Coronavirus, Earthquakes, Identity and Awareness – Zagreb, I Love You So

Total Croatia News

All images: Copyright Unimedia
All images: Copyright Unimedia

All images: Copyright Unimedia

June the 1st, 2020 – Zagreb has suffered being the first coronavirus hot spot in the country, a devastating earthquake, and many questions surrounding its identity in the wake of all that, as it continued to hold the presidency of the European Union.

Oblivion is the saviour of human existence. Just remember how all of us cheered with joy and went around with half empty bottles in our pockets, hoping for the midnight of December the 31st to erase all of the flaws of 2019 and give us another clean slate. Good health was one of the most frequent ingredients of most every well-wishing card (rather: of most e-mails and text messages). But, as we know, something went thoroughly wrong.

In Zagreb, the capital of the country that rightly boasts its exceptional results in fighting the new coronavirus, COVID-19, off, the old saying that ”one evil never comes alone” unfortunately proved to be very true indeed. On March the 23rd, 2020, amidst a general lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was hit by a strong earthquake (and a series of quite serious aftershocks that followed) that caused unfathomable damages in the area, and especially in its very historic centre.


In the world of arts, after the lockdown that paralysed everything and jeopardised the sheer existence of artists, be they freelance or otherwise, the earthquake served yet another, almost fatal blow to the capital’s arts and culture scene. The blow came with such a force that almost every single theatre had to be put out of use, just like most museums, galleries, art institutions and schools.

The impression is that, due to the coronavirus epidemic around the globe, the bad news in Zagreb fell very much under the radar and without the level of attention it deserved. Somebody felt that much more attention was needed. And that was a Croatian agency called Unimedia.

Unimedia is an agency which boasts wide range of professional services in public communications, promotions, campaigns, tourism films, short films and documentaries. In short, you name it, Unimedia probably does it. Their successful collaboration with the internationally respected Zagreb Soloists gave them an inspiration, says Unimedia’s owner Nikola Mihaljevic:

”The day after the earthquake it became clear that the Zagreb Soloists were deprived of their only proper stage in Zagreb. The legendary hall of the Croatian Musical Institute (HGZ) was so damaged that it was dangerous to even peep inside. We then went around Zagreb with our camera to see and register other venues of historic and cultural importance. Disheartened, sad and impressed in the worst way possible by what we saw, we felt we should provide our lshare in trying to repair the consequences. I knew from the start that, due to the sheer level of the damage, a fund raising action made little sense.

How much could we even raise, what would it mean at all? It would have been a drop in the ocean. My experience in communications, however, told me that what we could do something to raise awareness of the need to repair and restore all of the facilities without which not only Zagreb, but all of Croatia, would lose its relevance, meaning, its history and with that, its entire cultural and civilisational future. I called Mr. Kruno Maric, Chairman of Board of the Zagreb Soloists and suggested the idea. We couldn’t just sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for someone to come along and do all of it for us.

We must act now and try to do what we can. That was the first call in a series of calls and meetings that ensued. Of course, it took some time to pass the trajectory between the idea and its form and the final programme. I named it ”Zagreb, I love you so” (Zagreb, tak imam te rad) after the legendary ballad dedicated to the city.

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What was the first idea?

Well, my first idea was for the Zagreb Soloists to provide a concert in the damaged hall of the HGZ without any audience and to stream it on the web. But of course, it didn’t make much sense and I started seeking help at other addresses. Then I concluded that the highest instances with the mandate over culture, science and heritage are the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Ministry of Culture. While the answer from the Academy came almost immediately, the reaction from the Ministry arrived only after repeated messages and telephone calls. And quite some. Unsurprisingly.

Maybe they thought you were just another person coming and asking for money?

No way. Our idea was explained clearly and distinctly. As said earlier, the only aim of this little mission is to raise awareness of the fact that if we don’t take to a thorough, professional restoration of the venues vital for performing arts and arts and sciences in general, to the buildings that we hold and cherish our national memory, our entire future of a civilised nation with a real identity is at stake. At this moment in time, in this devastating situation with the aftermath of the earthquake and the coronavirus pandemic, awareness is so vital, it is a prerogative to a proper, complex action. We want everybody to be aware of the scope of this calamity and its invisible consequences.

Are you thinking of some particular target groups?

No. Not at all. The target is – everybody, from the highest authorities and institutions to the widest general public reachable, from politicians to a retired grandma reading newspapers on a bench in the park. I should hope we can eventually grow and as such attract more and more attention. This is only a modest, optimistic start that isn’t pretending that it will change the world, but aims to rekindle something not necessarily active in the awareness of people.



So, in the wake of the earthquake and amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – how do we begin?

We’ve conceived a small programme consisting of two events. The first is going to take place on a live web stream at noon on Tuesday, June the 2nd, 2020. It’s hopefully only the first in a series of more discussions on the subject. In this first one, we’re going to hear the viewpoints from HAZU’s Prof.sci. Mladen Obad Scitaroci, from Ms. Iva Hraste Soco of the Ministry of Culture, from Milana Vukov Runjic of the City of Zagreb and, in the name of arts, from Krunoslav Maric of the Zagreb Soloists.  It’s going to be streamed by our main media sponsor Vecernji list and in collaboration with Opis Film, our partner company.

Total Croatia News is proud to join all the media that will announce and follow this praiseworthy initiative. In the following days, make sure to follow our further coverage of the second part of ”Zagreb I love you so” –  a very special concert of the Zagreb Soloists on the evening of June the 7th, 2020 at 20:00, which will also be streamed live on Unimedia’s channel dedicated the the initiative, which you can subscribe to here.

Let’s all come together and contribute our beloved Zagreb’s recovery, even if only by having it in our daily thoughts.

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