Slobodna Dalmacija writes that what makes this story special is that Marianne is also blind and a longtime member of the County Association of the Blind in Split.
“Of course, we are proud of our Marianne! As far as I know, there was not a single blind tourist guide in the whole of Croatia. I can already see how tourists will ask her to take them around the city,” said Ivan Tokić, the president of this association. Educating a blind person is quite expensive, but the association was lucky that Tonči Baće Martinić, a Croatian emigrant living in the United States, donated towards Marianne’s education. Funds were also procured for other members, especially the youngest ones.
Tonči lived in Split but moved to California for work 45 years ago. Nonetheless, he remained very attached to his roots. He spent his working life as a mechanic, and as an altruist, he helped others when possible in various ways. He was amazed at how Americans help institutions that take care of people in need, which encouraged him to focus his efforts on someone in need. He chose Split and the Association of the Blind, led by his family Ivan Tokić. And that is how this beautiful story developed, resulting in Marianne’s diploma. The Association is immensely grateful.
“I’m happy to have this opportunity. I have long wanted to become a tour guide, and my family pushed me to finish it, especially my mom. I graduated in Zadar in Spanish and French, for which I have fond memories. I also want to learn Portuguese, renew Italian, and I would like to be an interpreter, although it is challenging to get into the industry. As I work in the Split Tourist Board, I can speak in foreign languages, which makes me very happy.
And Split, I know it very well, especially the city center, Diocletian’s Palace, and all the streets in the center. I have been putting together stories in my head for a long time, reading them, and I would really like to provide a different view of the city. I believe people will find it interesting.
I plan to get a guide dog for the blind through the association “Silver,” but I have been waiting for the right moment,” says Marianne, who will give tours to anyone who wants them, regardless of whether they are blind or not.
The 26-year-old is quite independent in moving around the city even though she’s had low vision since birth. She moves without a cane, but a guide dog will come to her as great support. She was born by chance in Frankfurt am Main but spent her childhood in Split, where she graduated from the School of Tourism and Hospitality. She said that she did not have problems with textbooks because she used the eyesight she had and was not among those visually impaired children who struggled every school year to get their school books in Braille.
The books arrive, but often only in the second half of the year. Therefore, the association bought a Braille printer through donations to provide children with school materials and made life easier for the parents of blind students as they had to prepare the material themselves.
As she likes long walks, Marianne goes to work on foot because she lives not far from the city center. Obstacles are created only by the lack of sound at traffic lights. She could use the bus, but they are not adapted for visually impaired people either.
“I don’t usually ride buses, but sometimes it would be good, especially if the weather is bad. It would be good if they announced which lines were arriving at each station. I’ve gotten on the wrong bus because of this, more often than not.
But I have to admit that people’s consciousness has changed after all. Things are moving forward, society is becoming more aware of everyone’s needs, and I am optimistic in any case,” she said.
Despite the infrastructural obstacles in the city, she does not give up. Through the Split County Association of the Blind, a lot is being done and discussed to improve the quality of life for visually impaired people, procuring literature in Braille, hand-held magnifying glasses for reading, working on training members to be competitive in the labor market. That is how the idea of further education came to Marianne, and her long-held wish was fulfilled.
“I sincerely hope that the upcoming tourist season will be good, so I will be able to start guiding. I will take my friends from the association on the first guided tour. I’m really looking forward to it!” she concluded.
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