Angry New Yorker

Thursday, November 16, 2023

We recently returned from two weeks in Europe, visiting our ancestral homeland of what is now Croatia. It was the first long vacation we'd had in 3+ years, and much needed, but the history of the area my family hales from reads like a fictional story of armies, empires, fiefdoms, short-lived republics and sieges. Game of Thrones had nothing on actual reality - minus the dragon, of course.

The powers that ruled over coastal regions of what is now Croatia proper are legion. From the Roman Empire, to the Venetian Republic - which gets virtually no coverage in historical works despite having existed for 1100 years from AD 697 until AD 1797 during which it held hegemony over much of the Adriatic - to the French, to the Austro-Hungarian Empire ending in 1918, then the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, to Italian control, interspersed with short-lived, self-proclaimed republics (in Trieste, Labin and elsewhere), and consolidation post WWII as Yugoslavia (literally "Land of the South Slavs "), and ultimately to self-sovereignty post 1992 until today. 

Had the communists not taken over in the aftermatch of WWII I'm not sure my family would have emigrated to the US. Maybe they would have, since my paternal grandfather had long worked in the US proper and on cross-Atlantic ships including on the Titantic's rescue ship, the Carpathia; but maybe they wouldn't have. That's a topic for an alternative universe. But the fall of the iron curtain sealed the deal regardless.

It'd been 15 years since I last visited. And the change is stark. And not bad overall - at least on the surface. [And speaking of Game of Thrones, above, Dubrovnik was the city where they filmed much of the King's Landing scenes and watching it I could point out what was real and was layered in CGI.] 

Croatia hasn't been fully EU-ized, yet, and that's a good thing. Even though their change from the Croatian Kuna to the Euro has increased prices there isn't a mad grab for money readily evident. Maybe there is behind the scenes. Given human nature there is probably definitely a grab behind the scenes. But history matters here. 

First, Croatia hasn't been capsized by immigration the way the western EU countries have. The immigrant waves have centered west - on Italy, Germany, France and the UK. To the east and north Poland and Hungary have closed off massive immigration. And no immigrant wants to take their chances in Bosnia or Montenegro, let alone Serbia or Albania (and 10% of Albania has picked up and moved to the UK in the last few years). 

Second, Croatia's diaspora is well-connected to the homeland, though that link attenuates with each passing year. I've never lived in Croatia, but I feel a connection to it, and Istria in Croatia, given the many years of stories I've heard from my father and mother. I feel the lifes lived there and still have relatives that I know living there. 

I'm hoping we can return again soon, and given I can work from anywhere I wouldn't mind seeing if I can live there all summer next year - though I'm not sure what I'd do with my bees. I think it'd be tough stuffing the hives in the overhead luggage compartment on the plane. And, of course, I'd have to leave my firearms behind, too. 

We'll see.... 

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