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177 Nations of Tasmania - Episode 45 - Croatia born, but proud Tasmanian

The header for this episode is actually a direct quote from Davor, and I thought it was not only an excellent way to sum up his story, but was also a philosophical statement that could relate to numerous other migrants I have spoken to.

Where we are born, our upbringing, our family and the experiences of our formative years all contribute to our identity in one way or another. Sometimes local people may mistake migrants' pride in the culture or achievements of their country of birth as some kind of disloyalty to their host country. This is ignorance, of course, and fails to understand the complex nature of identity.

Although we are all in some way marked by these influences, people make choices that will define them. I think of the saying "You can't choose your family, but you can chose your friends", and although perhaps a little simplistic, you could say the same for countries. We don't chose where we are born, but in many ( but certainly not all ) cases, we make choices as to where we chose to live and raise the next generation. For some migrants, like Davor's father, it is a difficult choice with risks involved. Of course, staying in a difficult or unstable environment may also be a difficult choice, one where a person may have to pay the price of injustice or oppression, or they just keep their heads down.

For those who leave, it's not always a choice where they go to, but it's a choice as to where they decide to stay and make their lives. I enjoyed Davor's honest accounts of his initial experiences as a teenager of adjusting to a new culture and being able to see things that were not quite right in his home country but also things that maybe weren't quite right here too. His observation about mandatory uniforms at school in Tasmania, for example, compared to school in the former Yugoslavia where kids could laud their status over others by wearing western fashions. The irony of this from needs little further comment.

With all these interviews, I find that I learn some new and interesting fact about the culture or history of the country. There were a few when it came to Croatia, the first surprise was to learn that I have a famous Croatian near-namesake, Mark Perkovic Thompson. I guess that one will go into my "fun fact" file. Another more serious but interesting fact that I didn't know before was that many Croatians, unlike citizens in other Communist countries ( it should be noted of course that Yugoslavia was not a part of the Warsaw Pact and was not beholden to the USSR like most of the others ), were allowed to leave the country to work as "Gastarbeiter" or guest workers in Western European countries, such as Germany and Italy. The reason for this was so that they would hard currency to send back to the Yugoslavia, and in some cases, to act as spies.

Of course, many many Croatians went much further, and as Davor colourfully described it, the attitude many young Croatian men was just to get as far away as poswsible. This would perhaps partly explain the relatively large Croatian community that existed in Tasmania for many years, and who legacy can still be seen. I discovered recently also that the city of Puntas Arenas at the far south of Chile also contains a significant number of descendants of Croatians who arrived there in the late 19th century, so Croatians have a history of migrating long distances.

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