Many Croats Abroad That Made And Make Croatia Proud

Lexicon of Croatian Emigration and Minorities Front cover Photo: Screenshot

Lexicon of Croatian
Emigration and Minorities
Front cover
Photo: Screenshot


Proportional to its domestic population Croatia has one of the largest Diasporas in the world. Throughout its history but particularly since the 19th century Croatian people in their droves have been forced to emigrate or flee. Whether due to poverty or political circumstances that meant persecution and/or death to those who failed in compliance or agreement, or whether due to the fact that their brilliance and skills failed to find fruitful grounds and home but received recognition in a foreign country.

That’s why our renowned citizens were and still are émigrés, said the Croatian newspaper Vecernji List on 6 October 2015; people like Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry – Vladimir Prelog and Lavoslav Ruzicka, inventors such as Nikola Tesla and Ivan Vucetic, Soprano Zinka Kunc, Sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, Attorney Mirjan Damaska, Physicist Daniel Denegri and Marin Soljcic, Molecular Biologist Miroslav Radman …

The contributions Croats living abroad have made and are making to both Croatia and to their second homeland abroad have rarely been addressed in a deserving big way. But that is about to change now that there is a newly published Lexicon (a Dictionary of Croats in diaspora) – “The Lexicon Of Croatian Emigration And Minorities” (Leksikon hrvatskog iseljeništva i manjina) released on 6 October 2015 at the Croatian Heritage Foundation instigation by the Croatian Ivo Pilar Institute (in collaboration with the Miroslav Krleza Lexicographical Institute and the University Library of Zagreb).

This unique lexicographical offering brief biographies of more than 3,500 Croats who are considered important in the impact their made in the diaspora, in their new homelands, as well as for Croatia has been made available online and demonstrates the significant and bright phenomenon of the Croatian migration especially that of the 19th and 20th centuries even if the reasons for its existence had more often than not been terrible. The lexicon is accessible online at



While undoubtedly there will be more additions to this lexicon I am very proud to have been included in its first edition.  This pride I feel has been made greater than usual particularly because only two days before the Lexicon’s release in Croatia another event, 4 October 2014, celebrating migration into Australia and its contribution to Australia for the occasion of the opening weeks of Sydney’s newly developed public space –Barangaroo Headland – featured my own story of coming to Australia.


Photo: Ina Vukic (as migrant child and adult)

Photo: Ina Vukic
(as migrant child and adult)

According to a report by daily Vecernji list, there are at least 2.6 million Croats, including their descendants, living in 26 countries around the world. Nearly half of that total is in the USA.

In other worlds there are just 1.5 million more people living in Croatia today than there are with Croatian ancestry living around the world. After the USA, the largest Croatian communities are found in Argentina, Canada, Australia, Germany and Chile.
According to estimates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration last year, around 1.2 million people with Croatian descent are living in the USA. The most are based in the States of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cleveland, as well as in California. There are also large communities in Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Montana, New York and New Jersey.

In Argentina there are around 250,000 citizens with Croatian heritage, with 80% of the Croatian immigrants arriving from Dalmatia at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Century.

Around 200,000 Croatians and their descendants are estimated as living in Canada today. Most are located around Toronto, Mississauga, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. Between 150,000 and about 300,000 are estimated to be living in Australia, with the largest communities in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane.

In the second half of the 19th century a wave of Croats from Dalmatia, mainly from the Makarska Riviera, Brac, Hvar, Korcula and Peljesac area arrived in New Zealand. The biggest community is found in Auckland, with smaller groups living in the Kaitaia, Hamilton, Whangarei and Wellington area. Between 20,000 and 60,000 with Croatian heritage are estimated to be living in New Zealand, although the number on the official census is a lot smaller.

In Chile there was a wave of Dalmatians, a lot from the island of Brac, arriving at the end of the 19th Century. There are around 225,000 Croatians living in Germany, Ecuador 4,000, Uruguay 3,300, and South Africa 8,000.

Screenshot  Page from Lexicon of Croatian Migration and Minorities

Page from Lexicon of
Croatian Migration and Minorities

Perhaps the release of this Lexicon of the Croatian Diaspora at the time of the refugee and illegal migrant crisis sweeping across Europe (more than 150,000 have passed through Croatia in past three weeks) will remind the Croatian government that great care must be taken to ensure unchecked or barely checked identities of people crossing the borders is not a kind thing to do. It endangers the population and as President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic says there must be greater control and closure or greater policing of green passages into Croatia (while official border passes stay open) and that Croatia must ensure and take greater care in ensuring there are no terrorists, drug or people smugglers or other criminals crossing the borders with genuine refugees. Certainly, that is a big ask but not impossible. When we look back through 20th century migration, especially, we see that each country had strict rules and checks as to who would be permitted to enter it and settle in it or even seek refuge. There should be no different treatment today because peace and security continue being the two most important facets of our lives. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Nila Oreb says:

    nice one Ina 👍🏼 xx

    Best Regards

  2. This Lexicon must have taken a great deal of work and attention to detail and the producers of it are to be congratulated and people should submit to the Pilar Institute material and names and supporting texts etc to make it richer even. I have my reading cut out for me for quite some time in this book.

  3. I think this is a fantastic thing now all that needs to happen is for Croats living in Croatia who have never migrated to read and study and strengthen the bonds between Croatia and its diaspora because often I get the sense that domestic Croats resent those in the diaspora to varying degrees. They fail to appreciate how hard migration was and is for all

    • Much needs to happen to repair the damage former communists led by former president Stipe Mesic caused in the link between Croatia and its diaspora, Shrub. If I had authority and since Croatian taxpayers pay former president’s salary I would have Mesic work at repairing the damage…

  4. Stevie10703 says:

    There could be even slightly more Croatians and those of Croatian backgrounds as well. Many came to the USA during the Austro-Hungarian days and some are listed as either Austrians or Hungarians on their American immigration papers. Also, you also have to wonder about Hungarian last names such as Kovacs which has the Croatian root of Kovac. There are also ethnic Croatians living in Slovakia as well and many of those are people descendant from the original Croatian tribe that ended up settling in Croatia.

