For the past 63 years the small seaside town of Sali on the Croatian island of Dugi Otok has celebrated the festival of “Saljske Užance.” However, another almost forgotten story has been taking place across the globe in Sydney, Australia for almost that same length of time. This is the story of the Saljani who left that beautiful town long, long ago.
“Over 60 years ago, my father and his friends left this small island off the Croatian coast and arrived in Sydney, Australia to begin a new life. To maintain their relationships in this new country, all the men with their wives agreed to meet at someone’s place on the first Saturday night every month and play Briscola,” David Basioli explains.
And so it was.
This monthly get-together was a part of their lives. It went on regardless, year after year for over 60 years. Nevertheless, time marches on, and these men and women are slowly disappearing.
Almost ten years ago, at the funeral of one of these pioneers, the sons of these men decided that they too need to carry on this tradition. They called themselves “Sons of Sali” (S.O.S.). The women did the same and they are called the “Sisters of Sali.”.
And so, as a sign of respect to their parents, they too began this tradition.
“The first SOS Karte night was held on 17 August 2013. Every few months we gather at a house, and, like our fathers, we eat, play bocce, drink, sing and of course, play briscola. What nobody knew when we started was how creating this group whose parents shared the same heritage would change us. Indeed, it has affected all of us profoundly. It has brought us together in ways we could never imagine and, just like “brothers,” we are tight knit group,” Davis says.
Every year they organise the Annual Sons of Sali Picnic and Bocce competition where over 100 Saljani families and their descendants attend.
“We organise everything- food, tents, tables, entertainment, and bocce tournament. Modern communication also helps us connect as we correspond daily on our various WhatsApp groups. The years have passed, and it occurred to one of us that we’ll soon be hitting our 10th anniversary on 17 August 2023. Why not have a cards night on our fathers’ island back in Croatia on that special day?,” he adds.
Soon, word spread amongst the community that the “boys” were going to make a pilgrimage back to their roots – Sali, Dugi Otok to celebrate their 10th anniversary Karte nights.
“Well, thought my father, Vladimir Basioli who will be 89 this year, given this is happening, I might as well take this opportunity to go too! He will be in good company as one of his contemporaries, Joso Ušalj visits Sali yearly and will be there also. For my father, Vladimir, this journey back to Sali will be a celebration of a life as this will be his final trip back to his homeland. He will revisit the few friends and relatives who are still alive, and leave in peace knowing that his values have been passed on to his two sons- who together with others who have the same heritage- have created 60 years later, on the other side of the globe, what is known today as “Sons of Sali.”, David said.
Because the members of Sons of Sali have differing commitments, at the time of writing the following list of participants who will celebrate the S.O.S 10th Anniversary Karte Night in Sali on or near 17 August 2023:- Ned Tičić, Paul Milić, Dennis Orlić, Frank Milić, possibly Ludvik Aunedi, and, David Basioli. The venue still hasn’t been determined yet.