It is difficult to be separated from those you love, especially now, with so much uncertainty revolving around the COVID-19 situation. So living in Croatia myself, and separated from my family in America, I’d like to share just a few personal perceptions with the hope they will help someone feel a little closer to their friends or family here in Croatia.
1 ) So far so good.
The consensus seems to be that the government is ahead of the curve and making good decisions to slow the spread of the virus. In fact the Oxford University tracker has ranked Croatia the best in the world in terms of government response in proportion to number of cases. As of this writing, our borders and non-essential businesses are locked down, with provisions for trade and a continued supply of food and necessities. The supermarkets are staying stocked, and we’re hoping the farmers’ markets can reopen soon so we can support our local family farms.
2) We have healthcare!
People seem confident in the healthcare system, and there’s a lot to be said for that. I’m regularly asked, “I’ve heard that some people in America don’t have health insurance or can’t afford healthcare—is that really true?” It’s reassuring that access to healthcare seems to be the norm here.
3) This is not our Mediterranean lifestyle.
Things definitely look different. People say we have learned a frightening lesson from our neighbor Italy. The streets are awfully quiet, and most people are staying home instead of enjoying our normal relaxed, outdoor lifestyle. When we go out, most people now wear masks, and the workers I’ve seen wear both gloves and masks.
4) Croatians without coffee bars?
Croatia is known for its coffee culture, and coffee bars and kavanas that would normally be filled with happy voices are now empty. These places where friends meet, current events are debated, gossip is traded, and business is conducted are closed. It is difficult to so suddenly lose this important part of Croatian life.
5) A word from a loved one can go a long way.
I think isolation is even more distressing for naturally social Croatians than it may be for those used to American culture. Grandparents are separated from grandchildren, and friends from friends. Families have already been disconnected over recent years because of the economy, leaving many older people alone without their natural support system. This is a great time to strengthen your connections, even if from a distance. Wouldn’t your dear relative love a thought from faraway relatives, whether a quick email or postcard, just to say, “We’re thinking about you”? (If you need help getting started, check out our “Postcards to Croatia” post.)
6) This is a good time to pray.
This event will have a lasting negative impact on Croatia’s already-struggling economy. Over the last decade, Croatia has been suffering from an economic emigration in which hundreds of thousands have left for other countries to find jobs. Now with businesses required to close, and a very weak e-commerce framework, many people have suddenly been laid off and many businesses say they are not financially strong enough to last a month or more. In addition, tourism is a strong segment of the national economy, which will suffer if businesses can’t reopen and tourists can’t return to the coast this summer. We pray that all the businesses and workers will weather this crisis and that the coming summer will again provide enough work for the Croatian people to get through the rest of the year.
7) There are ways to keep yourself up to date.
Things here change daily, as in the rest of the world. But there are some helpful online resources to keep residents and diaspora informed. Here are some websites for current news that I’ve found helpful: Koronavirus.hr is the Croatian government’s official site for information on the virus (the right side of the menu bar allows you to select Croatian or English language); Glas Hrvatske (“Voice of Croatia”) is a Croatian state radio service whose Croatian-language website also includes some English content, current audio news, and online radio programming; and a site for general English-language news from Croatia is Total Croatia, which includes a menu item specifically featuring the diaspora.
We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well, and that this time apart eventually brings us all closer together.