Amidst a wave of stories of people in Croatia, particularly from the eastern region of Slavonia, emigrating abroad in the search for better opportunities, there are some positive stories, like that of the Jerković family.
The family from the small town of Koška, which is located between Osijek and Našice in Slavonia, have no intention on being part of the trend and with every endeavour they are trying to keep others in this gentle land, which is the pride of anyone who has ever set foot in Slavonia.
The family has three generations and includes seven members – Djed and Baka Tomislav and Anica, then their children Dubravka and Alojzije, Alojzije’s wife Ružica and their children Tomislav and Luka. Neither have any plans to leave Slavonia.
“It is true, many people are moving out of Slavonia but everyone has their reason and I find it difficult to comment. It never occurred to me to leave. Not even inside Croatia, let alone outside. You know, it’s not ideal anywhere. We will always miss something everywhere. My family and I have settled in our village of Koška and we feel we belong here. We love our country and Slavonia. We have traveled a lot in the world, but all to see new places, to get acquainted with things that can be used by us, to compare our life and work with others, to learn about other people’s experiences. It is always good to leave for work and see if these foreigners are really more successful than us or if we are equally successful if we can learn something out there and apply it to us,” said Alojzije Jerković, who is head of the family business that is in some ways a driver of the economy in little Koška.
The Jerković family is engaged in the sale of agricultural machinery, equipment and systems for accurate satellite guidance of machines on the fields, repair and maintenance of them, and supply of original spare parts. All in a small town of just 1,300 inhabitants.
Of course, Koška used to have more people, but with people leaving to go to Ireland and Germany significantly reduced the population. In order for everything to work at the Jerković family business, other family members are in charge of various jobs.
“My sister Dubravka and wife Ružica work in bookkeeping, and I’m the director. Dubravka and Ružica are also in charge of some of the marketing jobs and of running things at the company like receiving goods, machines and the like. Twenty years ago, we had one employee, and today we have twenty. When I was creating the service and trading company Jerković Ltd., I never imagined that I would hire more people, let alone make a contribution to keep people in this area. There are other good companies in Koška and we all try to recruit people from our area. Today it is difficult to find a good worker in terms of profession and competence, but thank God we succeed. I hope that we will soon hire more staff members,” Alojzije says, whose job is made easier by the fact that they are located in the centre of the regional area for eastern and part of central Croatia, and the fact that everything in Slavonian villages relies on agriculture.
In order for a Slavonian to stay on his land, he needs a job, but also education, because today without that it is hard to be competitive in the labour and trade market, which is why the Jerković family often educates new tractor drivers and people who operate new modern machines. New technologies need to be applied because this will be a better effect of their use, which is why this family intends to increase the number of educational courses to make the result on Slavonian land even better.
This family, if necessary, works on weekends and holidays. Autumn is the time when the fruits are harvested. Slavonia is now in full operation. “We help whenever needed. If you need a repair or some spare part – we are here. We’re always on the phone. How can we not jump to people’s help in the middle of autumn,” explains Mr Jerković, who also likes to take part in the sowing and harvesting of his own land, but due to lack of time, his father Tomislav takes care of 200 hectares of the family land.
The Jerković family and their company do not want to stand and wait. They continue to work to expand their business and retain people. These days, they are opening a new service centre to offer Slavonian and Baranja farmers an even better service, but also to encourage other businessmen to invest so that Slavonia finally has a good entrepreneurial climate.
“We want to show by our example that it can be done. We would love for others to start a business and make a difference by presenting Slavonian effort, persistence and ultimately success. We miss the people who are willing to sacrifice themselves. If we can motivate anyone to be encouraged and start something, we will be happy,” concluded Alojzije.