When our Baba used to tell us that we had a home to go back to in Croatia, it was hard to grasp exactly what she was saying. We didn’t know how much of our family culture was actually Croatian culture that our grandparents had held onto—and we had no idea how our family across the ocean had held onto us—until we started spending time there ourselves. But we didn’t just feel a connection with our own relatives; we also felt ties to the people we met along the way—the beautiful bakas who sell knits and heklanje by the Lungomare, the precious man selling his wife’s Christmas angels at the market in Zagreb… Maybe it’s the culture or the blood or the fact that in one way or another, we’re all artists ourselves, but we’ve found ourselves totally enamored of Croatia’s artisans.
We’ve also learned that a lot of these people have to scramble to make enough money during tourist season and then live off those earnings for the rest of the year. What appear to be thriving ports of call during the summer can turn into near ghost towns for the other nine months. We started to ask ourselves if there was a way we could give back to our people—to use our collective business experience to try and provide more income opportunities for them throughout the year.
At the same time, we’ve learned that many professionals and especially younger people have left their villages, or even the country, in search of better work. It is estimated that there are almost as many Croats living in other countries as there are in Croatia. Meanwhile the craft traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation are at risk of going by the wayside. But if the traditional crafts were profitable, wouldn’t there be more of a reason to carry them on?
Lastly, in returning to Croatia, we have found a part of ourselves that we didn’t even know we had lost. We’ve learned things about our grandparents and the culture that flowed through their veins. If we can never go back to being natives in our mother country, still we know we are welcome there. But perhaps you are reading this and have never been back yourself; perhaps you haven’t walked the streets of a village that shares your name, or put your arms around a stranger who looks just like the people you grew up with. By bringing Croatian products to you, we hope to help you feel a little closer to home—to the home that will always be there for you, whether you can make the trip over or not.