27-year-old Magdalena Plech-Franc was born in Poland and now resides in the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Magdalena, who holds a master’s degree in Croatian Language, has fallen in love with Croatia and is now promoting the language and culture to people back in her native Poland.
We caught up with Magdalena to find out more.
Hi Magdalena, can you tell us whereabouts you grow up?
I was born in Poland, in Katowice. That’s where my mother comes from. This region is called Silesia, around 1 hour from Kraków, one of the most famous cities in Poland. However, I spent all my childhood in the small town of Siewierz, which is around 30 km from Katowice.
Like many foreigners, love brings them to Croatia. You married a Croatian and decided to move here to live?
I met my husband while I was still in high school. He came to Poland and our paths crossed. Then, after I turned 19 and successfully graduated, we were already dating and I decided to study Slavic philology, more specifically the Croatian language.
I remember that at the beginning of my studies someone told me that for sure my love and studies would end soon. High school sweethearts never last, they said. And here I am, still with the same man for 9 years now, living in Croatia, finished my master’s degree in Croatian Language and running my own company in which I teach Croatian to Poles. During my studies, I went on a scholarship to Osijek for a year and then to Zagreb for half a year.
For me, it is the most beautiful city and I believe that the greatest people come from Osijek. I always go back to Osijek with great fondness. It is such a beautiful place.
Then I returned to Poland for some time, defended my master’s thesis and decided to move permanently to Zagreb, where my husband lives (he comes from the most beautiful town in Croatia, Osijek). We got married on October 1, 2022. So it’s still a fresh thing. Our wedding was held in Poland. It was the best party of my life and I am happy that I could share this moment with Croatians and Poles.
How do you like living in Zagreb?
I love Zagreb, it gives me a lot of possibilities. Zagreb is very international and open. I never felt bad here. Everyone always treats me warmly and with an open heart. I never felt like a stranger. I come from a small town and it has always been far from everywhere so it’s great for me to be close to everything now.
I like people in Zagreb, I like its peace and openness. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like. Something may annoy me but that’s the way it is everywhere. In Zagreb I am also close to Siewierz, about 750 km, so I often travel and visit my relatives.
What are some of the main differences between Zagreb and Siewierz?
First of all, Zagreb is much bigger than Siewierz. There is always something going on in Zagreb, shops are open on Sundays. I have a doctor, a dentist, a shopping center here and I don’t have to go to a bigger city nearby.
You have a master’s degree in Croatian Language. What made you study that?
I wanted to study some language that is not obvious. And Croatian is not obvious, is it? Before deciding what I really wanted to study, I had already met my future husband and fallen in love with the idea of Croatia. I liked visiting Croatia, too.
My field of study is Slavic philology, Croatian language, I hold a master’s degree in Croatian Language focused on Translation and Intercultural Communication. The second language was English and I also had to learn some Slovenian for two years. I loved these studies and never regretted picking them. I would do it all over again.
How was learning Croatian after speaking Polish?
There are many similarities and differences. We have the same number of cases in both languages, but we use them in different situations. This is also the biggest problem of my students. What is more, there are a lot of false friends, for example, trudna means difficult in Polish, whereas in Croatian it means pregnant, avantura is a fight in Polish and adventure in Croatian, lipiec means July in Polish which is similar to lipanj – June in Croatian, sierpień means August which is similar to srpanj – July in Croatian, listopad, which means November in Polish means October in Croatian, jagoda means blueberry in Polish and strawberry in Croatian, puška is a can in Polish and a rifle in Croatian, etc. You can follow my profile for more. But Croatian has never been difficult for me, I learned it with passion and I graduated without any problems and passed the certificate of highest proficiency.
Today you teach Croatian language to people in Poland online?
Yes, I have my own company and I teach Croatian. I currently teach 28 people, but of course not all of them take individual lessons. I teach 1:1, 2:1 and groups. Since the beginning of my own business, that is, since March 2022, I have taught 69 people by running 6 different levels of courses. My students’ reasons for learning Croatian are varied, some love Croatia, some have a partner from Croatia, some are buying a house at the seaside, some moved to Croatia and some just want to learn a new and interesting language.
You also teach the culture via your social media fan page?
In September 2021, I started running a fanpage on Instagram and Facebook, which is called Chorwacki na dziś, which means Croatian for today. I have around 4,000 followers in total. This is my Polish-Croatian community, which I love. Via colorful graphics, I sneak linguistic and cultural curiosities. I record videos, reels and stories. I talk to people and teach them every day – for free. In addition, in November I published my first workbook in the form of an e-book, which can be ordered on my website, for learning Croatian language. There are no such materials in Poland yet. I’m really proud of it. It received positive reviews. I want to write more of them.
Once a month I send out a cultural newsletter in which I write about Croatian culture and its customs. So far, the newsletter about Luka Modrić has had the greatest positive reactions.
What tips do you have for anyone wanting to learn the Croatian language?
Don’t be afraid to speak. Croatians will adore you if you speak their language at least a little. Don’t worry about grammar and cases. It’s important, but not the most important. Repeat the materials and new words as often as possible, even 7 minutes a day, watch Croatian movies, series, listen to podcasts and surround yourself with the language.
What do you love about Croatia?
I love the people! I know that many Croats leave Croatia and complain about their country, but for me it is heaven on earth. I have never met such kind, smiling and good people as in Croatia. Besides, I also love that there is a lot of sun here, it’s never grey and the air is clean.
What are your favourite places in Croatia?
I love Zagreb because I live here and it just melts my heart. I love Osijek because I lived there at the beginning and my husband’s whole family comes from there. They’re great, kind people. Osijek and the whole Slavonija are beautiful. I also really like the island of Krk, Dubrovnik, Dugi Otok and Lopud Island.
What are your favourite foods?
I like štrukli, sarma and lignje the most. Štrukli a kind of ‘pulled pasta’ which can be either savory or sweet depending on the filling, and is quite popular where I live. Sarma is a pickled cabbage roll filled with rice, spices and ground meat, and lignje means squid.
Are there many Polish people living in Zagreb?
Yes, there are a lot of Poles in Zagreb, and a lot of exchange students come here every year. There is even an association of Poles in Zagreb.
Do you plan to stay in Croatia?
For now, yes. I am incredibly grateful that I can live in a country that is not my homeland but feels like a second home. But never say never – I have a job that allows me to work from anywhere in the world. My dream is to write more workbooks and textbooks now and open my own online store. For now, I am mostly focusing on my company’s development.
What advice do you have for people thinking of moving to Croatia?
Always listen to your heart. It is a truly wonderful country with magnificent people. I also recommend learning Croatian, at least a little, to learn the cultural context. And of course, follow my profiles for a daily dose of language and cultural advice.
You can check out Magdalena’s fanpages and website on the links below.