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All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to the Homeland

All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to Croatia

Stanko Zovak (Photo: Private album)

At the age of 24, Stanko Zovak packed up and left life behind in Los Angeles and moved to Croatia to connect with his heritage. 

Stanko has been living in Zagreb now for the past two years, studying the Croatian language at Croaticum at the Faculty of Philosophy. 

For the past year, as well as entertaining people as a stand-up comic on stages in Zagreb, he has been entertaining people on the All Things Croatia podcast, where he talks to interesting Croatians both in Croatia and the Diaspora.

All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to Croatia

Stanko on stage in Zagreb doing stand-up (Photo: Private album)

Now he has written a book, documenting his journey moving from Los Angeles to Croatia as he navigates the challenges and joys of starting a new life in a new country.

All Things Croatia book cover 

“Growing up as a member of the Croatian Diaspora in Los Angeles, I was involved in the community but always wanted to do more. Two years ago, I made the choice to quit my job and move to Zagreb to learn Croatian and further connect with my heritage. This is my story, I hope you enjoy the read and either recognize something that inspired your connection to your roots, or find a reason to start your own journey,” he explains. 

All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to Croatia

At Kravica Waterfall (Photo: Private album)

From struggling with a dual identity in the U.S. to learning a new language in a (semi) foreign country, Stanko’s experiences are sure to resonate with the Croatian Diaspora community as well as others who have roots from abroad.

All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to Croatia

Stanko interviewed by HRT in Zagreb during the 2022 World Cup ((Photo: Private album)

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt a connection to Croatia. Although I had never been there, couldn’t speak the language, and didn’t even know the difference between Hajduk and Dinamo, it was just as much a part of me as my hair, my arms, or my face. For me, being Croatian was a part of my identity: who I was, something that couldn’t change. After hearing my name for the first time, people would almost always ask, “Stanko? What is that?” I would simply respond, “Croatian,” he writes, before adding.

“The Croatian community in Los Angeles is pretty close and it was a really cool experience to be able to feel a part of it. I had a Croatian identity within my American identity, and I was able to have the best of both worlds. Although in typical L.A. fashion, the community was not so close that everyone lived in the same area. 

We would have to sit through a lot of traffic to get to our Croatian Church, St. Anthony’s, in downtown Los Angeles (near Chinatown). We have a beautiful church and reception hall that my parents and my grandparents used to frequent back in the day and continued the tradition with me. All the Croatians in L.A. have their celebrations and special events there. 

The Masses would be in Croatian or sometimes in English, and after that everyone would gather at the hall for coffee, donuts, and cigarettes. I was always shaking hands and saying “kako si?” to people I never knew or remembered, but that apparently knew me.” 

All Things Croatia: Moving from Los Angeles to Croatia

Stanko in Zagreb (Photo: Private album)

In the book, Stanko also recalls an early introduction to the complexities of the Croatian language. 

I remember while we were at Plitvice, which is one of the most beautiful places in Croatia, I heard my dad asking for a couple bottles of water from one of the vendors there. I asked him, “Tata, why did you say dvije, and not dva? I thought two is dva?” 

He just kind of mumbled some answer that didn’t make any sense and then admitted he didn’t really know, it changes sometimes “just because.” That was my first run in with the complexities of the Croatian language. I still get tripped up by all the different ways to say the number 2!

Pre-orders for the e-book, which is released on June 6, are available already. You can pre-order on the link here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C59GDM2B?ref_=ast_author_dp 

All Things Croatia book

The will be auto-delivered to your Kindle on June 6, 2023.

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