Croatia 2032: Ghost Towns and Tumbleweeds?

Poster for Osijek Exhibition "Where Did My City Disappear To"

Poster for Osijek Exhibition
“Where Did My City Disappear To”


The topic of demographics and the alarming rates of people, particularly the young, leaving Croatia in search of work and prosperity is, and has been for a few years now, on every government or opposition politician’s lips,  and the country’s president’s. But absolutely no national remedial strategies issued, absolutely nothing seems to have changed, except the political party or the government at which the blame-finger is pointed at any one particular time. The numbers of those leaving Croatia keep rising. Young people in particular appear to be resigned to the fact that there are no jobs or employment opportunities for them and this leads to personal frustration, resentment, despair … one loves ones country and yet survival in it is harsh and in many instances impossible if dignity is part of that survival. And – corrupt nepotism hasn’t moved down and out a single notch! And the Diaspora wants to contribute, it wants to help – but, hey – this notion doesn’t seem to have truly sunk into the Croatian governing echelons despite what looks more and more like a smokescreen of incessant lukewarm invitations to the diaspora to come and come and come.


During the past week in the Croatian city of Osijek, which lost so very much blood and so very many lives in defending itself from Serb aggression in the early 1990’s – brought, through a University students’ exhibition, to painful attention the wound that destruction and unemployment open and leave oozing into a bleak and alarming picture of the not so distant future.


The vision of empty streets of Osijek in photos almost freezes the blood in our veins. There are no movements on city squares in them, business premises – locked. ‘Lively’ though, is the map of the world. Strewn across it are the portraits of those that are born, that grew up there, even graduated from the university in Osijek and who then packed their suitcases and left ‘in search of bread’ abroad. It’s 2032, and the last of the inhabitants are leaving Osijek. This apocalyptic forecast is the theme of the exhibition called ‘Where did my city disappear to’ authored by 11 students of Cultural Management studies at Osijek University. Their final exam is actually in Museum and Exhibition Management. Everything occurs under the mentoring by Prof. Andjelko Mrkonjić and his assistant Tomislav Levak.


Symbolically the exhibition is held in the Bus terminal in Osijek, Croatia.


– We refer to the imagined year 2032, when, as we presume, the city will be empty. How realistic is that? Given the current situation – it’s very realistic. If the young people continue leaving intensively in such high numbers, it’s questionable who will remain, said Matea Milinkovic, a student.
The public does not know the exact number of those who had already left, even the authorities don’t know that number – neither the state or the local authorities. However, it is understood that some 22,000 people have left Slavonia and Baranje in the past six months.


One of the students, the exhibition co-organisers, Emily Dobutovic said: “ We don’t know the exact number of young people who have left Osijek, it’s known that some 82,000 young people have left Croatia during the past year…Moved by the constant increase in numbers of friends and acquaintances leaving we have decided we see that as much as everyone is aware of this situation nothing changes, nothing is being done. We have decided, therefore, to appeal to the citizens in order to warn them and perhaps move them into taking some concrete measures and do something…


Student and the exhibition co-organiser Ivan Tenko says: “Most likely every person between the age of 18 and 30 is thinking about leaving Osijek either to Zagreb or abroad. At this moment Dublin seems the most popular place to go, several thousand have already gone there – both younger and older, which has created a most interesting situation in that almost everybody knows someone who has left for Dublin, Some friend of your may have gone there, found a good job in Dublin, found a place to stay and has started living the ‘good’ life and so you get the motivation to leave your surroundings which provide none of that, and where there are no opportunities to realise these things for life. All in all, one needs a great deal of perseverance to remain in Osijek…we get by through short-term employment or seasonal work. Of course, it’s hard to predict the future but given the situation in the country and the absence of clear signs of change for the better we believe the emigration trend from Osijek will continue for a few years to come.”

Where Did My City Disappear To Osijek Croatia Exhibition Students, exhbition organisers Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

Where Did My City Disappear To
Osijek Croatia Exhibition
Students, exhbition organisers
Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell


As soon as it was announced the exhibition has ‘stirred some spirits’. Both the professors and the students were aware that the exhibition would lead to reactions but they emphasise that their primary goal is to warn of what may be coming. After all, they themselves do not want to become a part of the statistics representing those that have left.


– Everyone is turning their head, thinking that it’s not their problem, and we want to awake the public, not only those of our age but also older people and especially those who are planning to leave – the students said.”


The students organising this exhibition do not want to spread a message of pessimism but want the exhibition to reflect their wish and their belief that the situation can be changed. They don’t want to be in a position of an immigrant and become ordinary foreigners in other people’s countries. Osijek is their city and they don’t want to leave it, and by remaining there, with their efforts and work they wish to stop the realisation of the sad destiny for the city predicted in this exhibition and by many leading minds of Croatia.

19 February 2017 marked two years in office for president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and considering that she from the start vowed to work on stopping or preventing the exodus of young people from Croatia, the opposite has occurred. The exodus has increased and bulked-up to alarming levels that threaten the survival of the Croatian nation on its own land. As president her role and ability to be the motor for change are practically non-existent but what does exist is her ability to keep pounding and banging her fist against the table – as she said in the beginning she would do, but hasn’t – seeking changes, seeking government’s accountability, seeking a show of strategies etc. She has had to deal with three governments during those past years but sadly she and most in Croatia seem to let go of pressing issues with every change of government or presidents. Issues such as the exodus of the young are a constant, sadly, and must be treated as such otherwise with every new government, new strategies will be offered for the resolution of the same issue and with that – new failures! Sad days ahead for Croatia unless some strong hands start banging against tables – on more issues than one that threaten the independence of a substantially whole nation paid for so dearly! Ina Vukic


  1. I will be in Dubrovnik in a month.
    I need to go to Eastern Europe more. It is where my family came from and it is so beautiful.
    I wonder if sorrow amplifies beauty.
    Because Croatia is so beautiful.

  2. It seems that all these Croatian politicians since the end of the Homeland War have just been the remnants of communism. We need someone well educated in Law with experience in politics that is right wing for the well being of Croatia as a country and a people. Amen

  3. Croatian politicians have failed miserably and it is time for some serious changes to happen before its too late.

  4. Yeah, that’s because the Cro government don’t give a f..k about the Croatian people. It’s like everywhere else in the world, governments work for the bankers, and people are just assets they can borrow more money on for em selves!!!
    We need the rebel against the government in Croatia, they’re destroying it bit by bit…

  5. To think that millions and millions and millions of EU funds designated for the development of Croatia and, hence, jobs – are sitting wasted, unused in Brussels is as far as I’m concerned tantamount to criminal negligence by the governments. When are the people and veterans taking to the streets in protest?! Get up people, do something – life abroad is not milk and honey for most but a hard existence

    • Indeed Wilkinson, not far from criminal negligence. Not knowing how to is no excuse and not hiring those that know how to pull out funds is purposeful act of violence against the people, denial of job-creation…since EU funds at least exist and, there are othe more significant opportunities that are tied to the diaspora and its capabilities in creating investments ad jobs…

  6. Who will shine a light here for Croatia? I pray, I hope, I wait – I will join in.

  7. it would be better if half the politicians in Sabor left! They are useless! All the young people in Croatia should publicly demonstrate in front of Sabor….every day and put the pressure on big time!!

  8. From Facebook comments: My two young nieces have left Croatia last year, to Ireland. No job here. Of course, they have a university degree. My nephew, 31, has also left Zagreb, to work on Kosovo, then in Macedonia. My cousin, younger then my son, has left Croatia 4 years ago. He could not find a job here. My daughter is on the Bureau for Unemployed People. What to say?

    • And EU funds to be had for job creation as well as diaspora potential sit in the dark, I’m quite certain due to ill-will for Croatia to get on because knowledge should not be a problem – if there’s none there one can buy it…just so angering

  9. Yes, it’s absolutely economic with jobs a top priority, but it’s also demographic. Croatia, like many european countries have stopped reproducing themselves. For variety of reasons the value of marriage, children and family has weakened. Less people get married, more people wait to later years for marriage often opting for one or no children. Not a recipe for future success. In pure economic terms without children there is no future market. No future market, no future economic opportunities. It’s a death spiral. Small countries like Croatia are particularly vulnerable (economies of scale work a state level). But Croatia has all the right ingredients for an economic and demographic boom – we’re part of a much larger EU market, we have very talented people, we have a diaspora that is highly motivated, educated, experienced and entrepreneurial. We just lack a ‘top-chef’ to mix and stir the ingredients. But we have to wake up first from our communist zombie like state of being.

  10. The ruling class in Zagreb seems hellbent on forcing out the young and refusing entry to the diaspora. Why? Perhaps then they can sell off Croatia’s empty cities and towns to foreigners?

  11. Reblogged this on IdealisticRebel's Daily View of Favorites.

  12. I would suggest to you, good people of our diaspora, to aply some presure on, first of all, Croatian Ambassy in form of open letter which could be published in croatian media and various web portals. Your thougths are so valuable and much needed over here. -Željko-

    • Thank you – Zeljko – for this, indeed pressure is being implemented and letters of what I know but perhaps it needs to be more. So yes, great suggestion and thank you for the trust in diaspora.

  13. In my two visits to Dubrovnik and along the Dalmatian coast, it was sad to see abandoned homes and buildings along the countryside. For the all natural beauty of the area, seeing the war time scars is something you don’t forget.

  14. TALK ABOUT BEING LOST! And thanks for being one of the first two…to visit my new “digs” (blog site)! I will return the favor when I get home. This terminal is very picky on whose blogs I can share! 🙁

  15. Zeljko, its time for Croatian’s to take their destiny in their own hands. There is little time left.

    Some people say it will take generations. if it does Croatia will not exist. This exhibition is proof.

    Diaspora can only do so much and can be accused of interfering while living abroad, as the communists always say. They seem to know everything about capitalism and democracy and we know nothing, even though we have spent all our lives in a western system, after all, they are “Doctors”.

    You know who these old communists and young communists are, we do not.

    How do you eat a elephant? One bite at a time.

    Priority, all judges should be replaced and the court system needs to be reformed. I would request assistance from the German government in this area.

    Start here and now.

  16. Thank you for visit Ina ! 🙂
    Aliosa 🙂

  17. Why is Hrvatska purchasing jet fighters . What an absolute waste of money , only to feed the military industrial internationals
    If this money (taxes) is used properly , many industries could be expanded to enhance the skills of our very bright youth .
    But how can they be encouraged when massive debts are going to destructive sectors . Everyone knows that Hrvatska is one of the more beautiful nations in Europe . With a small population much could be done for the better , starting by not letting the octopus of globalism directing and invading its future .
    The internationalists want to take our peoples Christian sovereignity culture and faith . That’s the main reason for poor economy . Things were better before EU membership , in spite of having to recover from the devastation of war .

  18. Thank you for writing this article Ina. I was always saying that the EU cannot work if all the youth leaves to emigrate another country. EU must find the ways to invest in all countries and promote investments and stop adopting US policies. Otherwise this is going to collapse any time soon

  19. Trust me, if there were another planet to go to, people would be leaving Earth to go there…The problem is the ‘old world’ formula for economics and financing is not natural and congruent to Human existence (and ending)…the old world formula relies upon: 1. Free Resources, controlled by the few, gotten by war; 2. Slavery, labor used to extract those resources from the Earth coerced by civil war, debt servitude and corrupt local governments; 3. Trade, exporting those resources to be manufactured in another country, by cheap manufacturing labor, then sold to others at prices they cannot afford causing people, businesses and governments to borrow what they are never allowed to repay (capitalist monopoly)….what is happening today is the old model is breaking down…countries no longer want incessant war, they want to build wealth locally by acquiring control of their resources, creating middle classes within their own land, buying their own products…this breaks the system down (competition)…when economies mature, they are made to ‘appear’ to grow by the increasing growth of ‘investment’ value (money, digital, paper); increasing portfolio value with no real growth of the economy (Dow Jones Industrial Average i.e. via Wall Street)…all of this paper are merely promises of returns that can no longer be kept…the free resources are gone, the slaves are gone, the middle class (actual producers) shrinks and the wealth gets concentrated in the hands of the few…with all kinds of money being printed to cover the vast sums being lost via derivatives…wealth that never trickles down to the common people…so some sort of reset is coming…how violent it will be and what comes after remains to be seen…peace

  20. when the youth leave by the droves, the generation looking to retire can’t, and a sickly cycle develops…

  21. Theresa Stabo says:

    My Croatian grandma’s naturalization papers state that she was born in 1897 in Consekiewa, Yugoslavia. I cannot find that town on a map and Google doesn’t turn up anything either. Any ideas?
    Grandpa was from Krizevac. I can find mountains in BH by that name, but no village.

    • Would that be Krizevci (Križevci) in Croatia, Theresa? As to Consekiewa – no idea, haven’t come across that either…the spelling is more like Polish than Croatian perhaps you can find another version???Perhaps it’s Konjscina (Konjščina)???? Good luck Theresa! Great to hear from you

      • Theresa Stabo says:

        Hi, Ina –

        It is hard to say if I have the correct spellings or not. Both my grandparents were illiterate and the immigration people may have taken liberties with spellings, especially since we don’t have letters with accent marks in the U.S. So, they just changed it.

        They both identified as Croatian. My grandpa’s name was Staba, with an accent over the “s.” I met some of his relatives in 1980 who lived in Zagreb. We lost touch after the war. I stumbled upon a cemetery near Plitvitce Lakes in 2014, with many tombstones with my grandma’s maiden name, Cindric. Some relatives spell it Cindrich.

        Thank you for the other spelling suggestion for her hometown.

        My husband and I visited Sarajevo in 2014 and were impressed with the determination and positive nature of the young people we met there. They want to move forward with their lives yet find some reconciliation with the unspeakable past. The war museum was heartbreaking.

        Good luck with your work for justice.


      • Good luch Theresa, let me know how you go 🙂

  22. I think that Serbs are at fault for the emptying of the cities. We are clearly suffering ptsd from the aggression of the 90s and we are afraid it will happen again. I think the purchase of fighter jets was smart. We can go to war with the serbs again because croatia is controlled by communists to this day. Only then will cities like osijek thrive. This will create many jobs for the many students that reside in osijek.

    • Of course they are at fault, Tomislav. Thank you for your thoughts

      • Hometruths says:

        Serbs are at fault?

        Hang on, didn’t you Croats get your independence in 1995? That’s 23 years ago and you still blame the Serbs in 2018?

        It’s no wonder Croatia is screwed with that mentality – symptoms of OCD, not PTSD. Especially when you think that declaring war on Serbia is a great idea to improve Croatia’s economy – WTF?

        You Croatians left Yugoslavia and amazingly gave up your political and economic independence again to the supranational European Union (Yugoslavia-on-steroids) in 2013.

        So you exchanged being a big fish in a small pond, for being a little fish in a big pond – genius! Hence your economic problems and the exodus of your population.

        Here is some advice. Firstly stop being obsessed by the Serbs – it’s called “responsibility deficit disorder”, and considered by medical people to be a mental condition. Secondly leave the EU and regain your independence before it’s too late.

      • Hometruths: once an aggressor always an aggressor. I guess you may have medical qualifications so your assessments may hold water, I doubt it somehow…

  23. Hometruths says:


    Your response to my reasoned argument that an independent Croatia cannot move forward if it keeps looking back and blaming somebody else for its problems is a classic fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic (demographics & economics) is avoided by attacking the character of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

    You have been an independent sovereign state for 23 years – it’s down to the Croatian politicians/leadership to build a prosperous country for the benefit of all Croatians. If they have failed it has nothing to do with anyone outside of Croatia.

    • Nobody denies genuine discussions and work towards resolving of the important problems such as demography and economics, Hometruths, the relevance of the past though is that because of the past the actions of individuals etc are not what they should be were that past reconciled. Carrying a baggage unopened and sorted gets heavy…

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