Earlier in the year, we had planned to launch a summer series about travel in Croatia. Who knew our lives could change so drastically and so quickly? Although Croatia is open and welcoming guests ‘on paper,’ there are restrictions both in Croatia and in the countries where you would need to connect from the US that will make travel more difficult. Not impossible, just more difficult. I also thought this would be the time when hotel and restaurant prices would take deep dives to attract the few tourists who would still venture here, but some experts are saying that prices are expected to stay at pre-corona levels.
I once chose a place to visit in France just by looking at one photo. It looked like a magical place, quintessentially French, a street I could imagine walking with my dog. It took us a year and a half with five European countries in between, but my compass was set. I pre-rented a little dog-friendly apartment for a month, on the edge of the old town center—and when we arrived, we instantly fell in love. After only a week, I contacted the owner to extend our stay an additional month. I had planned to travel around the region, but we loved this little city’s outdoor markets, cafés, and energy so much that we didn’t want to leave. Today it is one of my favorite places on the planet.
At DOMA Trading, we are a family of travelers, and we want to encourage you to find your favorite places too. We hope our pages about Croatia will allow you a little getaway from the comfort of your armchair—maybe you too will find that spot that you just have to see for yourself. We have tried to show you how Croatia’s regions are so varied, not only in history but also in outlook. Read our articles on the artisans whose work we feature, to meet some wonderful local people; who knows, some day you too might meet them in person and be invited to chat over coffee. Our pages on traditional crafts will give you ideas of what local treasures you can bring back as souvenirs. And until you can come here yourself, shop our store to support these artisans, and bring a little bit of Croatia home to your friends and family. All our products are handmade or designed in Croatia by local artisans, purchased up front at fair prices determined by the artisans, and pre-shipped to the US before they show up on our site—so there is no worry about border delays or customs.
So use your armchair as your magic carpet to explore the humble pages of our website, and learn a little more about regions and towns you might not have thought of for your next adventure. We’re adding more all the time, so come back often. Croatia will still be here when travel eases up again, waiting to greet you with open arms.
Do you ever feel like things are spinning out of control? Like businesses are growing too big, ordinary life is becoming too complicated, and good old-fashioned human kindness is going out the window? We sure do. It can be discouraging to feel the sweep of the culture current, to watch it move people in all kinds of crazy directions and even feel it tugging at our own feet. It can feel like there’s no going back. But there is something we can do…
Simplify. Go back to basics.
Many of us remember when business was done on handshakes, when neighbors would visit unannounced, when information traveled slower and folks were quicker to reach out a helping hand. These days we may not know all our neighbors, but there are other ways we can make a difference in people’s lives.
Everyone has heard the saying, “Money talks,” but did you know even a little money can have a significant impact on someone else’s life? We’re not even talking about handouts or digging down deep, we’re talking about rechanneling ordinary spending—using the purchases you would be making anyway to move your money away from the megacorporations and into the hands of real, hard-working people. We’re talking about ditching the mass-production chain and instead directly supporting creators and craftspeople. We’re talking about purchasing products with a purpose.
By choosing wisely where your dollars go, you can not only bless someone you know with a special gift, but you can also bless the person who made it. It simplifies the supply chain. More importantly, it creates a connection, whether across the road or across the world.
We are working to bring together creators from across Croatia who can benefit from an expanded reach. Rather than having to rely on sales from unpredictable summer foot traffic, we want them to have access to year-round income opportunities. You can help in this vision by considering their unique handmade products when you need to buy a gift for a friend, colleague, or loved one.
Together, we can grow a culture of compassion. With a little thought and a modest effort, we can change our habits and start putting the little guy first again. They—and we—can get through nearly anything if we simply look out for each other.
Anyone who has had kids or even been a kid in the US has witnessed the phenomenon of the annual “it” gift—the one everyone rushes out to buy so their little squealers have the “right” thing under the Christmas tree—the one that turns soccer moms into fierce competitors, to the point of fist fights breaking out when two people grab hold of that one last box. But everyone also knows that the next year there’s gonna be another “it” gift that everyone’s fighting over, while the last year’s prize sits collecting dust on a shelf (if it ever makes it off the floor).
Though the toys get more expensive as we grow older, the concept doesn’t change that much. One neighbor pulls up in an impressive new car; a few months later, three other neighbors pull up in cars that are just that much more impressive. The problem is, if we ever catch up with the Joneses, we will only find a new set of Joneses down the street who are even further ahead. Who needs that?
One-of-a-kind gifts are a great way to stay out of that cycle. Nobody will be disappointed that someone else got a better model if there is no better model. Quantity also tends to cheapen things. Have you ever been laughed at for using a 3-year-old iPhone? That’s only because they release new ones alllll the time. Imagine if your 3-year-old iPhone was the only iPhone that ever existed—that thing would still be amazing, wouldn’t it?! One-of-a-kind gifts are impervious to obsolescence.
