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 http://www.pilar.hr/leksikon.html
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.
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.
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)