The Power Of The Croatian Diaspora

The Croatian diaspora sends more money to Croatia than what it earns from its summer tourism industry (which is considered the strongest arm of Croatia’s economy), wrote Bozo Skoko in Večernji list newspaper on Saturday 2 July 2022, after a survey on how expats perceive Croatia was completed.

According to the survey Croatian expatriates believe that the greatest advantages of the homeland are the sea and natural landscapes, tradition, cultural heritage, hospitality, gastronomy, rich history, while the greatest disadvantages are the weak economy, inefficient political power, the legacy of communism, low level of democracy and political culture, lack of community and care for the environment.

Although, according to the latest population census, Croatia has less than four million inhabitants, in reality it can boast of 8 million people of Croatian roots and interests if all the Croatian diasporas from all over the world are included. If we exclude Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatian minorities in neighbouring countries, the facts show that more than 4 million Croatian emigrants and their descendants live at and around various world meridians and parallels. Among the largest number of Croatians and those of Croatian origins living in the diasporas are those in the US, Canada, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany.

The Croatians living in the diaspora have always and still do represent a strong potential of political, social, and economic power.  Certainly, the 1990’s breakaway from communist Yugoslavia into independence proved that such a goal would not have been achieved without the support and involvement of the Croatian diaspora and this, in itself, is a testament to the diaspora’s power on all fronts. However, the questions that would arise are to what extent they “feel” Croatia, what Croatian identity means to them, what could attract them to visit the homeland of their ancestors more and to invest, promote it and lobby for its political interests. Many Croatian emigrants, especially those who fled the communist Yugoslavia after World War Two and their children and grandchildren are largely integrated into the mainstream societies they live in and are very sensitive to ideological issues in Croatia, the homeland from whence they originate. The survey has shown that it is these latter Croatian emigrants that often bring and maintain enthusiasm to the social activities of their communities in the diaspora. This, of course, is nothing new, it is a continuation of what the Croatian post WWII political emigration had been doing all along – maintaining Croatian identity throughout the world, language, culture, traditions and political aspirations of democracy and freedom. Utilising the freedoms gained and offered by the democracies of the West to maintain and nurture their identities while assimilating into multicultural societies they live in.

Croatian diaspora is made up of top scientists, humanists, philanthropists, experts and business people, who were not satisfied with the situation in the former Yugoslavia and in search of freedom and democracy and better living and working conditions built their careers in the West, and today they make up the elites of the societies there. They were joined by those who left Croatia in the last thirty years — from professionals, who, thanks to their talents, knowledge, and creativity, quickly integrated into new societies, to those who, in search of better-paid jobs and fairer societies, became attractive and still cheap labour to rapidly growing Western economies.

We must not forget the so-called “guest workers”, who since the 1960s have been going to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other Western countries to make ends meet. While they always have one foot in their homeland, their children are educated and well-to-do citizens of the world, who like to spend their summers in Croatia, listen to Croatian music and rather support Croatia than the national teams of the country in which they were born.

In the first two quarters of last year, for instance, remittances from Croatian workers abroad totalled one billion and 745 million euros, while at the same time, the state’s income from foreign tourist arrivals was one billion and 494 million euros. This means that through various channels, Croatian workers from abroad sent 351 million euros to their homeland, or 23.5 percent, more than foreign tourists spent on accommodation, food or entertainment.

Although there was a fear that the monetary value of remittances would decrease due to the Covid pandemic, this did not happen in the Croatian case and remittances increased by as much as 206 million euros, i.e. by 13.5 percent more than the previous year. In the first quarter of last year alone, Croatians sent 890.7 million euros in remittances, and 854.3 million euros to the workforce from the beginning of April to the end of June 2021. So, in each quarter, Croatians abroad sent more money to their families than the state received in the first tranche from the European Union mechanisms for recovery and resilience.

These facts about the Croatian diaspora’s enormous ongoing contribution to Croatia’s economy, in addition to the relatively vast population of Croatians living abroad bring to the fore even more the tragedy of Croatian political and government leadership who continue ignoring and suppressing the significance of its diaspora. The government has few years ago created the so-called Centra State Office for Croats Abroad which was reportedly devised to actively engage the diaspora in advising the government what changes are needed in Croatia to further the development of democracy, increase expat return, increase investment is Croatia from its diaspora etc. However, this body is failing to deliver real changes and in its discriminatory process of nominations for advisers it has largely alienated Croats from the diaspora leaving as its backbone only those who are “yes” people to the government and its political party and who, evidently, do not dare raise their voice against the government and its policies. Were this advisory body a true representation of the Croatian diaspora communities then we could be looking at positive prospects of diaspora’s input into Croatia’s development. One would have thought that the years of this body’s existence, 55 advisors from all over the world, would have at least insisted in the adjusting of parliamentary representation for the diaspora from the current 3 seats back to 12 seats, which used to be from 1995 until 2010 when former communists in power (e.g., communist Yugoslavia nostalgic Jadranka Kosor as Prime Minister) took 9 seats in parliament away from the Croatian diaspora. The communist mindset and resistance to real input from the diaspora within the Croatian government is palpable at every corner and signpost on the path that was supposed to get rid of all communist Yugoslavia practices by now. The good thing is that Croatians appear to be waking up to this tragedy with actions. Thankfully, there are a number of organisations and private businesses in Croatia set up in the last decade especially, by returned expats who want to contribute to the betterment of Croatian living and economy despite the government’s aloofness towards the treasure trove of knowledge and skills that exists among the diaspora Croats. Looking forward to the 2024 general elections in Croatia and hoping for real change in government away from being bombarded by former communist operatives or their offspring.  Without that widespread corruption and nepotism will continue thriving and driving away into the diaspora, in pursuit of a better life, hundreds of thousands more people. Ina Vukic   

Croatian Diaspora: Living For and Giving To Croatia

Marko Franovic (L) Dr Ivan Hrvoic (R), Photo: Hrvatski tjednik

 The 23rd June 2022 issue of the revered Hrvatski Tjednik (Croatian Weekly) had published an extensive interview conducted by the Weekly’s Editor in Chief Ivica Marijacic with two prominent Croatian expats who are both successful businessmen, philanthropists of note and profound patriots to Croatia.  I have translated below into the English language much of the said interview primarily because it provides a clear and proud picture and a profile of the Croatian diaspora, of Croats living abroad who were a significant part of the strength in the 1990’s that made it possible for Croatia to leave communist Yugoslavia, defend itself from brutal Serb aggression and establish a democracy in a new independent state.

One of the interviewees is Sydney Australia based Marko Franovic who fled the oppression of communist Yugoslavia from Croatia and his native Boka Kotorska to arrive in Sydney Australia in 1960, embark on a long journey of hard work, business acumen and entrepreneurship coupled with his Croatian patriotic activism, publishing, humanitarian activities and outstanding philanthropy towards the betterment of both his new homeland Australia and his first Homeland Croatia.      

The other interviewee is Toronto Canada based Dr Ivan Hrvoic, a Croatian scientist, innovator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who in 1972 emigrated to Canada and in 1980 founded his own the company GEM systems Inc. for measuring the earth’s magnetic field for magnetic observatories, searching for minerals, diamonds, and oil, for volcano and earthquake studies, for archaeological research, metrology, etc. His company today rates as a leading company in its specialty and he is considered as one of the leading, probably the best experts in the world when it comes to measuring the Earth’s magnetic field. Hrvoic was very active politically in Canada during the 1990’s having focused on Croatian patriotic activities that would prove invaluable in Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia and the creation of a democratic and independent Croatia.   

Both of you left Croatia a long time ago, you come here often. How do you feel every time you touch Croatian soil?

 Marko Franovic: I have been in Australia for 61 years, but every time I come to Croatia, I am just as happy as if it were my first time. I follow everything that happens in Croatia intensively, I am frustrated with many things and every time I touch, as you say, the Croatian soil, with happiness and pride, I feel hope, I always hope that it will be better in Croatia. It saddens me to see that only a little is moving in the right direction.

 Ivan Hrvoic: I have been in Canada for 50 years, I come often, once, or more every year, but every time I feel like I came home. Of course, not everything in Croatia is happening according to my liking, but we all expect and demand that the situation improve, that there is finally a normal democracy here. But I repeat, the first feeling is always that I have come home and there is nothing that can pay for that.

You both went out into the world fleeing communism. Did you have any ideals that you believed in or didn’t believe would come true? What can you say today about that, have your ideals been realised, not only the political ones but also others?

Marko Franovic: I have always been and remain an optimist. When I say that I am going to Croatia, I always say that I am going home, even though my home is down in the Bay of Kotor, and the Bay of Kotor, as we know, is no longer in Croatia. But I always say, when people ask me, that I go home to Croatia. When they remind me that this is not Croatia, I answer that Boka has always been Croatia for me. If the existing world no longer allows it, it doesn’t matter for me it is always Croatia. Finally, I fled 60 or so years ago because Boka did not stay in Croatia, Josip Broz Tito gave it to Montenegro. I remember in 1954 I was the youngest apprentice in the workshop, I was only 13 years and four months old. It was a repairs unit for the army. One man says he heard that Boka would belong to Croatia. But that was according to what Grandma liked, that’s what she dreamed of. This, unfortunately, did not happen then or today, it will never happen again. We must be aware of this fact: we cannot start a war with the Montenegrins today to get Boka back. In the meantime, we Croats moved out of there, as my brothers and I did. Others began to inhabit the area. But let me answer your question: I never gave up on Croatia, although I said in 1982 that I would not think about Croatia anymore because there were so many UDBA or Yugoslav secret service operatives that it was unbelievable. UDBA supervised everything. While I was initially in Italy, I was a member of HOP (Croatian Liberation Movement), in Australia I didn’t want to join that organisation because I realised that UDBA was overseeing everything. I am proud of everything that is Croatian, but unfortunately there were bad people among us.

In 1991, the Croatian state was created. In that sense, I asked if your political ideals had been realised.

Marko Franovic: Of course, they were. I saw another God in Dr Franjo Tudjman. I was happy we got the man who returned the state. For the first 20 years I believed in the realisation of that dream, but later, when I saw how many UDBA operatives were infiltrated into everything, I was suspicious. In 1984 we decided to build a church, we got together and organised in Australia. I got involved with all my heart and when people saw that people like me and I were giving $ 10,000 each to buy land and build a church, everything started like a river, everyone started giving as much as they could. And so, we succeeded and strengthened. We built two churches in a year in Sydney.

Ivan Hrvoić: I left after the Croatian Spring. I have the same attitude today towards Yugoslavia and communism as I had then. At that time, however, I did not believe that there would be an independent Croatian state because it was a communist system and there did not seem to be any force that would realise it, although the Croatian Spring was encouraging in that sense. When Tito broke the resistance of the springers near Zagreb with tanks, my hopes somehow faded. But when Franjo Tudjman appeared at the head of the movement 20 years later, it was phenomenal for me, like a new awakening or birth. I had quite high duties in Canada. I was the vice president of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and the president of the AMCA (Alma Mater Croatica). That association was supposed to be cultural, but I turned it into a political one. We lobbied for Croatia, we went to demonstrations, we demanded that the aggression against Croatia be stopped, we helped in all ways and made ourselves available to the Homeland. So, that’s right – in the 90’s my political ideals came true.

Is the Croatian emigration disappointed with the attitude of the Croatian authorities towards it?

 Ivan Hrvoic: I think so. After the first glorious years of the establishment of Croatia and especially the Homeland War, we were told: “We don’t need you anymore, now we have money and don’t interfere … etc.” This greatly disappointed the Croatian emigrants. Later, all bridges to emigration were completely demolished by a shameful electoral law according to which they gave us three seats in parliament, to vote only at diplomatic missions and to many these were a thousand kilometres away, while at the same time they gave three seats in parliament to the practically aggressive Serb minority who are still paid to vote. It is so frustrating and humiliating for us Croats throughout the world. After that, bridges to our emigrants were no longer built. I had the opportunity to talk about this humiliation to former President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic when she was with us. She didn’t change or try to change anything.

Marko Franovic: The Croatian diaspora is very frustrated, it has almost no ties with the Croatian government.

Why, in your opinion, does Croatia fail to free itself from Yugoslavianism and myths like Jasenovac, even though it has been free and independent for more than 30 years? Here, the media and politics still create a pro-Yugoslav atmosphere, every year in the spring we are collectively subjected to the months-long terror of one Milorad Pupovac and Jasenovac myth. Why can’t Croatia slam the door on these relics of Yugoslavian and Greater Serbian politics?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is a very open and complex question. I see that the moves made by our political elite lead more and more in the direction of Yugoslavia, even though it is a failed idea, and, in my opinion, it will never succeed again. But unfortunately, some forces still insist on this, I think because the network of those who lived well in Yugoslavia and terrorised others, especially us Croats, is now being renewed and completed again. That network has become extremely powerful and strong. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic commands it. He and his partner Milorad Pupovac are managing it and we, unfortunately, do not have any movement in Croatia that would give hope that this will stop any time soon. For example, all this right wing – it’s all a collection of big ambitions, everyone thinks they are the new Stjepan Radic or Ante Starcevic, but that’s not the case. They cannot agree and become a force, so there are no changes.

Marko Franovic: First, we have to understand that we were educated in lies. We are ashamed of our nation and our Croatian past instead of being proud of our past and loving it. If we blush when we say we are Croats, that is terrible. We must know that our past was clean, that our past is not the one we were taught about in the communist system, not the one taught to us in schools by Serbs and communists. My nephew once asked me how I could love the Ustasha, when they, he says, killed children. I told him that he went to school, but he didn’t learn there that two and two are four, but only as a joke that the Ustashas were killing. The Ustashas did not kill. Historian Stjepan Lozo wrote well: Serbs were not killed because they were Serbs, but because they killed Croats, and everything that the Serbs accused the Croats of, they themselves actually did to us Croats. This has been proven in all or much of the most current research, but we don’t seem to believe those researchers. That is why I have now started an association headed by Dr Andrija Hebrang with the aim of promoting the historical truth. For me, Dr Hebrang is another Tudjman; a man who was not in with the communists and is independent and free. Our goal is to spread our true Croatian history. We have been learning a lie for 80 years. Today, schools still interpret that more than 83,000 people were killed in Jasenovac, and it is known that 16,800 people passed through Jasenovac, while the number of victims in various ways (including death) was slightly more than 1,500. And that is true.

Marko Franovic (L) Ivan Hrvoic (R) in Zagreb Croatia June 2022, Photo: Hrvatski Tjednik

Could it happen in another country that it stands accused without evidence by its privileged citizens and people living in it, like Croatia is often slandered by Milorad Pupovac who often flees to the country of aggressors during the biggest holidays and does not want to be in Croatia?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is unthinkable anywhere except in Croatia. Not only do they have no evidence for their allegations, but they are also not trying to find it, and they are preventing any attempt to verify or investigate. This is nowhere to be found in the civilised world. The question is, of course, how to get out of that situation. That’s a big question. The only legal way is elections, and in the elections, people were discouraged because their choice was reduced to HDZ or SDP, and it is not known who is worse between the two of them. We already have some third parties that are not yet unfortunately strong enough to be a real threat those two.

