Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Karlo Mirth

Following on his final wish and the intentions of the family an urn with the earthly remains of Karlo Mirth will be transported on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth (15th July 2017) from the United States of America and laid to rest in the grave of his parents in his native Otočac.

If we ask ourselves what we knowpresently of the late émigré Karlo Mirth and what remains vital of his oeuvre as a publicist, we see that Mirth could fare much better. He has been reduced to a few entry items in our lexicons and encyclopaedias that largely rehash the same points: publisher, editor and writer. Karlo Mirth's (Otočac, 15 July 1917 – Farmington, 21 December 2013) legacy as a publicist, along with the diverse material recently archived at the National and University Library in Zagreb, contains two gems of our emigrant periodical publication that ensure him a special place in Croatian cultural history: Croatia Press and the Journal of Croatian Studies.
Karlo J. Mirth was a polyglot, publicist, editor, publisher, bibliographer and one of the leading intellectuals of the Croatian diaspora on the North American continent in the second half of the twentieth century. A participant in the third wave of westward Croatian emigration, Mirth struck out for the democratic world as a refugee in 1945 at the age of 28 from the Italian camp at Fermo; at the threshold of his maturity, as an anti-communist, and in the wake of the second great global cataclysm. Born in Otočac on the 15th of July 1917, Mirth's almost five decades of activity as an émigré is woven into the fabric of Croatian culture and formed in the conditions of twentieth century political emigration on the North American continent.
This erudite earned degrees in forestry and engineering in Zagreb in 1942. From 1946 to 1962 he studied journalism in Rome, the Spanish language and culture in Barcelona and went on to earn his master's degree in library and information science at New York's Columbia University. It was during this period that he launched, edited and took part in leadership positions at core intellectual and cultural/research institutions in the Croatian emigrant communities: the Croatia Press news service and magazine, the Journal of Croatian Studies and the Croatian Academy of America.
A native of the Lika region in central Croatia, Mirth proved to be an excellent organiser and a tireless chronicler of all the key political, cultural and social events in Croatia, Yugoslavia and among the emigrant communities.
Along with his professional career as an engineer with the Foster Wheeler Corporation, Mirth applied the formula of lifelong education to become the head of the Foster Wheeler Corporation research library until his retirement in complete digital literacy at the age of seventy.
He has authored numerous papers and articles in multiple languages in émigré publications. His memoirs are encapsulated in the tome Life as an Émigré (Život u emigraciji, Maticahrvatska, Zagreb, 2003). A precious work is his chronology with bibliographical dataThe Croatian Academy Of America / Fiftieth Anniversary, 1953 – 2003, published in New York in 2003. This brochure reveals Mirth's deep involvement in the Croatian Academy of America, established on the 19th of April 1953. Along with history professor JereJareb(95) from Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Mirth pooled the émigré Croatian intelligentsia around the magazines Croatia Press and Journal of Croatian Studies and the Academy, documenting its capacity for democratic and critical thinking in the English language and in the Anglophone world, complementing in a way the mission of Vinko Nikolić's Croatian Review (Hrvatska revija), which was published for decades as a Croatian language émigré publication.
Karlo Mirth was active for almost a decade as the fourth president of the Croatian Academy of America, serving at the post from 1958 to 1968, elected at eight annual assemblies. The Croatian Academy of America made a massive contribution to the study of Croatian literature, culture and history in North America.For his contribution to its work the Academy awarded Mirth the title of lifelong honorary president on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary.
The CAA chapter in Toronto, which has been in operation for forty-five years, since 1972, organised a number of symposia thanks to the efforts of VladoPetranović, who passed away this year. From its inception the Croatian Academy of America worked closely with other Croatian-American culture organisations such as the Croatian Academic Club of Cleveland and the Association for Croatian Studies (ACS), an affiliate organization of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), and the former American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS). The bibliography of the first thirty volumes of the Journal of Croatian Studies, compiled by Stan Granić (Table of Contents, Vols. 1-30 [1960–1989]), offers a valuable historical overview and is an useful reminder of the content of the Journal, its associates and the context in which it was created. A comprehensive overview of the volumes of the Journal of Croatian Studies is to be published in the near future, compiled by Aleksandra SršaBenko PhD of the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Further, the Croatia Press publication (which Karlo Mirth launched in Rome in 1947 and which was discontinued after thirty-three years, in 1980, in New York) is considered by pundits to be our bilingual national bibliographic treasury of information, which should be preserved as a part of our heritage. Croatia Press saw 304 issues published, covering over 3,300 pages. Initially conceived as a press service for other newspapers, it gradually grew into a documentary-literary serial publication that was published primarily, from 1971, and then exclusively, from 1974, in English.
