Jelsa Za Krizen, Croatia Not Wuhan & Cabin Fever Perspectives

Total Croatia News

April 11, 2020 – The decision to allow the Jelsa Za Krizen procession to proceed has caused plenty of debate. A detailed account from the only foreigner to witness the whole event on Hvar. 


This is an article I really do not want to write, since I know it will lead to more attacks and abuse from some quarters, no matter what I write, due to the high emotions and feelings about the subject. But I have decided to write it because I feel I have a moral obligation to do so. 

A moral obligation for two reasons. Firstly to the people of Hvar, who were unable to take part in this 500-year-old UNESCO tradition which is almost part of their DNA – a chance turn of events meant that I was only a handful (less than ten) of people outside officialdom who got to witness the whole event and all six processions. I feel a duty to share as much information, including videos and photos as I can. You can already see the first comprehensive report here, as well as an edited video tribute to each of the six cross bearers here

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (6).PNG

TCN’s coverage and videos of the Jelsa Za Krizen 2020 (which also covered the other five processions from Vrboska, Vrbanj, Svirce, Vrisnik and Pitve) has already been featured in, Laudato TV, 24 Sata, Index, Tportal, Dalmacija Danas, Telegram, Dalmacija News, Sibenik In,,, as well as appearing on the national evening news on RTL Danas. Laudato TV even referred to me as Irish, the first portal to note my post-Brexit reality. 

This intense media interest in our work had less to do with the quality of what we produced and more, of course, with the fact the current travel restrictions meant that I was one of the only journalists in the country who could attend the event. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (6).jpg

It has certainly been a strange year for TCN in that regard, as my colleague and I were the only foreigners at the inauguration of President Milanovic a couple of months ago. You can read more about a foreign perspective on a Croatian presidential inauguration here

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (26).jpg

And then, an even stranger feeling. at the start of the Jelsa Za Krizen procession on Thursday. Not only the only foreigner on the main square but also the only person. 

As far as I can see, there are three aspects of the decision which have flared emotions. 

1) Social distancing.

2) Anger that while other events are cancelled and people are confined to homes, Za Krizen went ahead.

3) With Easter approaching, such an important family time for Croatians, allowing the procession to proceed sent out the wrong message. 

I am not going to touch the last two topics, since my opinion does not matter, and I learned a long ago about jumping into polarised debates that will descend to Ustasa v Partizani in minutes. But I do have a lot to say on the first topic, as well as value to add to the discussion due to my close access to the entire procession.  

Before I do so, I think it is also important to mention that everyone is having a different experience and perspective based on how confined they are and who they are (or are not) locked down with. While I can’t imagine what I must be like caged in Zagreb with corona on the outside and earthquakes on the inside, I worry too about a friend on an idyllic Caribbean island which just registered its first corona death. With no chance of flights out, the island only had 10 hospital beds and two respirators. A different kind of prison compared to Zagreb, and perhaps even more terrifying despite the sun and access to the beach. 

No place is perfect to sit this one out, and I fully acknowledge that my circumstances in sunny Jelsa are much better than many others. Had we stayed in the house in Varazdin, we would have ended up killing each other for sure, and while health facilities on the island are limited, Split is not far away, and Croatia’s emergency services do an outstanding job despite decades of underfunding. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (7).PNG

Part of the title is ‘Croatia not Wuhan.’ There is a reason for that, although I am aware that some may see this as clickbait. I want to add a paragraph on clickbait to the discussion before I proceed because it is an important aspect of the debate. There has never been a greater era of clickbait than today, and some media articles on this procession have indulged in that. 

While I do not judge portals which do engage in a policy of clickbait (more on why in a minute), it is something I strongly oppose on TCN editorially. Although we don’t always achieve it, given the number of contributors we have and the relaxed publishing policy, quality is of much more importance than quick cash from hysteria-driven clicks. In my opinion, the short-term financial gain would be offset by the loss of quality readers who would rightly conclude that we were a clickbait site. 

So why don’t I judge other portals? Adsense revenue is an essential revenue stream for media portals these days, and Adsense revenue is generated by clicks. The more clicks, the more cash you make. The more clickbaity articles, the more clicks, the more cash. TCN’s current financial status is that every single client we had put our cooperation on hold, every single one – over a period of three days last month. Painful but understandable. While one has now come back and we picked up a new client yesterday, this has meant that for a month, the ONLY revenue stream for TCN has been Adsense revenue. So in order to feed my kids, it is in my interest to attract clicks to the site. So do I compromise on quality, or ask the kids to eat less? That is a part of the clickbait debate that rarely gets discussed. 

Sorry kids, I went for quality BUT the good news is that clients are coming back and new ones committing, so we will be able to eat well again real soon. And yes, I am joking about not having food for the kids – when you have access to the quality produce of your punac and the legendary Konoba Zorica run by your punica, nobody will starve. 

Sorry for the long intro, but I think it is necessary to have a better understanding of this complex situation. 

Let’s begin. So why is Croatia (or anywhere else in the world) not Wuhan? Look at the chart above on the level of restrictions in some European countries. While Wuhan had total lockdown, these countries and Croatia have partial lockdown. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (33).jpg

This is Split late last month, where locals were enjoying a traditional game called picigin in the Spring sunshine. They were appropriately socially distanced, and the rules of the game apparently mean you can not be within one metre of another player. Passing the virus on via the ball is another aspect to the game, however. But this is also a great visual example of what is currently happening in Croatia. MOST but not ALL are adhering to the rules and appropriate distancing. I asked Professor Igor Rudan, one of the leading global experts on pandemics what was his opinion of the above photo in Jurgen Klopp and Igor Rudan: the Only COVID-19 Opinions You Need. His one-line answer was:

I can only say that, if you leave home, you are no longer safe, because we still have no idea how this virus can spread so easily. Until we do, I would rather stay in.

