Tuesday, September 13, 2011


CJ, Clary, Cider, and Guinness, and Theodore and Teddy all remembered my birthday in a special way this year.  I liked that.  The youngest daughter did too.  I liked that too. So did a lot of my old classmates from high school years ago.  Marijan and Marina and Tatanja and Andrej and Gregor and a bunch of others from Home came by to say for sretan rodjendan too.  Altogether there may have been a hundred or so well wishers for my sixty-fifth birthday. Nice. Mucho dobro.  

My parent's daughter sent a card in which she commented on the photo I was using for whatever reason as my Facebook profile at the time.  She said "I see you have been fishing."  Yup.  Mmmm hmmm, I was impressed.  She wanted me to believe she was keeping abreast of my life.  She had been there three years ago Gospodin M. and I had stopped in for a few days with Tata before we wandered off to the Sabine pass where a boat was waiting for us.  A few weeks later a hurricane had struck the area we passed through.  No more little coastal fishing towns, no more boat.  

After the hurricane, all that remained of that little expedition were the memories, some memories of what came next (about which you already may have read in my last blog) and that blooming photograph of me and that fish.  I did not even have my beard back yet in that photo.  I was clean shaven at that time which in my clan means I was "available."  I am fully bearded now.    

Now look what I have done.  I wandered off the trail out into the forest somewhere so let's get us back on the trail.  The youngest daughter married with a really fine fellow.  He only had one flaw that I could find.  Sometimes he would poke my ribs a little about me being Croatian.  His family were Austrian, you see, the master race, at least the masters of Croatia in the Hapsburg days.  There was only thing, he said, that he could not understand.  He knew his family had come from a town in Austria with a seaport, but as far as he could tell, Austria is landlocked.  How could his family have come from an Austrian seaport town when there are not any.  I asked him what is name of their city.  He responded, "Split."  Mystery solved.  I showed him where on the map is Split. Of course, its right there in plain view on the map - on the Jadrana in Croatia. 

When his family had arrived in Texas, their passport showed that they were from the Österreichisch-ungarisches Reich - or simply Austria on Texicaneese.  That's a language I haven't mentioned before - its the english that Teksikanski speak when they are not speaking on teksikanski jezik.  Until after World War I, most Croats arriving in Texas came on papers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and so they were often just called Austrians.

After World War I, things changed.  Their paper work said these new immigrants were from "Yugoslavia."  It didn't do anyone any good to try to say "I am Croatian."  The average Teksikan looked at the map and there was no Croatia anywhere to be found.  He might however however find "Yugoslavia."  Please understand that most Texans can find the nearest Walmart and that is about the extent of their geographical knowledge. 

I graded papers for a professor at Concordia University, Austin.  There was one question always on his final examinations - "The capitol of the Roman Empire was
a. Berlin 
b. Moscow
c. Philadelphia
d. Rome 
e. none of the above,
please circle the correct answer." 
The vast majority of his students chose anything but "Rome" for the capitol of the Roman Empire.  So where was a Croatian from?  Even if someone said "I am Croatian," behind his back people said "he's from somewhere in Yugoslavia.  Most Croatians who arrived in North America just shrugged their shoulders and said "we are from "Yugoslavia."

How did Croatians come to be submerged in "Yugoslavia?"  Before the fall of Austria, Hungary, or Germany, the Croatian Sabor or Parliament met in Zagreb on October 29, 1918, to declare "the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia" to be a free and independent state. The Hapsburg Crown recognized Croatia and transferred the fleet to the Croatian government on October 31st 1918.  At 18:44 the following day the Royal Italian Navy sank the Croatian dreadnaught Viribus Unitis.  Almost at once the Italian, French and French African forces invaded from the west and Serbian troops invaded from the east.  On the first of December 1918, Serbian Prince Alexander announced the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ruled from Belgrade.  For the first time in at least thirteen centuries, the traditional Croatian institutions of Ban and Sabor were swept away by foreign armies bent on making Croatia and Croatians disappear from the face of the earth.

The American delegation to the Paris Peace talks in 1919 commented on the revision of Wilson's famous Fourteen Points noting that "An internal problem arises out of the refusal of the Croats to accept the domination of the Serbs of the Serbian Kingdom...The United States is clearly committed to the programme of national unity and independence. It must stipulate, however, for the protection of national minorities...it supports a programme aiming at a Confederation of Southeastern Europe."  In other words, to protect the Croatian nation it was necessary to destroy it. There was no vote of the Croatian people about their future.   

Milan Sufflay was murdered by King Alexander's secret police.  Albert Einstein and Heinrich Mann joined in the international chorus of condemnation of the regime. The New York Times of May 6, 1931 quotes them:  "The facts show that cruelty and brutality practiced upon the Croatians only increase... Murder as a political weapon must not be tolerated and political Serbian murderers must not be made national heroes."  Just two years before Stjepan Radic had been publicly murdered by a deputy of the Serbian parliament and Alexander had outlawed political parties and begun the persecution of the Jews and Roma in the lands he controlled.   By August 1942, the Serbian government would proudly announce that Belgrade was the first city in the New Order to be Judenfrei or "free of Jews." Only 1,115 of Belgrade's twelve thousand Jews would survive.

After the communists left in the 1990s, mass graves were uncovered in Slovenia and in Croatia.  Hundreds of thousands had been butchered and their bodies hidden.  Neither the Russians nor the British nor the Americans wanted these graves found but the voice of the truth welled up from the caverns in the midst of the earth.  So then, who are the "Yugoslavs?"  I suppose they are the mythical denizens of a mythical land somewhere in Thackeray's "Rose and the Ring."

Jugoslavia isn't.  Croatia is.  Its that simple.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac

13 Rujan 2011


  1. I shared this on Facebook, more people need to see these wonderful articles. You inform as well as entertain.

  2. thank you Crandall Cousin, you are very kind. So many things even other Croats don't know and it all affects the music and poetry by which we express ourselves.