First Ever CHF Open Doors Day

The event aims to be a showcase and meet and greet with CHF associates whose professional, artistic and other work has contributed to the work and good standing of the CHF both in the country and abroad.

On the 24th of April the CHF hosted its first ever Open Doors Day at the Matis Club on the ground floor of the Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters. The event aims to be a showcase and meet and greet with CHF associates whose professional, artistic and other work has contributed to the work and good standing of the CHF both in the country and abroad.

The event was moderated by Božo Skoko PhD, also a long time CHF associate, who introduced the participants. Outside associates shot videos shown on two occasions in the course of the event.

Skoko opened by greeting Davor Ivo Stier, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs, Anamarija Kirinić, the chief of staff at the Office of the President, Božo Ljubić, a member of Croatian parliament and the head of its standing committee on Croatians abroad, Zvonko Milas, the state secretary at the Office for Croats Abroad acting as envoy of the prime minister, Margareta Mađerić, a state secretary here representing the minister for demographics, family, youth and social policy, Zoran Piličić, representing the Croatian defence ministry, Davor Huška, the assistant minister representing the minister of regional development and European Union funds, Marko Kovač, the moderator of the archdiocesan spiritual see representing Josip Bozanić, the cardinal and archbishop of Zagreb, Vesna Šimić, the assistant head for intercity and international cooperation representing the mayor of Zagreb, Željko Tanjić, the rector of the Croatian Catholic University, CHF governing board chairman Milan Kovač and members Đuro Vidmarović, Hrvoje Hitrec and Lada Kanajet Šimić. Skoko also greeted Jadranka Žarković-Pečenković, the director of the national training and education agency, Mirko Volarević, the director of the national restructuring and sales centre, Dorica Nikolić, the director and political secretary of the Croatian Social Liberal Party, Drago Topolovac, the president of the Zagreb amateur folklore federation, former CHF director Ante Beljo, and the representatives of the State Office for Croats Abroad, the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, members of the press corps and of other institutions working with the Croatian Heritage Foundation.

In her welcome acting Croatian Heritage Foundation director Mirjana Ana-Maria Piskulić noted the great number of CHF documentation housed at the national archives and the many traces of CHF activity as they bear witness to the rich history of the institution and its significance in nurturing the Croatian national identity in the world. She added that representatives at this gathering of Croatians in Bosnia-Herzegovina and of CHF associates that have engaged their experience, knowledge and professional skills into CHF programmes could attest to this fact.
"We have worked together to contribute to the fact that, scattered around the world, Croatians have preserved their cultural and national identity and thereby contributed to the preservation of the unique Croatian nation as a whole, which would be incomplete without its brothers and sisters scattered around the world. The area of our work is extensive, layered, demanding and also worthwhile – among the Croatian communities abroad, wherever they live and work, we have preserved a great treasure of Croatian history, goodness, goodwill, diligence and, above all, devotion towards the homeland," said director Piskulić.

Croatian Heritage Foundation governing board chairman Milan Kovač and state secretary at the Office for Croats Abroad Zvonko Milas also spoke. Kovač noted that the CHF has provided the children of our people living abroad the opportunity to learn the language, attend folklore schools, and summer vacations, all with the objective of learning about their parent's homeland, adding that there was an important synergy between homeland Croatia and the communities abroad and that we need a ministry to cover emigrant affairs, return and demographic renewal. For his part Milas said that the Croatian Heritage Foundation was the institution with the longest tradition in working among the ethnic Croatian communities abroad, with the indigenous Croatian minority communities in European countries, and with the Croatians of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The gathering was officially opened by Davor Ivo Stier, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs. In his speech Stier said that the Croatian communities abroad had made a great contribution to Croatian liberty during the Homeland War for independence and later in rebuilding the country, while today it can apply its experience to bolstering and building democratic, pluralistic and open institutions in Croatia.

"We need to open political and business sector institutions to all those that deserve a place based on objective criteria in order that jobs and projects go to those who have real qualities and competence, not just to those with good connections," said Stier, remarking that he first came to Croatia from Argentina in 1990 in the frame of a Croatian Heritage Foundation programme, thanks to a stipend brought to Argentina by then Croatian immigration affairs minister Gojko Šušak.