His much longer, and highly informative analysis can be found in How to Maintain Good Results and Exit Quarantine as Soon as Possible.


Were there social distancing violations at Za Krizen? Yes

Were they worse than the current situation all over Croatia? An EMPHATIC NO, INDEED MUCH, MUCH BETTER

Give me a camera and access to any city in Croatia with a brief to show the shocking abuse of social distancing rules, and I will have a daily clickbait article which will have my kids begging me to stop buying them so much chocolate. While what I capture might be true, it would not be representative. 

Or let’s put is another way. How often, if ever, have you been out in the neighbourhood where you live in Croatia and seen 100% adherence to the social distancing rules?

I never expected Za Krizen to have total social distancing, and I don’t think anyone else did. The big question – to me at least – was how much close contact there would be, and how many people would violate. And THIS to me was the story of the night and the reason why my respect for the people of Hvar has never been higher. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (18).jpg

Currently in Jelsa, we are not allowed to leave the area, but we are free to go for a walk, if we are appropriately socially distanced. This means that I can get my 30 minutes a day by the Adriatic which is keeping me sane. But it also meant that all the locals could legally come out and take part in the procession in some way. That would necessarily lead to a lot more contact and violations if it were to happen. And with Za Krizen SUCH an important part of the local genetic makeup, it was to be expected. So what actually happened, and how did the authorities control things? Here is my experience in and around Jelsa, the biggest of the six settlements. I was out all night so had the chance to observe the most.  

The first reassurance (and surprise) came at the top of the steps (see above) I use to go to the riva. It was blocked by the car of my dentist, Ivo Tomic, who was doing his bit as a good citizen to limit movement. Ivo had been informed that I had been given permission to attend the procession from distance and waved me through. 

I should mention at this point about the permission. I called the head of the local Stozer, Igor, to say that I planned to wander around, as per the rules, but just wanted to check if that was ok, as I knew it was a sensitive time. Igor referred me to check with Jure Tadic, the Hvar Police Chief, who gave his blessing but suggested I get confirmation from Jelsa Mayor, Niksa Peronja. Mayor Peronja confirmed by email. 

And then a few hours before the procession Police Chief Tadic called me. My heart sank. The only reason for the call must be to tell me to stay home, I thought as his number flashed up. But quite the contrary, he wanted to know exactly where I planned to be, and to let me know that if I had any problems, to call him directly. Thank you, Sir, that was much appreciated. 

And so to the main square, where the main action would soon begin…

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (20).jpg

No chance to get to the square unless you had permission. I was waved through.

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (17).jpg

Every entrance was blocked. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (21).jpg

My view of the square at 22:00, when the procession was due to start. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (32).jpg

The main church in Jelsa is normally packed with pilgrims watching, and then following, the start of the procession. Not on Thursday. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (27).jpg

And that control continued through the night. 00:30 as we waited for the Vrbanj procession. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (28).jpg

Hvar Police Chief Jure Tadic ran a perfect operation all night. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (29).jpg

But the main surprise was how few people there were on the streets at all. Some had chosen their own spot along the route, and as the procession went along the road out of the town, there were perhaps a dozen, each several metres apart. As the procession passed, tears poured out of one local woman. Had I been that clickbait journalist, it would have been the photo of the procession. I did not enquire if they were tears of joy at seeing the procession happen, frustration at not being able to take part, or tears for the current situation. Whichever, this crystallised for me just what Za Krizen means for the people of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (30).jpg

And there was going to be no getting past the police on land…  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (31).jpg

… or by sea.  

But what would happen when the Jelsa procession came back in the morning? Surely the crowds would gather then? To give some perspective, this is how Jelsa Za Krizen 2019 finished. 

The most joyful time of the year in Jelsa for me, and the energy and joy in the cafes afterwards among the pilgrims after their 9-hour experience through the night is truly magical.  


Fast forward to 2020, and the socially distanced Jelsani awaiting the return of their procession. I was absolutely stunned. And absolutely proud.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (25).jpg

Don Stanko and just a handful of others awaited.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (22).jpg

Another powerful photo memory of the 2020 procession. 

You can see the arrival of the cross in this video of my footage which has been edited by Miranda Milicic Bradbury, and includes some quite stunning footage as the procession then proceeded to St John’s Church. This was the undoubted highlight of the night.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (24).jpg

The biggest social distancing violation of the entire procession, but something happening in every corner of Croatia. From a social distancing point of view, Za Krizen was no worse – and actually better – than what is currently happening all over Croatia. The other two points of debate mentioned above are a separate discussion, but there is absolutely no reason in my opinion why Za Krizen social distancing violations are even a discussion in Croatia at the moment. Would it be better if Za Krizen did not happen alongside all the other things going on at the moment in Croatia which are generating more serious violations? I bow to Professor Rudan and say yes. 

But Croatia is not Wuhan, and that is a decision that the Croatian authorities, but also some Croatian people, have taken through their own individual acts of social distancing violation.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (14).jpg

My story is coming to an end. St John’s Square. 

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (13).jpg

Jelsa’s main square five minutes after the procession had arrived.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (10).jpg

And a view from the riva.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (9).jpg

Just one early morning, socially distanced conversation to break the silence.  

jelsa-za-krizen-2020 (12).jpg

Early morning empty tranquillity that I have come to cherish during my time here.  


And the final photo for the final police action in this outstandingly conducted operation – disinfecting their boat. 

My thanks and respect to all those who made Za Krizen 2020 a success in very challenging circumstances. 

I hope that this account brings more clarity to the discussion, as well as more information and photos for the many who hold Za Krizen so dear. 

You can see more of TCN’s Za Krizen coverage, including videos of previous procession, in our dedicated section



Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment