The Broaderview: Split, Croatia

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The Broaderview is a monthly series by broad Laura Turner, a Denver local traveling the world with Remote Year. Every month, Laura moves to a new country with approximately 60 other digital nomads. The Broaderview is a glimpse into the life of a local woman in each country, getting a sense of what it means to be a broad beyond the Mile High City. This month, Laura interviewed Helena Lovric from Split, Croatia. 

By Laura Turner | Global Content Contributor

For many Americans, the history of Croatia is not familiar. I, for one, only knew Croatia was located somewhere on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, near Italy. From my month here, I’ve observed it to be deserving of its nickname A Land of 1,000 Islands, with gorgeous medieval towns and seascapes. Croatia used to be part of Communist Yugoslavia, and from my conversations with locals, the War for Independence in 1991-1995 weighs heavily on generations new and old. The relatively recent upheaval still has ripple effects in politics and current perspectives on gender norms.

 
Pakleni Islands of Split. 

Pakleni Islands of Split. 

 

Helena Lovric works as the Split Experience Manager with Remote Year. Her vibrant personality and positive energy is contagious.  When we sat down to chat, Helena shared some interesting insights about how Croatia’s history impacts contemporary culture.

“Communist Yugoslavia didn’t have individualism,” she said. “Unlike the United States, you didn’t have an open market. We [Croatians] had no message of work harder and you will improve your life. Instead we had a message of work for the government and choose safe job options.” Aside from the lasting impacts of communism, in general, Croatia is a conservative country. Typically, women are expected to pursue domestic roles, dominated by the values of the Catholic Church.

Helena Lovric. Photo Credit Leujay Cruz.

Helena Lovric. Photo Credit Leujay Cruz.

Helena didn’t meet an empowered female role model until she was 19 years old. Her role model was a theater teacher, and served as Helena’s first example of a woman who divorced and still maintained a career as a mother of three. It is common for Croatian women to step completely away from the workforce after they have children. In Helena’s opinion, many women are happy with their roles as wives and mothers, but far less women choose to pursue a career in the first place. Helena’s grandmother is so worried about the fact Helena, a 27 year old woman, is not yet married that “she prays rosaries every day for me.”

Considering this cultural difference, I asked if there were grassroots efforts to address issues of gender norms and economics. There has been a recent exodus of educated Croatians to work in other European Union countries. Germany draws many new Croatian doctors with tantalizing job offers Croatia doesn’t have the administrative capacity or budget to fill.

 
Split, Croatia. 

Split, Croatia. 

 

“Grassroots” was an unfamiliar phrase to Helena, because as a concept, it is essentially absent in Croatia. She confided, “one of Croatia’s biggest problems is we don’t have much freedom of speech because under communism that was nonexistent. My father, for example, was imprisoned for singing a Croatian patriotic song. In older generations, there is a fear of public speech. Now we’re not using our freedom of speech the right way. Now people think we have a free country and we are living in peace, but no one is really speaking up. We have many people who are discontented, but no one is owning it, no one is protesting it.”

Helena adores her grandmother and mother who adopted traditional housewife roles and by no means views their lifestyles negatively.  What Helena hopes for, however, is for contemporary Croatian women to have less societal pressures and more freedom of choice when it comes to career, marriage, and motherhood.