One-of-a-kind gifts also leave more room for thoughtfulness. From their very creation, extra care and attention have gone into their making. Maybe the craftsperson makes a series of designs on a theme; each piece can have its own intention. The designer has a chance to show their true creativity, to provide more of a personal touch, and to better connect with a variety of people.
As the giver, when you pick out a one-of-a-kind gift for a friend or loved one, you have a chance to decide what they might like better, or to show them that you appreciate their nuances and individuality. “This one with the hearts all over it reminded me of you because you are always wearing hearts.” “This little house with the flower reminded me of spending time with you in your garden.” “I found this traditional piece that’s just like what your grandfather would have worn in his village.”
Whether it’s something simple and sweet or you tap into a deeper memory or sentiment, there’s nothing like a one-of-a-kind gift to tell someone, “There is no one else like you!”
If I’m completely honest, the stories our Baba used to tell us about Croatia seemed pretty far-fetched. She told us how her parents were neighbors in Konavle but never got together till my great-grandpa tracked down his bride-to-be on American soil and, by the power of true love, swept her away from a rich fiancée…how Baba’s grandfather was such a great storyteller that whenever he crossed the Atlantic, the whole town would come out to hear him tell of his adventures on the other side…how one of her uncles was so athletic, he could jump onto a horse that was running at a full gallop…how if we ever needed anything, we could just go “home” to Old Country and they would greet us with open arms.
In 2006, my mom and I made our first trip together back to Croatia. She had not been since she was young, traveling with her own parents, and I had yet to experience the place I’d been hearing about all my life. Baba had recently passed away, and our only tie to Old Country was the little notes and faded letters she’d left behind. Not quite sure how to approach contacting people who, to us, were basically strangers, my mom and I caught a bus to one of “our” villages and went to the local cemetery to look for family names. While we were peering through the graveyard gates, my mom pulled out a black-and-white photo from our family album, and we realized that the hillside in the photo was exactly what we were seeing before us in full color. Soon a man rounded the corner in a little black car, cigarette in his mouth, and stopped to ask what we were up to. He quickly identified one of his own relatives in our photo book and told us he could take us to our family.
As we were driving through the village, an old man driving the other way stopped in the middle of the road and started chatting excitedly with our new friend. As they spoke, the man peered through the window at my mom and me and began gesturing and shouting almost tearfully, “Jesi moj! Jesi moj!”—or, “You are mine!” We had found one of Baba’s first cousins.
Over the years, we’ve learned how strong the ties are between the old and new worlds. The same century-old stories we grew up hearing are still being repeated around the table at our relatives’ houses. They talk about my great-grandmother as though she just left the village last year. They remember the legends of Baba’s grandfather, the storyteller. They even told us the same exact story about the uncle who could jump on the horse!
In 2012, we went back to Croatia with my brother, making the rounds of all the relatives and showing him the villages where our family stories had been born. As we dug deeper into our roots, again we could see the love, the bonds, the strength of blood, and the stories that had somehow endured generations of separation across thousands of miles. Since then we have collectively been back several times, and our mom has made the move from visitor to resident, growing those bonds even further.
I believe Croatia is a little unique in its treatment of the diaspora. Many like us have traced their roots back to the countries they originally came from, but in Croatia the ties are just so strong. So special. We started DOMA Trading because we want, in our little way, to help strengthen those ties even more. To nurture the relationship between past and present, between old and new worlds, between loved ones and those still to be found. And they do want to be found. As much as we, the diaspora, need to know we have a place and people to go home to, those who remained in Croatia also need us to walk with them into the future.
It’s finally time! We have pooled our collective wits to bring you an easy-to-use website full of beautiful Croatian products, and we’re happy to say it’s up and running!
Our mission at DOMA Trading is to connect artisans in Croatia with those abroad who love Croatia and its people. We want to make that Pond between us a little smaller and help everyone to feel a little closer together—whether you were born in Croatia and emigrated, you are third-generation diaspora, or you are just someone who knows what a special treasure we have in a motherland.
We’ve been gathering some gifts, new whimsical items, and traditional pieces we think you’re gonna love. We hope this site serves not as a mere marketplace, but as a touch from home. At the end of the day, material things are only shadows of what what they represent—but if you find a treasure here for yourself or a loved one that evokes memories of a family house in the village, with its subtle smoky smell…or the touch of your grandma’s delicate, hard-working hands…or the sound of your great-uncle singing on the back patio with his friends…then we think we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.
Croatia is a place that many of us consider to be home, even if we have been separated by thousands of miles and too many generations. It is a country that welcomes its children back with open arms. In our little way, we hope to foster that connection and bring Croatians on both sides of the ocean closer together.
Welcome to DOMA Trading—and welcome home!