On the timeline of Mirth's just under one hundred years we can single out the mid-point of 1967, the year in which he stood shoulder to shoulder with the most courageous heralds of, as it turned out, the future integral cultural and political emancipation of the Croatian people. Emigrant Croatia and the Declaration on the Name and Status of the Croatian Literary Language are, namely, directly linked by the work of three visionaries: Former Croatian President Franjo Tuđman, at the time a historian serving as the director of the Institute for the History of the Labour Movement and sitting on the governing board of the Croatian Heritage Foundation; the broadly popular former Mayor of Zagreb Većeslav Holjevac, at the time serving as president of the Croatian Heritage Foundation; and Karlo Mirth, then president of the emigrant Croatian Academy of America. These three intellectuals, with their many associates, were at the hub of integration processes between emigrant and homeland Croatia following the political demise of Serbian statesman and Yugoslav state security boss AleksandarRanković, broadly considered to be the third most powerful man in the now defunct southern Slav federation before falling from power in 1966.
The members of the CAA, led by Karlo Mirth, were invited to participate in a symposium dedicated to the 130th anniversary of the nineteenth-century Croatian national revival movement and staged in March of 1966 by Matric Croatica and the then Yugoslav (now Croatian) Academy of Arts and Sciences and featuring the participation of the leading Croatian writer of the twentieth century, the Marxist-leaning Miroslav Krleža, and the top-ranking member of the Roman Catholic church in Croatia, Cardinal FranjoŠeper. The fact is that the quickest to respond to our diaspora was the historian Tuđman, making a study visit to the USA that summer as the president of the Croatian Heritage Foundation's commission on North America and meeting with the leadership of the Academy: Karlo Mirth, Mate Meštrović and JereJareb. Famed writer Miroslav Krleža was also at the time a member of the governing board of the CHF. These were the first events of their kind in the period following the Second World War. The Mirth-led Academy on the 19th of April 1967 published its own statement in support of the Declaration on the Name and Status of the Croatian Literary Language, which had been signed on the 15th of March of that year in Zagreb by eighteen of the leading institutions of the then Socialist Republic of Croatia whose work was focused on or related to linguistics and by 140 leading Croatian intellectuals. A meeting was staged in New York on the 13th of May 1967 of the Amero-Croatian intelligentsia to discuss the issue of Zagreb's intelligentsia and its historic decision to publish the Declaration on the Name and Status of the Croatian Literary Language. Karlo Mirth promptly published his own English language translation of the Declaration in Croatia Press No. 1–2/1967, vol. 21, and later in the Journal of Croatian Studies and in other periodicals. Mirth's journal was distributed to all major national libraries in the world, including in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Publicist Karlo Mirth is also known for his philanthropy. He is sure to be remembered in the Croatian public sphere for his many donations of books and journals to the National and University Library in Zagreb that, along with those from other eminent Croatian intellectuals around the world, have enriched the fund of emigrant literature at this institution. Of particular interest is the correspondence between Karlo Mirth and Ivan Meštrović, rector Horvat and with others archived in the collection of manuscripts and old books at the national library. Mirth's donation enriched our core library's national fund of books by 201 titles, including the Collected Poems of Viktor Vida, Ante Kadić'sDomovinskariječ (The Homeland Word), JozoKljaković'sU suvremenomkaosu (In The Contemporary Chaos), StjepanGaži'sA History of Croatia, Bogdan Radica's Colloqui con Guglielmo Ferrero and others.
A model husband, father and grandfather, he had a very successful career and volunteered much of his life's energy to the affirmation of the Croatian national and cultural identity in the world. When Croatia regained its independence former President Franjo Tuđman awarded him top national decorations, the Order of the Croatian Morning Star (Danicehrvatske) with the image of AntunRadić and the Order of the Croatian Interlace (Hrvatskogpletera).
His native town has thus far honoured him with a modest sculpture of his image on a stone block at the Croatian Memorial Park in Gacko, a monument the commissioning of which was initiated by the Chakavian Assembly (Čakavskisabor).
Following on his final wish and the intentions of the family an urn with the earthly remains of Karlo Mirth will be transported on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth (15th July 2017) from the United States of America and laid to rest in the grave of his parents in his native Otočac.
This symbolic return will take place at a time of growing interest in our academic community for disregarded emigrant memories, in particular for the creative work outside the homeland of Croatia's cultured émigrés in the period from 1945 to 1990. Experts at Zagreb's Croatian Institute of History currently describe "Croatian emigrant collections as a part of European cultural heritage," which they are studying in the frame of a three-year European Union project under the moniker COURAGE (Connecting Collections: Cultural Opposition – Understanding the Cultural Heritage of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries). The purpose of the project, the scope of interest of which also extends to Mirth's legacy as a publicist archived at Zagreb's National and University Library, is the credible identification of public and private collections related to movements and activities among the opposition in the sphere of culture in former socialist countries, and to study them under the umbrella of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The bibliography of articles in emigrant periodicals published in the period from 1957 to 1967 by Mirth's Croatia Press, for example, is proving to be a precursor to Internet browsers of emigrant content without equal in contemporary Croatian cultural and political history.
Croatians will remember Karlo Mirth as an unpretentious but towering figure on the Croatian culture scene, who fought with the pen in the Anglophone world for the truth and for liberty for the Croatian people. Self-promotion was a stranger to him: he never bowed to glory or pecuniary gain, but rather before the altar of truth and the good of the homeland.

By: Vesna Kukavica


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