In May 2017 and Australian-Croatian artist Steve Kustro will embark on a monumental and amazingly heartwarming 36-day Humanitarian Walk from Dubrovnik to Vukovar, raising funds to help needy children’s charities in Croatia. I do trust the support he gathers for this throughout the world will be as generous and as strong as his aim to help those in need is. This is an interview with Steve Kustro in which he speaks about his plans for this epic adventure and issues he is coming across with in pursuing the realisation of this plan, hoping public support and enthusiasm for this Humanitarian Walk will grow and blend into the likeness of his very own. Good luck Steve and we will be following and supporting you all the way.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your Croatian roots, Steve
Born and raised in Sydney under a Croatian traditional family. Christened at Saint Anthony’s Croatian Summer Hill church under father Lambert Ivancic. Sunday school and church picnics was the weekend normal for our family. Tumbi Umbi to Blacktown and Saint Johns Park… Worked part time at both Croatian Clubs as Barman and DJ work. Played with Velebit Musical Folkloric Group for about 10 years. Performed in Melbourne Brisbane and Canberra over the years and the best was at the Opera House under the international Folkloric festival. Always been involved in the Croatian Community waving that proud Croatian Flag. Witnessing the aggression over the years at a local state league final with Jugal (Sydney based Yugoslav soccer club) and Sydney United final at St Georges stadium for the first time I felt threatened for who and what I believed in. I remember standing up against the Yugoslav consulate fence waving my Croatian Flag (1988) with 3 mates and all of sudden found myself pushing Ivica up a flag pole to rip of the Yugo flag that was our goal and burn it but was stopped by a gunshot out of the top window behind the brown timber blinds. Looked around and found a mate on the floor with a gunshot to the neck. Which to this day is still logged in his neck. Remember a General came to Sydney from the Croatian Army looking for recruits, four of my mates signed up and only 1 came back home, sad and still angry how they still could not be found and buried by there loved ones, Been back home (Croatia). Yes I call it home more then my first home Australia. Been home 18 to 20 times I’ve lost count, remember getting into major trouble at a very young age where I’ve stolen a statue of Tito that was looking at me at an old man’s house took it and threw it down a well; and to this day I would still do that over again.
2. The Humanitarian Walk for charitable fundraising you are planning to undertake in Croatia is an enormous and physically demanding task, what were the most important factors that helped you make the decision to go ahead with it?
I wanted to do something significant in memory of my own father so I dedicate this walk to him.
Whatever I do, wherever life takes me, I’ll never be able to be a person bigger than my father.
I love a challenge and I love not being in control about everything in life.
It will be a nice way of seeing the country that I’ve loved all my life. Its easy and simple to just drive from one part to the other but going for a walk and meeting people talking and chatting how life is going backwards and not forwards or just maybe it’s a first sign of a mid-life crisis, whatever it is I don’t like people telling me your stupid for doing this and it’s a waste of time. And I think it’s stupid just be just sitting there waiting for life to pass by not challenging yourself and life itself.
3. Tell us about this Humanitarian Walk you will be undertaking?
In May to June 2017, I will go to Croatia and begin an epic adventure by walking over 36 days 1105 Km from Dubrovnik to Vukovar to raise funds for two children’s charities in Croatia. There are children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who suffer through having to live in orphanages, there are war orphans of Croatian defenders or civilians who were killed in the Homeland war thus losing their main pillars of support for their life – their mother or father or both. That’s why I think this walk is a very important action as it also simultaneously binds itself to the love for Croatian homeland from the Diaspora.
The beneficiaries of funds raised through this action will be the children helped through the Humanitarian foundation for children of Croatia/Zagreb and those cared for by the Children’s Home in Nazorova St in Zagreb.
Steven looks forward to sharing experiences and friendships with the people I meet along the way and, of course, this walk needs the help of all the good people who wish to contribute and donate funds to help the children of Croatia.
If people type http://www.kustrogallery.com into the internet browser they will be able to donate money to help this charitable cause. Given that money raised goes towards such an important purpose, even the smallest help will be appreciated.
Also, http://www.kustrogallery.com website will provide the platform for tracking the progress of funds raised from donations as well as being able to access the list os stages and times reached in my walk plan. At the same time, people will be able to press the link and track events during the walk of Steven, including live Facebook broadcast and articles, and daily YouTube Vlog, Instagram and Twitter.
