Croatian Returnee Stories: “I Still Believe Croatia Can Be A Great Country”

Lauren Simmonds

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While the bleak stories about Croats taking advantage of the European Union’s policy of freedom of movement and leaving the country in their droves continue to dominate the headlines of the Croatian press, as well as the conversations taking place across Croatian cafes and bars, there are also many Croatian returnee stories to be told.

These returnees are either on their journeys back to Croatia after spending a few weeks or months in another European country like Ireland and the UK realising they were sold propaganda about how ”easy” life is, or they simply have a calling for home.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 4th of November, 2018, Lara from Zagreb is one such person who returned from the glitz and glam of the British capital to Croatia, as she still has faith that Croatia can be transformed into an amazing country.

”I know this might sound a little strange, but I still believe that Croatia can be a great country, and that we’ve got excellent predispositions for success. I agree, people here are don’t have it easy. If you go abroad, yes, you’ll find it a lot easier to get a job. The challenge is living abroad, but to find a decent and well paid job, perhaps not immediately in the profession [for which you’ve studied], isn’t difficult,” Lara stated.

”If you can’t find a job in London, you’ll never find one. But that wasn’t the challenge,” 26-year-old Lara Hamer said, beginning her story.

Lara belongs to one of the first generations of children born in independent Croatia (1992), but her story is quite different from those Croatian returnee stories of her generation that we most often see and read today.

First of all, as Slobodna Dalmacija writes, Lara acquired her bachelor’s degree in international relations and politics back in July, from a British university in Northampton, a town somewhat larger than Split (200,000 inhabitants), located about a hundred miles northwest of London. However, she decided to return to Croatia as opposed to staying on in England, and not to simply sit here twiddling her thumbs waiting for someone to chase her down and offer her a job, but with an already developed idea that she intended to bring to Croatia.

Back in March of this year, she and her friend Bruna Tomšić from Zagreb, who completed journalism in Northampton, and Antonia Obrvan from Metković, had managed to conceive a project for social entrepreneurship to help the unemployed youth in Croatia, called MilleniDREAM. Less than half a year later, in October, the women presented their project at a Chicago conference organised upon the foundations of no less than former US President Bill Clinton. 

Unfortunately in the end, the project didn’t win the financial support it needed from the conference, but success was found in the fact that out of 10,000 entries from around the world, MilleniDREAM entered into a round of thousands of people who received an invitation to Chicago to introduce and present themselves to numerous potential donors. Clinton’s money was received by only seven projects.

“We’ll now seek financial support from EU funds,” stated an optimistic Lara.

The aforementioned women imagined that the project would link young people, academia, and employers in order to provide students with volunteer opportunities, and eventually get them into work. In addition, they would organise employment fairs, and also help students gain some of the skills needed today to compete on the ever-challenging labour market.

“We’re planning so-called ”soft skills” workshops to help young people write resumes, better present themselves to their future employers, create a good interview, run their social networks to make themselves more interesting to employers, lets say on Linkedin, which is read by many, especially by foreign employers. Today, young people graduate from college and compete for work by writing their CV over five pages. That’s old school, and no employer will read it all because there’s no time,” Lara added.

While Bruna’s colleague found a job in London directly through a LinkedIn status, Antonia is looking in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe, Lara, aware that the project may take some time to gain some ground, will soon start working in the field of communication.

While not all Croatian returnee stories are perfectly happy ones, the stories of those living abroad aren’t always walks in the park either, and they both need to have their place in the media if we’re to look at the situation objectively.

Want to hear more about Croatian returnee stories, emigration, immigration, and Croatia’s very many foreign entreprenerus and their stories? Make sure to keep up with our lifestyle page.


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