According to estimates, there are over 3 million first, second, third and fourth generation Croatians living around the world.
Nearly half of those are in America, with large numbers also in Argentina, Canada, Australia, Germany, Chile, Ireland and New Zealand.
Whilst emigration from Croatia has always hugely outweighed Croatian diaspora immigration, there has been a steady stream over the last two decades. In this series, we meet some people who have made the move ‘to the motherland’.
Today we meet Clara Bunge, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1988 and moved to Croatia last year.
Where in Croatia do your roots lie?
My mother’s parents were both born in Croatia. My grandfather was born in Daruvar, in the Slavonija region, and my grandmother was born in Gospić in Lika.
Was Croatia a part of your life when you were living in Argentina?
Croatia was a very important part of my life because I was very close to my grandparents and grew up listening to the stories about their homeland and their traditions. Although we spoke Spanish at home (my father is not of Croatian descent), I was used to hearing my grandparents and my mother speak Croatian among themselves, and the sound of the language had become familiar to me even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Had you been to Croatia before and what made you decide to move and live in Croatia?
I made a trip to Europe in 2013 and among other countries, I also visited Croatia. I was impressed by the beauty of the country and felt very proud that my roots lay there.
Having visited Croatia and having liked it so much made me want to apply for a scholarship to learn Croatian at the Faculty of Philosophy, and in 2017 I moved to Croatia, where my sister had already moved three years before.
What was the reaction from friends and family?
My parents were very supportive, and my grandmother was very proud that I was interested in learning her language.
My friends and acquaintances were surprised at the idea of me moving to such an exotic destination and were very curious to learn everything about it.
Where are you living and what are you doing for a living?
I live in Zagreb where I share an apartment with my sister. I teach Spanish and also work as a freelance photographer and enjoy playing the piano.
What do you like about the lifestyle in Croatia?
What I like most about Croatia and especially about Zagreb, which is the city I am most familiar with, is it’s easy going and relaxed lifestyle. I like the way people always find time to share with friends over a cup of coffee, chilling out at any of the many open-air cafes that are scattered all over the city, and how they enjoy the simple things of everyday life, managing to keep up long-lasting habits such as going to the Dolac to buy flowers and food, or to the Špica to socialize every Saturday.
I believe that much of Zagreb’s charming lifestyle is due to the fact that it is a small-scale, amiable city, very safe and easy to walk around, where so many activities take place outdoors in its beautiful parks and surroundings. On the other hand, being a capital city, it also has a varied cultural offer which makes it a very interesting and appealing place to live in.
How do you chill out?
I love to walk around the city and take pictures with my camera, and also enjoy having a cup of coffee with friends or by myself while reading a book.
What 3 things do you miss about Argentina?
Family, friends, and barbecue (asado).
What is your favourite place in Croatia?
There are still many places I would like to visit in Croatia, but of those, I have been to my favourite ones are Dubrovnik, the island of Vis and Zagreb.
Are you happy you moved? Do you plan to stay?
Moving to Croatia has been a very positive experience and I plan to stay at least as long as it takes to speak Croatian more fluently. Considering it is a very difficult language, I may have to stay for many years!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of moving to Croatia to live?
My advice would be: don’t hesitate, you won’t regret it!
You can check out more of Clara’s work on her website.
If you had a story about moving to ‘back to the motherland’ which you would like to share then please get in touch by email: [email protected]m