers and the great interest among the participants—after all, it’s only twenty-five years old.
By: Diana Šimurina Šoufek; Photography: Snježana Radoš, Hrvoje Salopek