    I have two interesting stories, at the local paint store near me they have the store manager named Slavo and he is Slovakian. When I go there, we always have some small talk. But, one day my I was in the store with my dad and we were speaking in Croatian and Slavo asks where we are from and my dad answers “Croatia,” and that’s when Slavo mentions that he has some Croatian blood in him as his grandmother is an ethnic Croatian then he explains that there is a small enclave of ethnic Croats in Slovakia. Some immigrated there long ago while others are direct descendants of the Croatian tribe that while they were making their trek to Croatia most likely stopped there and a group of them stayed rather than continue the trek to Croatia.

    The second story was back in the mid-1990’s, a friend of mine was transferred to Kansas City, Missouri for work from New York. It was for a short time where the company he worked for sent him there to train as a manager at one of their smaller offices. So, I went to visit and he had tickets for the Kansas City Chiefs football game, it was cold day and I had my “New York Croatia Soccer” hoodie on. We parked the car and were setting up to tailgate when the person who parked the car next to ours walks up to me an asks If I was Croatian and I said I was. He then explains to me that he too was Croatian and he was in the Army stationed in Kansas but he was originally from Pittsburgh. I asked who in his family was Croatian and he said that it was his fathers grandparents who were and they arrived in the USA back in the early 1900’s.

    For me, I think its great hearing that the Croatians, no matter how far removed from Croatia and how many generations removed from Croatia still know about their Croatian backgrounds. Many no longer speak the language, which is understandable, but they know where the came from and that’s just as important, if now more.

    There is actually a good book called, “Running Away to Home,” and its the true story of an American woman from Iowa who is of Croatian ancestry and she wanted to go to Croatia and live there for an extended period of time to find out more about her family. She didn’t know how to speak Croatian but she knew that she was from Lika and she picked up her stuff and she, her husband and three children ended up moving to Croatia (I believe they were there for over a year) and she wrote about her adventures, its a good read and worth the time.

    • No doubt about it, Stevie, Croatians in diaspora pass on the love to their children and grandchildren for it’s firmly a fact that one needs to love one self, one needs to nurture identity if one is truly going to love others. So many great stories. And yes, many especially from Dalmatia hopped on ships during Austro-Hungarian times and went to America, New Zealand, Australia etc …many insisted with authorities they were Croats and not Austr-Hungarians – it didn’t work of course as sovereign Croatia as country did not exist then but our emigrants made sure they told the people that while there was no country called Croatia there were Croatians who were a country inside themselves.

  5. Davor Pavuna says:

    We Love You, Ina :
    God Bless You!
    Gratefully, Davor Pavuna
    President, HSK-Switzerland

  6. Congrats, Ina. Well deserved. It’s very encouraging that the tide is turning (albeit slowly) for Croatian pride and recognition especially within our own ranks. People like you are a not only helping keep the Croatia spirit alive but are an example and catalyst for Croatian pride.
    Thank you.

  7. ante saric says:

    This is what happens when you have no state, no plan, no vision, no wit, no guile and no leadership. Millions of your citizens end up either dead in a pit somewhere or abroad.
    You have all these Croatians galavanting around the world yet there is plenty of space next door in BiH. Lets say there were 3 million Croats next door, We basically control the area or at least have a big say in what is to happen there,
    This is what I mean about no strategic thinking and no guile. Croats just handed over to our enemies prime real estate next door while looking for cash abroad. Great work. Now they are crying like little babies about how tough it is for Croats in BiH.
    In Croatia proper the news is not much better. It is probably worse. Now Karamarko wants to give 1000 euros for each baby. Firstly, we dont have the money. We are flat broke. Yet, 100,000 poor migrants show up for free and would stay and work in Croatia if there were opportunities.
    Anyway, despite our stupidity, Croatia is facing no demographic crisis. All it has to do is reform the economy (the brain dead electorate is against “neo-liberal” capitalism”) and labour markets and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousand people, will come streaming in. In addition, It is one of, if not the most beautiful countriy in the world and in a great location.

    • There are still too many individuals in positions there who think they know everything, Ante, and would rather see things fail than admit they don’t know everything, or can’t do any job (just like old communists did). But, younger generation from about 40 down has lots of great potential and attitude to make economy entrepreneurial-happy 🙂

  8. What Fun! Congratulations!

  9. Bright eyes dig up a question from generations ago:
    You want to know why the wind blew us
    Together, how our sons will grow, when we will
    Meet again, where will we be as one again?
    Training gives you the desire to examine cause and
    Effect. Experiences about as wide apart as possible
    Come at us, yet we harmonize, learn each other’s secrets,
    Give what we know the other will love, provide
    Sanctuary in a world spinning out of control for so
    Many. This I offer to distinguish myself from regular
    Men, be they handsome or young: a complete heart
    With continued support, undying gratitude, massage
    Therapy, attempts at cooking, quite a way with words.
    I expect you to smile when we chat, remain a solid
    Force, a muse for my art, the reason I will always
    Yearn for more, forever the target of happy life,
    Memories (plans?) and a fresh heart, made whole
    By the time we spent sincerely swirled, sufficiently
    Molded to continually receive jolts of good news,
    Connected forever by this love, complex, alive, strong.

  10. Great Read! Cheers 👍

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