4. What excites you most about this Humanitarian Walk?
I really can’t wait to see meet and sit with all the kids at the Children’s Home in Zagreb and meet the people of the Humanitarian Foundation for children of Croatia. These organisations have been around for a very long time, dedicating themselves to Croatia’s most needy – children.
5. You have set yourself a very high goal in planning to raise over $1 million, how likely do you think you are to achieve this goal and what do you think may be some factors influencing its full realization?
Yes an amount of 1 million I know may not be met. My first goal was $500.000.00 but after talking to a major business person in Sydney he pushed the idea of a million which he said can and will be accomplished. Fingers crossed he’s right.
6. Were there any special considerations you took into account when planning your route and stops along the way?
Keeping out of some towns that are still very negative with our ways of life and political positions, that was very important to stay clear of. Keeping close to major towns for safety reasons and yes picking some of the most attractive parts of Croatia to showcase and promote it on my daily blog on Youtube. But also being connected to the major cathedrals and churches was very important. I’m also still waiting for a reply regarding a church service as posted on my site.
7. What do you thing is the hardest thing to attend to during the planning for such a big goal?
The biggest is negative feedback, but also when I asked some friends for help regarding emails and letters to be written but just simple things they all refused to help, found that very upsetting so I’ve been doing everything on my own and I’m still going strong, but then again people that have helped haven’t really done much at all and can I say the biggest help that has come is from you Ina. I just cant thank you enough for all of your help, I’ve just started sending 40 emails to all the big corporate company’s in Croatia and guess what not one simple reply has come yet. Like someone told me locals in Croatia really hate us Croats from Australia doing these things. This could be the case I think and I’m starting to see it first hand, no reply for accommodation or even donations from any companies.
8. So further to the above, how is your contact with local people in Croatia in towns, villages and cities you’ll be passing through and stopping for rest?
I’ve been finding it really hard, people are positive about the whole walk but there seems to be a negative side to it. Not sure why or what but I feel it. Maybe its still early days, I’ll wait till I just show up at my night rest and ask for help only then will I know what sort of attitude they have with the walk. If all fails the local church I’m sure will open their doors for me when I turn up unannounced.
9. What do you think will be the hardest aspect you may encounter on your Humanitarian Walk and are you ready to take it on board?
The biggest issue I’m having as of today is finding accommodation on my route. We have had no reply to any invites for a one nights rest with dinner and breakfast.
If nothing comes of their help I’ll have no other option but to spend my own money for accommodation which could run up to 4 thousand dollars. Then that’s what I might have to do.
10. The Walk itself is a lot of kilometers – how do you physically train for it?
Well my partner to this day says that I won’t make it after one day. I have been a keen cyclist for years doing about 110km in an afternoon. As for my current training well that’s getting up for a walk to the bathroom each morning. Seriously, I’ve got this very steep hill and I’ve been doing that about 5 times for the last month the I’ll be picking it up each month 10 to 20 times and trust me its very steep indeed.
11. How do you expect to feel emotionally and about yourself after you have completed this Humanitarian Walk?
I’ve done it my way and I don’t and won’t thank anyone at all except INA that’s it. Of course I’ll be drained of energy but full of happiness that it was I that has done this single handed. Just imagine if we all got together we could move mountains.
12. Would you like to add anything for our readers and the public associated with the Humanitarian Walk you are undertaking?
Nothing will mean more to me then if all Croatians around the world got together for the best of ones nation. Helping the ones that are in need, helping the elderly. Taking care of our war veterans, housing the homeless, helping those that are in need of any kind and that includes our children that are forgotten either by their parents or state, they are my kids and yours. It’s my Home and yours. We must and should take care of it because no one else ever will. This is a small part that I’ve played and I hope I’ve made a change in some way to the kids. Please help me in any way you can with your donation and I’m sure we can and will make a change together because together we can make a difference.
Feel free to join me at any part of the walk how ever far one wishes to walk with me. 1km or 5km its up to you. I’m starting to think about using the walk as a silent protest for the lack of support the Croatian government is giving us all in the diasporas around the world. We deserve to be heard and we will continue playing a part on shaping the direction of Croatia. However the government tries to silence us we will be heard and trust me if I myself can and will try my best to be heard. Imagine what we could all achieve if we all stood side by side as one and marched down into Zagreb demanding better for its people and country. I only hope.
Prepared and written by Ina Vukic