Ivankovo is located in Vukovar-Srijem County, west of the historical city of Vinkovci, along a busy road that has passed through that area since prehistoric times. The design reminds of a typical traditional Slavonian village; the houses are located on long narrow plots, built on a regulation line, and the background is used for agricultural purposes. In addition, there are villages Prkovci and Retkovci, which are also part of the Ivankovo Municipality. Furthermore, its geographical and traffic location connects cities like Đakovo, Osijek, Vinkovci, Vukovar. Also, the motorway A3 Bregana – Lipovac, industrial track, airport Klisa, the port of Vukovar, and neighbouring municipalities Vođinci, Stari Mikanovci, Andrijaševci, Cerna, and Jarmina. Historically, the municipality of Ivankovo was always highly populated (unusual for villages in Eastern Croatia) with, according to the 2011 census, 6,194 residents in Ivankovo, 1,263 residents in village Retkovci and 549 residents in Prkovci. However, the 2021 census showed that the emigration of people, especially young people, did not bypass Ivankovo. Only Vukovar-Srijem County has 19 percent fewer people than ten years prior, with just Ivankovo losing 1,091 residents. These devastating numbers only show how much this part of the country suffered since the Homeland War, and the possible potential Eastern Croatia can offer was neglected for decades. Recently, however, things started to change.
Croatia joined the European Union on the 1st of July 2013 and opened its borders to new opportunities, which was partly a curse if we consider the emigration, but Euro funds all of a sudden became available and small communities and districts like Ivankovo saw the opportunity to use its resources to develop their infrastructure. After the change of the government in 2017, hard work needed to begin. One of the first obstacles elected officials had to face were decrepit institution buildings (school, kindergarten, fire station), sacral objects, financial transactions pointlessly directed at projects that did not make any sense, engaging locals in public events, and keeping young residents and their potential families in the district of Ivankovo. This was only a drop in the ocean, but with the available European funds and fixes in municipalities’ budgets, projects of developing neglected villages finally started.
The first big project happened at the Industrial Zone Ivankovo, which was, after many years, finally put into function and allowed local entrepreneurs to invest and develop their own establishments. This encouraged employment, of which 70 percent needed to be from the Municipality of Ivankovo.
Local utilities also needed a massive upgrade, so a communal society was formed and today employs 26 people from the Municipality, who take care of the village’s environment every day. Public spaces like children’s playgrounds, parks, and other areas were built and renovated. Furthermore, part of the Revitalization plan included planting 300 trees across the Municipality. The roads have been renovated, built where needed, and the sewer system finally connected with households across the villages of Ivankovo, Prkovci, and Retkovci. Waste management is still a huge problem across Croatia but the local government of Ivankovo, with the help of EU funds, enabled the construction of a recycling yard which highlights the need for sorting and recycling the waste.
Industrial Zone Ivankovo, foto: Facebook/Marko Miličević – načelnik Općine Ivankovo
Social incentives: co-financing the purchase of houses for young families, infant benefits, free preschool educations, new kindergarten buildings, free student transportation, student scholarships, and other perks of the demographic policy all came into fruition since 2017, and it helped residents of Ivankovo immensely.
Newly Built Kindergarten Ivankovo, foto: Facebook/Dječji vrtić Ivankovo
Renovated old government building, foto: Facebook/Marko Miličević – načelnik Općine Ivankovo
This is only a drop in the ocean that shows if people put in a little effort and genuinely care about the development of the community in which they reside, Slavonia can truly be better. When asked about these achievements and progress the Municipality went through the last few years, Mayor Marko Miličević says that “this is only the beginning. It was hard, we had to fix a lot of issues that were rooted here for years, but with the help of my colleagues and finding resources to finance our goals of development of this region, we started something that we can only continue to build on.”
He continues: “The most important part was listening to people, getting to know them again and recognizing their needs because before they weren’t being listened to.”
Plans seem ambitious as well: “This Municipality has so much potential and highly educated people, with more than 100 faculty students every year who are studying economics, IT, electrical engineering and computing, food technology, medicine, etc., which are all the fields that are the future of this country.” he says.
Furthermore: “We have numerous development projects in works that we want to be finished in the next few years: further development of Entrepreneurial Zone Ivankovo, a tourist, sports and recreation center, a retirement home, catering and tourist zone, etc.
Mayor Miličević ends on a hopeful note: “We have achieved the future of development in the Municipality of Ivankovo, and we plan to continue it.”
Winter Joys During Christmas Holidays, foto: Facebook/Marko Miličević – načelnik Općine Ivankovo
Sports recreation, social events, concerts, the inclusion of young people in said events, and more only shows that the district of Ivankovo finally livened up and restored a little bit of life that resided here 30 – 40 years ago. Multiple “parasites” wormed themselves in the core of Slavonia and slowly but surely exhausted the region to the limit. People settled for what was enough for them, for what was given to them, and some of them left because they couldn’t see their future here. Generations of high schoolers heard every day that there isn’t a place for them here in Slavonia, that there are many people like them who never found themselves here and had to leave because of it, and that they need to leave as well.
The hope for Slavonians has been stepped on for years, but the current changes slowly every day. Osijek started it, Vukovar and Vinkovci are following it. Still, a village like Ivankovo can only be an example of how much power its residents have and use their potential to make, how one former foreign politician said, Slavonia great again.
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