People ask me where do I come from. Often.
It must be my terrible accent that you can not hear while reading the blog. Well, I guess you can. Here on the blog, it is manifested as a not so good sentence building skill, a poor or insane choice of words in a wrong place – a result of the speedy use of the spelling corrector. I do apologize for this – and I invite you to freely laugh at those mistakes that create misunderstandings and hilarious and illogical new meanings.
I still have the letter I sent to the Health Department when I was renewing the license 4 years ago in which I guarantee that I will fix the licking faucet in the next seven days…
Anyway, I do not feel bad about missing some words. I have lived here for less than 10 years and I speak fluently 5 more languages. I was told by a customer the other day that I speak a perfect “American” but with a thick “British” accent… I will not comment on that.
Anyway, where do I come from: Croatia, a former part of something called Yugoslavia. Nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine (some people here tend to mix this two) or with Russia (because I have a Russian name).
Croatia is a small country settled on the Adriatic Sea, between Austria and Italy, just across from Venice and north from Greece and Albania. It has only 4 million inhabitants (less than Manhattan and Bronx together for example) but has a coast so broken in thousand of peninsulas, bays and over 1200 islands that it has more beaches than the entire east coast of US. On these beaches (and hotels) we can accommodate over 10 million tourists each year. N Nowadays that is pretty much everything we do.
But we did have a glorious history. In the past we were responsible for stopping the Muslim invasion (one of) on Europe (200 years of Croatian Ottoman War), inventing the necktie, double entry bookkeeping, the parachute, forensic medicine, the Crab Cioppino, the zeppelin, aluminum, Zinfandel wine, a pencil, torpedo and alternate electricity (Tesla was Croatian). Interestingly enough, the only invention of those listed above that entered the list of 100 most important inventions of all time is – the necktie.
We had champions and record keepers in almost every sport and tournament – from Wimbledon to soccer but I would not know any of them. We had famous writers, actors, musicians… But people will remember us for a gruesome war we participated and won two decades ago. And I will not write about that.
Before defining myself as a Croatian (I do not even do that, where you are born does not define you), I would first be an Istrian – Istria is a small part of Croatia on the Adriatic sea that used to be part of Italy before Italy lost the war… Istrian people are different than the rest of Croatia. For example – I am not aware of any famous Istrian people ever, of any inventions originated from Istria, any world-famous writer or musician or athlete… We never won any wars. We were actually invaded by almost everybody in European history, from Greece, Napoleon to Hitler and Mussolini – and we never put up any fight.
What we always were – and what we still are, what defines us and describes us is – hospitality. We lived there, in our small picturesque towns, in a country nicer than Tuscany, nicer than the French Riviera, for thousands of years doing nothing but welcoming tourists. The nobles of the ancient Rome built the first summer houses there – and those just got bigger and more modern over the centuries – turning into 5star hotels now. Hotels, restaurants, services for the rich and powerful of Europe, this is where I came from, this is my background, my genes.