You are successful entrepreneurs, you earn a great deal of money with your businesses, knowledge, and skills, and you spend a lot of money on various charity projects. I know you both shared with others many millions. It is my opinion that today patriotic thought in Croatia would practically die out if it were not for you, because Plenkovic’s government, through Minister Obuljen, suffocated it and preferred to help hostile anti-Croatian projects. Are you sorry for the money you gave for these purposes?

Marko Franovic: I will never be sorry. My plan is to invest for Croatia, not in Croatia, for as long as I live. I have invested in every idea to help Croatia, whether it is the renovation of churches or political campaigns, institutions, films, books, projects. I invested a lot of money for Ivo Sanader. Do you remember his warranty card? Trust me, I wrote him those seven promises. I wouldn’t mention everything – movies, books, associations … I share my surplus. I get up at 4 in the morning and go to work, I come back around 6pm and so on five days a week, and on Saturdays I work until 6pm. Myths about my wealth are being spread, but such stories are not simply true. I have investments that I have achieved by working, saving. Indeed, money comes to me very successfully, but I work constantly just as my 60 employees do.

Ivan Hrvoic: As you yourself said, we do not want self-promotion when we help many and when we just talk about it. I almost never talk about it. I can say that I must have received a message from above at one point: “If you have extra money, you have to share it with your friends, with your people!” The argument for this is that once we leave, we will not be able to take anything with us. Croats, like, for example I think, Jews, do not have this culture of giving and it is only a minority that donates. And I have orientated myself to help many. As a last example, for example, I helped the deaf-mute with a smaller amount, some of our defenders, I helped Ms Zeljka Markic with the referendum, and when there are some more important actions, I give more. I covered all the costs of the Croatian Orthodox Church for symposia, in Zagreb, Osijek, Split, Rijeka … There is no need to talk about films, books, translations of these books in the world with the aim of opposing Serbian propaganda. We founded the Croatian-Canadian Academic Society in Canada with the aim of translating and spreading our truth around the world. I don’t know how much of an impact it has, but I am fighting for Croatia as much as I can.

(Translated and prepared by Ina Vukic)

Croatia: Covert Communist Diplomacy Against Diaspora Patriotic Community

MT4YYW flags of Croatia and Yugoslavia

Messages are circulating, becoming louder, that for true independence from communist Yugoslavia to flow among the people the Croatian patriotic diaspora community must wage a strong political war against the political parties that have held government and presidential candidates in office since year 2000. This, under the understanding that politics is the foundation of all good and all bad things that happen to people and that everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, is a political being.

7 June marked Croatian Diplomacy Day! Official events were held in Croatia for it. This Day traditionally marks a historic event from 879 when Pope John VIII sent a letter to the Croatian prince Branimir informing him that he had blessed him and the entire Croatian people in Rome and acknowledging his “earthly authority over the whole of Croatia”. At that time, it was the highest international recognition, which, in today’s sense, recognised Croatia as a sovereign state. This is a traditional event in June when the achievements of diplomats are discussed, and guidelines are set for the next one-year.

The Croatian patriotic communities in the diaspora would have quite a lot to say about the achievements, the failures, the backward or forward milestones that the Croatian diplomatic relationship with its own diaspora has been put through since 1992 when Croatia was internationally recognised and confirmed as an independent country – an enormous gratitude for that goes to the Croatians living and being active abroad at those times. As far as the Croatian public is aware no one from the Croatian corridors of power has asked a representative sample of the Croatian patriotic diaspora community to provide the government with feedback regarding its performance on the diplomatic sphere.  So, I think this is an opportunity to look at what is happening in 2022 with regards to diplomatic currents official Croatia sends and maintains in the diaspora.  

