23rd August 2018
They say it takes a village to raise a kid. I believe it takes a village just to survive life without losing your mind. Family is everything in Croatia, and that’s something I’ve tried to instill in my kids. In Croatia, you get together with your extended family regularly to have large dinners, lend a helping hand or just hang out. I was 14 when my family moved from Croatia to Massachusetts to seek asylum from the war. Not knowing the names of everyone in our new neighborhood was so odd. Now we live in California. I’ve worked hard to change that for my kids: I encourage them to get to know people and be open to building strong relationships.
The rest of my family moved to the Croatian island of Ugljan when I was a teen, so I make it a priority to travel home as often as possible. To my kids, Croatia is just grandma and grandpa’s home, except they live on a secluded island. Each year, we create special memories surrounded by the clean and calm waters of the Adriatic Sea.
One of my favorite traditions is bartering at the markets. Every morning, local farmers proudly display their produce and goods for purchase along the old town streets. We’ll go and stand in the long lines just to get a loaf of bread baked that morning. That’s something I had to adjust to in the States — shopping twice a week for your groceries. In Croatia, the food is so good and fresh, you shop every day.
For so long I only cooked Croatian food at home, so to my kids, it wasn’t exotic because it was all they knew. My grandmother had a real passion for cooking and passed that along to me. Making bread, watching it rise — there’s a beauty to getting your hands dirty and feeling a sense of pride from not opening up cans but cooking everything from scratch. My kids love making cevapi, Croatian-style mini sausages. I serve them with Croatian sour cream and roasted red pepper–eggplant dip.
When my older kids were 2 and 3, I got divorced. During this time, I relied heavily on food stamps and rented a bedroom in an apartment to stay afloat. Besides visiting my family in Croatia, which my parents kindly paid for, we never took vacations.
I’m currently working on a book with the tentative title Hold on But Don’t Hold Still, where I explain my struggles with divorce and poverty, but also the humor of motherhood. It comes from a place where I was unhappy with my life and the life I was providing for my children. Yet, we now cherish every second of our family time — and our vacations — together.
By Kristina Kuzmic
Explore the best of both worlds by staying in a city such as Zadar and taking day trips to islands.
Make like a local and shop the markets for unique and tasty specialties.
Get off the beaten trail and explore parks such as Plitvička Jezera for stunning waterfalls and lakes.
Check out the ferries for a convenient and stunning way to travel between islands.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and let your curiosity roam.