Irish Dream Shatters for Croatian Woman: ”I Cried Every Day”

Lauren Simmonds

The Croatian demographic crisis is becoming more and more concerning as time goes on. The fact that some don’t actually announce their departure to MUP and other relevant bodies when leaving the country tends to cloud the true number of people who have left Croatia in search of a new life abroad, a negative trend which has increased enormously, posing a serious threat to the domestic economy, since Croatia joined the European Union in July 2013.

Upon joining the EU, Croatia entered the single market, one of the fundamental four freedoms of which is the free movement of labour. Barriers to the labour markets of other, wealthier European countries in the West, such as that of Ireland, fell, and with that so did Croatia’s numbers.

While it cannot be argued that Western European countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom are more desirable in an economic sense, anyone who has spent any time in those countries (I spent 21 years of my life in the UK), will be quick to tell you that the rivers aren’t flowing with milk and honey, and that landing employment and a living wage isn’t that easy at all. Still, many hungry for a good wage and better conditions are blind to these warnings, and cheap one-way Ryanair tickets to Dublin are almost too difficult to resist.

Not every story ends in success and happiness, and despite what many Croatian publications tend to claim, there are numerous people who have realised that The Good Life in countries like Britain and Ireland is just as plagued as anywhere else, and they do make the trip back to Croatia. Here’s one such story from Poslovni Dnevnik/VLM on the 16th of July, 2019, which is more than worth paying attention to.

”I got the impression that it was amazing for everyone who went there – people were buying cars, living well, they were managing to save money. Overnight, I decided to go to Ireland and told myself I’m going to do something with my life,” says Adrijana from the continental Croatian town of Virovitica.

As stated, emigration has become one of the burning topics in Croatian public life during the last few years. Many in search of their daily bread, and more of it for their work, went off to wealthier European countries like Germany, the UK and Ireland. Some adjusted and liked their lives there, some didn’t, some decided to pick their battles and stay for work, to save, but there are also many who came back.

Among the latter is 40-year-old Adrijana Ružička, a Virovitica-native from Zagreb, who told Deutsche Welle just why she returned from the emerald isle to Croatia.

“I left with assurance that I’d be better off, but then I realised what my priorities in life were. When you leave your country and make your way yourself abroad, when you’re separated from your family and friends, you realise that you just miss it all far too much and you don’t need the money to be happy. I realised that my home and my family were a source of personal happiness and that I didn’t want to have a separated family and miss my son’s diploma, and then today, or tomorrow, his marriage and the birth of my grandchildren. I missed my husband and son so much that my heart broke and every day I cried. In addition, I’m an only child, and my parents are old, so it wasn’t acceptable for me to not be in a position to be there and help them when they needed it,” Adrijana said.

Before leaving Ireland, she worked as a bookkeeper, which she continues to do now, but with better financial terms. The main reason for going to Ireland was of course, money, she had a low salary, and lived as a sub-tenant. Her husband was due to come and join in several months.

Adrijana, who ended up in Killarney, south of Dublin, was quickly disenchanted by the stark reality of becoming a foreigner in a strange (and rainy) land, and was hired as a maid at a hotel. The Irish dream was fading, and fast.

Her salary was far higher than the one she received in Croatia, but it turned out that for the usual Irish conditions, she was actually working for minimum wage. Her gross income was 1,600 euros, her net earnings were 1,420 euros, and her apartment and utilities sucked up 850 euros…

After everything was paid for, as well as food, 200-300 euros remained in her pocket, and as she says herself, life in Ireland can be very expensive. Still, she says she is not sorry she went to Ireland because she is richer for the experience, learned a lot, and that Ireland taught her what is important, and how to save.

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