Two weeks ago popular website on all things Croatia, Croatia Week published an interview with me that celebrated my love for living in Croatia and reasons for my return. I was the first to be part of their series titled, “Moving to the motherland” and you can read the full interview here. It was then picked up by another Croatian diaspora website based in Germany called CroExpress, that turned my line about not being crazy, but blessed into a headline opening up my story of return to the national Croatian media. While most people were supportive, there were plenty who criticised my return.
While I can focus my energy on these self hating Croats, I’m better than that.
Why? Because clearly I am the one who is happy living in Croatia, they are not.
I understand that it can be rather confusing for someone who has spent their whole life living in Croatia and who has never left this village, why would anyone come to this “jebena drzava?” If I spent my life here, I’m fairly confident I’d feel the same way. But my eyes have been westernised and I see Croatia as a land of opportunity, the way many Europeans saw Australia as their land of opportunity.
You know, I returned to Croatia four years ago and thought I’d assimilate nicely amongst my own people, after all I was born here. I was born in the most precious and strongest city in the country, Vukovar. When I tell people this they simply smile and say, “Wow, lucky you, how beautiful.” Yes, it is beautiful and yes I feel lucky in my heart. Not many people can say this, I am very proud of the city and country I was born in.
What I’d learn quite quickly when I moved to Zagreb was that I wasn’t one of them, I was an outsider. I hadn’t spent my life here, my language skills were off and my accent was obvious. I’d barely get by with my half English/half Croatian conversation skills. In most cases people were kind and met me half way.
On a daily basis I’d be bombarded with one question repeatedly, “Odakle si?” meaning, “Where are you from?” It was never asked maliciously but I knew what it meant, “You’re not one of us,” because 90% of the time it was followed by the question, “Why did you return?” and then two words, “you’re crazy.“
I lived in Australia for 26 years, United Kingdom for 3 years but Croatia is by far, the most difficult country I have lived in, yet in Croatia I have only felt at home. I trusted that in Croatia I would find love and left my comfort zones of Sydney and London to rebuild myself from ash to who I am today. Little did I know four years ago when I got on that plane to leave Sydney, that Croatia would end up providing me with a love unlike any other. A love for myself, a love for my country and a love that I wake up next to each and every morning. I found what I was looking for and if that makes me crazy, then I am crazy to have achieved what each and every one of us are striving to achieve in our lives, love.
When I say I have an inner peace in Croatia that money cannot buy, I mean it wholeheartedly. This is an inner peace I never felt growing up in Australia, if I did, I never would have left. My connection with Croatia is far greater than I’ll ever know but each time I leave my flat, or Zagreb to visit another city, in fall in love all over again.
Two years ago I only saw darkness, two years ago if you told me that my life would look like this, I could only have hoped. I didn’t know what love was, I had never felt it and I had never been in love. I came to Croatia to save my own life, to give myself a final chance to make it better. Living in Croatia, the only country I call home saved my life. It provided me with everything I ever wanted, endless opportunities to show the rest of the world how magical it is and why they should visit it along with an encounter with my twin flame.
Croatia saved my life and through the ups and downs, I will forever remember the inner peace that outweighs each ignorant or envy filled comment I receive on a daily basis. I wish that everyone could feel the love and happiness that I currently feel. Judging from my experiences online over the past two weeks, a lot of people in Croatia need a lot of love.