"It is the quality of these institutions that develop a democracy," added Deputy PM and Foreign and European Affairs Minister Stier.

The CHF Open Doors Day continued with video recordings of greetings from CHF associates from around the world. The first was from Croatian Fraternal Union national president Edward Pezo (USA), followed by former LADO folklore ensemble member Goran Kačurov (New Zealand), actor Ivo Gregurević (Orašje Film Festival, Bosnia-Herzegovina), film director Slaven Španović, artist Karen Oremuš (UAE, Canada), Ante Bilić (Croatian Catholic Mission in Travnik, Bosnia-Herzegovina), writer Tomislav Žigmanov (Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croatians), Hrvatske novine editor Petar Tyran (Austria), Frane Vugdelija ( Chorus Croaticus, Switzerland) and Aranka Lengyel (Histerioni, Canada).

Prominent linguist and corresponding member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Vinko Grubišić PhD, who taught Croatian language and literature at the University of Waterloo in Canada from 1988 until his retirement in 2008, greeted the gathering by letter. He shared his many years of collaboration with the Croatian Heritage Foundation and its receptive and competent staffers, people like Vesna Kukavica, Lada Kanajet Šimić, Hrvoje Salopek and Snježana Radoš.

Also at the event to speak of their work with the CHF were Andrija Ivančan, the artistic director of the LADO ensemble of Croatian folk dance and music, maestro Siniša Leopold, the head conductor of the Croatian Radio and Television Tamburitza Orchestra, Carmelite monk Zvonko Martić PhD, the prior of the monastery of the Carmel of St Elijah on Lake Buško, stage director Nina Kleflin, literary critic Đuro Vidmarović MA, literary critic Zrinka Jelaska PhD of the department of Croatian language and literature at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Marija Bošnjak, a instructor and coordinator of Croatian language e-learning for students of foreign universities with the HiT-1 Internet course, Željko Holjevac PhD of the department of history at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sanja Vulić PhD of the Croatology department of the University of Zagreb's University Department for Croatian Studies, Canadian-Croatian Martin Paulić; Marijeta Rajković Iveta PhD of the department of ethnology and cultural anthropology of the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor emeritus Vladimir Goss PhD.

During the presentation guests were invited to join the conversation related to the vision of the Croatian Heritage Foundation in the 21st century.

Event moderator Skoko closed the event with these words:
"All of the participants have clearly asserted that they see the Croatian Heritage Foundation as the main hub of homeland and emigrant Croatia, i.e. as an embassy of sorts representing Croatian emigrants in the homeland. The CHF programmes are assessed as being very beneficial. Thanks to these programmes generations of the descendants of Croatian emigrants have learned the Croatian language, become acquainted with its culture and identity, built bonds with the old homeland and worked in its interest. There is a particular need to continue organising music seminars and concerts abroad to preserve, promote and professionalise Croatian music heritage and to continue to provide support to Croatian amateur theatres and theatre troupes through education and cooperation. Language is a permanent concern, and we recommend even greater engagement in Croatian language and culture instruction programmes, above all through the modernisation of learning, accessibility to new generations and the use of the latest technologies, which has been very well received. The importance of studying history, identity and the culture of the indigenous Croatian communities and of the Croatian emigrant communities has been underlined. In this context it is important to promote the truth of the status and identity of some of the Croatian communities, such as the Croatians of Vojvodina, which has been manipulated for decades. In this regard it has been emphasised that there is a need to redefine the status of some of the Croatian communities and to strengthen their political protection and the necessity of creating a ministry for immigration that would both practically and symbolically work more directly on strengthening ties, utilising the potential and promote immigration programmes. In conclusion we seek a better synergy and collaboration among the homeland institutions with emigrant organisations and the promotion of Croatian interests and its image abroad, and the neutralisation of the Yugoslav and Greater Serbian scams and disinformation that are unfortunately still present."

Skoko's closing remarks before the gathered participants and guests of the CHF Open Doors Day were met with enthusiastic applause.

By: Naida Šehović; Photography: Ivana Tepeš Galić