Out of its own choice Croatian patriotic diaspora communities that rejected communism and Yugoslavia since the end of World War II have always, while former Yugoslavia lasted, lived without a relationship with the Yugoslav diplomatic and consular missions. Only those who lived in the diaspora and supported Yugoslavia had a relationship with Yugoslav consular and diplomatic missions and simply never interested in nor cared about an independent Croatia and frequently worked against such an idea. A mutually respectful, cordial, and beneficial relationship between the Croatian patriotic diaspora communities and official Croatia cemented roots in the early 1990’s, 1992 to be exact. This lasted until late 1999 when the first president of independent Croatia Dr Franjo Tudjman passed away. In many cases, Croatian patriotic communities throughout the world donated funds and worked hard at helping Croatia establish its diplomatic missions abroad, including purpose purchasing of land, purpose building embassy and consular buildings or purchasing premises and equipping them with the charitable fundraising monetary results. One would be correct in saying that in many places across the world when the Croatian Embassy or Consulate organise an event within their official building, a celebration, a soirée, they are drinking and feasting under our roof – the roof that the Croats in the diaspora erected, purchased, and paid for!   

In his speech at the official celebration of the Day of Croatian Diplomacy in Zagreb, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic referred to the beginnings of Croatian statehood and the role that diplomacy played there and spoke about the present when Croatia has a completely different position and role. The worst thing is to have a state whose position is unknown, said also Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, emphasising that Croatia must be a “reliable country” at the international level.

Well, the only Croatian government reliability that the Croatian patriotic diaspora community has seen since year 2000 is that both SDP/Social Democratic Party and HDZ/ Croatian Democratic Union governments have been engaging in is their reliable pursuits, both overt and covert, in the diminishment and the degrading of the value of the Croatian patriots living in the diaspora who contributed the most to the creation of the independent state of Croatia during 1990’s! That, in simple words, is a continuance of operations, covert or overt that communist Yugoslavia engaged in across the world where Croatian patriots lived.

The Croatian diaspora has during the past five years or so, been seeing the emergence of new, quite small, so-called Croatian community organisations sponsored and highly supported by the Croatian diplomatic corps, filled with people or members that have never been a part of the Croatian patriotic community that fought for today’s Croatia away from the communist regime of Yugoslavia. Large majority of them also did not contribute any funds whatsoever to the war efforts to defend Croatia against the Serb/Yugoslav aggressor; in the homes of many a portrait of the mega murderer Josip Broz Tito hung in prominent places. The Croatian diplomatic corps across the world has been declaring such people as Croatian community leaders even though they have never been that nor will they ever be simply because they do not appear to have in them what it takes to love and promote a Croatia for its secession from communist Yugoslavia. The extent to which such phenomena of setting up or inserting new associations among emigrants, where career diplomatic and consular personnel are key in creating them, may be considered by some as kind of suspicious attempt to disrupt the character of the Croatian patriotic community in emigration by the Croatian government for its own political party gain.

There is a visible trend of a dirty political game of this scenario where the Croatian diplomatic and to some extent consular corps have started to call these people, who in their organisations may have a hundred or less or slightly more members, “Croatian community leaders” while at the same time ignoring the real Croatian patriotic community leaders who always stood by and sacrificed for a Croatia free from communist Yugoslavia. Hence, trying to create a new (false or partially true) profile of the Croatian community in the diaspora of “yes” people to the ruling political party, or those who for personal gain do not criticise the government for the betterment of Croatia for all! This was the modus operandi that communist Yugoslavia employed against patriotic Croats in the diaspora, and it is the covert politics that the communist-mindset-laden Croatian governments since year 2000 have been utilising and putting into practice. Run down the true Croatian patriots and at the same time uplift those who never lifted a finger for independent Croatia! Do not misunderstand me or the Croats who are very unhappy about this trend – we all love new people of Croatian descent to join the true and sincere patriotic community but when this is attempted through running down or degrading the existing patriotic community, those who always stood and fought fiercely for an independent Croatia, and pushing up front those who did not, then Croatia has a huge problem in the foundations of its sovereignty. Croatian governments must learn to accept and respect all its citizens and the roles they played in creating the state, even those who criticise them – otherwise democracy becomes a mere face mask; progress towards a good livelihood for all becomes a one-way street with a dead end. Ina Vukic   

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: