CROATIA AND CROATIANS IN THE 20TH CENTURY
(AN INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM HELD IN SYDNEY,
AUSTRALIA, OCT. 2-7, 1988)
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Journal of Croatian Studies, XXVIII-XXIX, 1987-88 - Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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The Symposium was organized by the Croatian Studies Foundation of Australia and New Zealand and the Croatian Studies at Macquarie University (with a grant from the New South Wales Government), under the leadership of two professors, Luka Budak and Fr. Gracijan Biršić. They invited a number of Croatian scholars from Australia, North and South America, and Europe. From Australia: Šime Dušević, Dalibor and Damir Ivković, Dr. Stephen Klarić, Dr. Robert Meštrović, Ivan Nimac, Prof. Elizabeta Ninčević, Fr. Paul Stanhouse and Nenad Zakarija. From North America: Ante Beljo, Dr. Joseph Čondić, Dr. Ante Čuvalo, Dr. Asaf Duraković, Prof. Lovorka and Marija Fabek, Dr. Ante Kadić, Fr. Ljubo Krasić, Dr. Vladimir Markotić, Dr. Emil Primorac, and Dr. Krsto and Dr. Mario Spalatin. From South America: Dr. Zdravko Sančević. From Europe: Fr. Šimun Čorić and Dr. Henrik Heger; directly from Croatia, Pero Budak, poet and actor, Vlado Gotovac, writer and philosopher, Ante Starčević, sculptor, and Stjepan Šešelj, poet. Invited from Croatia were also: Dr. Branimir Banović, Prof. Dušan Bilandžić, Dr. Ivan Čizmić, Tomislav Ladan, writer, and Prof. Ivan Supek, as well as Dr. Vinko Grubišić from Canada, but they didn't come.
The topics treated and discussed were very different, from music and folklore to archeology, history, linguistics, literature, psychology, scientific methodology and language teaching for immigrants. Anyone that has attended conventions or symposia knows that the main advantage of it comes from meeting people, from discussing ideas generated from formal talks, and simply exchanging experiences. And so it was in Sydney's symposium. The papers and the talks were of different nature. We could divide them into two categories, scholarly papers based in research and broad outlines. Most were historical outlines, like Croatian immigrants in USA, Canada, South America, Australia, Europe, folk-dance, culture, Croatian poets in emigration, animated cartoons in Croatia, Fraternal Union in USA and Canada, Starčević's political thought in today's Croatia, Croatian welfare organizations in Australia, Saturday schools of Croatian language for immigrants, etc. In the first category one may mention: international labor mobility, methodology of research in the Croatian cultural area, kinship systems in Croatia, a study in contrastive linguistics, etc.
In Sydney's symposium some sharp exchanges took place during the question and answer period following the delivery of papers.
One such exchange occurred between Prof. Vlado Gotovac and Dr. Asaf Duraković. The latter commented upon the lack of basic freedoms in the present-day Republic of Croatia within the Yugoslav communist state. Speaking rather emphatically at one point he exclaimed: "Until Croatia becomes free, she does not exist for us!" And also: "Croatia will not be liberated by symposia, but by fighting!" This elicited a loud applause from a part of the audience. Vlado Gotovac, who spent six years in Yugoslav jails for the cause of Croatia's freedom, asked to be heard. He gave an eloquent reply beginning approximately with these words: "I cannot help but feel sad when I hear that I have just come to Australia from a nation that does not exist. I really feel even worse when I think I have been deprived of my personal freedom for a non-existing cause." Referring to Dr. Durakovič's mention of fighting Prof. Gotovac continued: "I am a Christian and use other means. In accordance with my principles I am against the use of any kind of violence". He also received a lively applause for his remarks. I agree with Mr. Zlatko Drapać (Nova Hrvatska, October 30, 1988) that this exchange of opinions between a Croatian émigré and a Croatian from today's Croatia reflects the two attitudes held by some Croatians abroad and at home.
Duraković-Gotovac controversy brought into focus a very serious problem (shared by other nationalities too). Those two strong personalities articulated deep psychological frustrations: the émigrés have an abiding emotional attachment to their homeland, on the other hand, they are alienated from its present condition of political impotency, its submission to the Yugoslav regime, its non-sensical debilitating economic system — all of which sets Croatians significantly back from the Western European scene of which they feel they are an integral part. Of course, there is a third attitude among émigrés, more level-headed and more constructive.
The participants of the Symposium seemed very much disturbed by this incident, in as much as it appeared to pit Croatians against each other, those in Croatia against those outside of it. And yet, no one felt that antagonism, and the Symposium proceeded as if nothing had happened. So strong was the desire for mutual understanding! These impressions of mine were corroborated by other participants, among others by my son Mario whose notes I abundantly used in writing this report.
