Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Home turf in Svetičko Hrašče

My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Croatia (part of Austria back then), and came to the United States in 1912 at the age of 17. One goal for my vacation in Croatia was to visit the village where he grew up.

Through astounding coincidence and good luck, my mother's cousin Branko (my grandfather's nephew) just happened to vacationing in Croatia at the same time we were! Branko grew up in a nearby village, and came to the USA as a young man in the early 1960s; he has lived in Chicago for many years. He was very kind to take me on a tour of the old home village area. We borrowed his wife's cousin's Pontiac Firebird convertible (it's a long story!) for an afternoon's drive from Zagreb up into the hills northwest of Karlovac. Riding around on hilly one-lane roads in a big American convertible was an interesting experience in its own right.

Anyway, thanks to Branko's memory and some directions from local residents, he and I found the place where the old family farmhouse was. There are numerous villages called Hrašče or similar names in Croatia (it means "oak trees" or something like that), so this one is now officially named Svetičko Hrašče meaning it is near Svetice, where there is a well-known monastery and old church. There is no way that I'd have found it on my own...

Wow. The house that my grandfather grew up in is long gone, but it was very moving to be at that same place and feel the geography of the surroundings.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we also went to the village of Slapno where Branko grew up. The farm where he lived has been owned for many years by one of his boyhood friends (and now that friend's widow). Here is Branko at his boyhood home...
This part of Croatia is also home turf for my maternal grandmother; her parents were born in villages only a few kilometers from here. She was born in Ohio, but her family went back to Croatia shortly after she was born.

Visiting this area was the highlight of my trip to Croatia. Branko, thanks again!

Pictures on Picasa web album

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