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My Personal Connection

Walking around in the historical Upper Town Zagreb, Croatia. Photo courtesy of myself.

        Although I am not Croatian myself, I had the privilege to spend five weeks in Croatia for a study abroad program over the summer. After visiting Europe for the first time with my family back in high school, I had a newfound love for exploring new and unfamiliar countries and cultures, especially countries outside of mainstream tourist destinations. Ultimately, like a lot of people who love to travel, I absolutely love the rich history of Europe and the experience it has to offer.

        Croatia isn’t a country that I ever really had a huge desire to visit, which ironically is why I chose the summer program there. Soon enough, I found myself landing in Amsterdam to catch my connecting flight to Zagreb. Hopping around the country from Zagreb to Split, sailing all the way to Vis, and then taking a quick trip over the border to Sarajevo, I had an amazing and immersive experience. It was heart-rending and upsetting but extremely rewarding to learn, understand and reflect on what Croatia and its neighbors were going through back in the 90's, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

        I met so many amazing people throughout the process of this project. Every single person I spoke to had a unique story to tell, and what I admired was how devoted everyone is to keeping up with their Croatian heritage. Whether they came close to their roots as a child or later on during the war, it was admirable to see how close LA’s Croatian community is and the effort to keep that closeness up for future generations, even if it means driving out an hour to St. Anthony’s Croatian Church to be with those who share the same culture, traditions, and values as you. There are well over 30,000 Croatians in San Pedro and many more in the entire Los Angeles area, and every person I spoke to personally knew at least one other person I interviewed. That’s how you know they strive to keep up a strong a sense of community because everyone is connected to each other in some way. 

        A huge thanks to every single person who helped me out with this. Everyone I had the pleasure of speaking to was so kind, generous and went out of their way and made time to help me and tell me their stories. I could not have done this without them!

My friends and I on the balcony of our Airbnb in Split, Croatia, summer 2022. Photo courtesy of Grace Parkins.
Swimming in Komiža, Vis, Croatia. Photo courtesy of myself.
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