Croatia’s Foreign Worker Debate: Catholic Church Brings Lovely Foreign Priest to Hvar

Total Croatia News

Photo credit: Vivian Grisogono/Eco Hvar

July 20, 2019 – The Croatian tourism industry is ever more dependent on foreign workers. So too, it seems, is the Croatian Catholic Church on Hvar. 

Croatia’s demographic crisis continues, and it is being keenly felt on the Adriatic coast, where many of the traditional seasonal workers have taken advantage of the freedom of movement with EU entry and found permanent jobs in countries such as Ireland and Germany. 

So how to fill the gap? 

Bringing in cheaper foreign labour from places such as the Philippines is one suggestion that has been put forward. The issue of importing foreign workers into Croatia is a very tricky one, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are those who will say the jobs should be for Croatians, and Croatian tourism businesses should pay a fair wage. In both cases, I agree 100% with the sentiment, but the salaries are not high enough, contracts long enough, or conditions good enough for them to stay. And so there is a need to find foreign workers or totally rethink the whole tourism approach. 


The other reason this topic is sensitive is cultural. Croatians have fought hard to protect their identity and to establish their independent state, and they are understandably protective of their heritage and Croatian-ness. Which I complete support. I am sometimes a little envious of the national pride one sees on display here, especially when I have spent most of my career as an aid worker apologising to the people for the actions of my fellow countrymen in previous generations. 

I come from a very multi-cultural country (albeit with less and less culture these days) – England. Having immigrants and people descended from immigrants is the only way we could win the recent cricket World Cup. That diversity is in my genes in a way that it isn’t with many Croatians, whose roots are much more homogenous. All good. 

My mother was born and grew up in rural Ireland. She told me of the time she saw a black person for the first time, as a 16-year-old on the streets of Dublin. She stared. Everyone stared. 

There are many aspects – not all – of Croatia today which are similar to the Ireland of 60 years ago. And if you talk to the 10,000 plus Croatian who now call Ireland home, I think you will hear that a little diversity never hurt anyone. 

But my inbox is fruity enough without me going deeper into the topic – and I am fully aware of how well received my thoughts on the subject would be as a (insert abusive adjectives of your choice) Brit. 

So instead, I want to tell you about a REALLY lovely story of Croatia resorting to foreign help to solve a labour shortage. 

And the shortage was in the Croatian Catholic Church, which did not have enough native priests for their parishes on Hvar. 

And that is how Don Robert Bartoszek came to be the first Polish priest on Hvar. And not only a very popular priest, but one who is also enhancing Hvar’s tourism offer by also holding masses in Polish for Polish tourists.

He has also made an immense contribution to his local community. Rather than me butcher her words, here is Vivian Grisogono with the whole story on her Eco Hvar website



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