Perhaps the most interesting insight one received at the Symposium was from the Wednesday evening roundtable discussion sensitively and sensibly chaired by Fr. Ćorič. The topic was "The Quest for Identity: Socialisation and Cultural Duality among Young Croatian Australians", and the panelists were all daughters and sons of Croatian immigrants to Australia: Robert Meštrovič, Vesna Lovoković, Stephen Klarič, Marijana Šoljić and Damir Ivkovič.
Damir Ivkovič led the discussion by reading a well-thought out, provocative and insightful comment on how second-generation Croatians in Australia feel. Yes, he said, Croatian immigrant families did well in providing for the material needs of their children: within a few years of their arrival, they built homes of some substance, and raised their standard of living. But, the spiritual side of things suffered. Telling their children that they are Croatian and should be proud of it, is not sufficient. Repeating the name Croatian by itself will not give much content to all it implies. Furthermore, parents cannot just rely on their authority for effective guidance of their offsprings. Parents too must learn and listen to their children's needs. "My parents kept telling me to go to school and learn and become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, but they did not do much to learn about their new Australian culture," pointed out a young Australian Croatian. This prompted another youth to exclaim: "There ought to be a school for parents!" Some parents also spoke up and appeared at first to be taken aback by this "ingratitude", but soon it became abundantly clear that the young people were indeed proud of what their parents had done, and were interested in knowing more about Croatia. One practical problem came up. Should second-generation Croatians go to Croatia for extended visits? An overwhelming YES was the answer, but that was tempered by the side effect of economically supporting a regime inimical to Croatia's national interests. We are now back in the frustrating misunderstanding Duraković-Gotovac, aren't we? In the Socialist Republic of Croatia there is more than a transient regime, THERE IS the "eternal" Croatia.
In the USA usually the second generation of immigrants is already assimilated, whereas in Australia university students of Croatian parents speak Croatian and are able to discuss in that language more than every day activities. Such an approach to the new culture might be helpful in the search for identity: the foreign origin instead of being sometimes a handicap may become an advantage.
In order to show the quality of some papers I shall describe three personal impressions. In his paper "Spiritual Croatia: Remoteness and Proximity of the Homeland" Mr. Stjepan Šešelj made an important point concerning the philosophy of life of the poet Viktor Vida. It is generally assumed that Vida did not care to get involved in political factions of his time. It is usually thought that he was a good patriot but not a nationalist. Yet in his poem Duhovna Hrvatska (The Spiritual Croatia) Vida pledges allegiance to an ideal eternal Croatia beyond our empirical world expressing his fidelity and love in a terse line
Nama se, istina, žuri, ali što za nju znači sitniš stoljeća? (Today we are in a hurry, of course, but for Croatia centuries are trifles). The reading of the entire poem brings up the point convincingly.
Dr. Henrik Heger, professor at the Parisian Sorbonne, in his paper "Methodology of Research in the Croatian Cultural Area" describes the unusual attitude of the Frenchman Jean Dayre who in the 1930s was sent by the French government to Yugoslavia to teach French at the University of Zagreb. Everybody agrees that foreigners shouldn't meddle in the political affairs of the host country. But in the cultural sphere they should be free to the point of even displeasing the host government in their choice of scholarly topics. Rare are the foreigners who dare to do so. Under the Yugoslav royal dictatorship Professor Dayre had the courage to pursue the study of the Croatian cultural area as a distinct unit.
In my paper "Anglo-Continental Lexical Contrasts" I analyzed some twenty international cognates in Croatian, English, French, German and Italian in order to show that English tends to use a term different from the term used by other four languages. For instance, English 'country-dance' becomes Croatian kontradanca, French contredanse, German Kontertanz, Italian contraddanza. By a twist of popular etymology English 'country' was heard in France as contre 'against, opposite' and spread all over Europe, aided by the fact that during the performance of the dance partners stand directly opposite each other. One more example! For the English 'relapse' in the other four languages the derivatives of the Latin adjective recidivus are used not the ones from relapsus etc., etc. During the question and answer period, instead of discussing those contrasts, the opportunity was seized to bring up the lexical differences between the Croatian and Serbian standard languages like hiljada and tisuća, because some older speakers of Croatian used hiljada and tisuća interchangeably. The actor Pero Budak concluded the discussion confirming the Croatian appropriateness of hiljada, at least for the speakers of older generations. We may add that the Croatian advocates of a "consistent" separation of the two languages should create *tisućarka to replace hiljadarka meaning one thousand dollars or dinars ...
In their invitations the organizers of the Symposium told us: "There is a strong likelihood that the proceedings of the Symposium will be published." If so, the possible readers of our papers will be able to share some of our memorable experiences.