Once There Was a Peasant in the Town of Korcula

Total Croatia News

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I’ve been coming to the most beautiful island in Croatia for 10 years now. Anniversaries are usually fun. Memorable. But so was my every stay on Korčula.

Korčula has given me so much. 

Friendships beyond logic and measure. Memories that don’t fade with life’s problems. Moments that came closest to the capability of time travel. Tastes, smells and hums that make you mention the Lord’s name in vain. 

The realization that a concert doesn’t have to be planned, it can happen spontaneously on the street of this Bastion of Croatian-Mediterranean-Venetian history. 

My first Michelin star experience involving cucumbers as a main dish on the first floor of Lesic Dimitri, which is surprising if you ever met me (I’m a big-bodied carnivore). Why would I even order that? Still recommended. 

The first time I witnessed that a Turk doesn’t have to be the bad guy in European legends/cannon, as proclaimed and argued by the renowned Croatian political scientist dr. Dejan Jović. So illustriously presented in the historical storytelling extravaganza called Moreška. 

Insights into the history visible on the wooden floor where the original James Bond used to spill his tea. In his own place. And yes, he actually owned a place in the old town. Not much has changed. The drops are still there. I was privileged. 

If you read the editorial section of Total Croatia News you could have encountered some of these bits of stories. 

Then again, as I was told and numerous times realized, the true value of a certain place, in the end, is inseparable from the quality and nature of its locals. The people.

Whether all-known merchants, judges, politicians, diplomats, architects or just regular Joes, Korčula has given Croatia, Europe and the World so much. It’s a place where you can meet individuals who are changing the view of Dalmatian coast (in a good way) or just expanding the boundaries of local cuisine. It’s one of the few places in Croatia where I have met more people that want to come live there than ones trying to escape. Unfortunately, so rare in this country. True fact, people who spent more then the summer or longer periods of time here have the urge to apply for Croatian citizenship. With a good record of becoming Croats. Basically, Korčula itself is its best demographic measure. 

I would argue it is one of the few places where you can, without a worry, let your young ones do a tour with the town garbageman around the old city and the little ones would come back knowing the lyrics of a rock song from the 70 or 80s. I’ve seen it. It’s safe, heartwarming, beautiful, just different…

Almost everything that I have learned about Korčula was embodied in a man a certain British fellow traveler described as the peasant in the town of Korčula. The man goes by the name of Matko. If you are from there, you most likely know him. There is a good chance that if you spend some time there you met him or heard of him. As a lady named Sarah, from the city of London, who spends her long summers on Korčula, once said: the world is so small if you know Matko

He was the middle man to many of my cherished friendships and the godfather to  an abundance of my life changing ideas and incentives. 

He was even around helping and consulting me in making the arrangements for my marriage proposal to my wife. The special event happened on the top of Marco Polo’s house, and everything was perfect. Even the sunset, although I don’t give him credit for that. I still had to carry the box with the ring in my underwear all the way from Prizba and ask her on our very own Slik Road personally, however that’s a story for another day. 

Matko isn’t there these days. 

Walking down the streets of Korčula I’m not hearing the sounds that used to fill me up with life in the most cliche way imaginable. Only in spending a few hours with him by his tavern he was able to draw a New Zealander to preform the traditional Haka battle dance, a duo of Scottish ladies, a capella singers, who performed their national folk songs that made you think you’re closer to Glasgow then to Split or Dubrovnik, groups of Nashvillians citing and preforming the eternal country ballads of Vince Gill and Chris Stapleton, Julliard alums virtuosing at will or just anybody willing to do their Oliver tribute…all in a matter of hours or a night or two. Matko was the classic people’s person, middle man and a Gladwellian connector. A not so little person who continually made a big difference for all who ran into him, making them see Korčula in a more complex but also pure sense, falling enamored with the island and the old town. 

Korčula is still the most beautiful place on earth. I might be biased, however I’m not a local. I travel out of the first capital of Croatia all the way up in the north. There is still so much to see, to get to know and to feel in Korčula. I urge you to visit and experience it yourself. I’m not familiar with anyone with the storytelling abilities to paint you the picture as good as the original on sight. 

It’s just… I feel a tad spoiled. It seems there is no music, there is no country, the joy is on hold, in the streets of Korčula at this moment. Maybe it’s just early summer. Perhaps the weather. 

Hope the music comes back. Hope he returns. 

On April 3rd, 2020, Matko suffered a severe stroke and after couple of days at the hospital was put into a medically induced coma which lasted 44 days. He suffered 3 lung infections, a bladder infection and sepsis. He also had a craniectomy, removing 1/3 of his skull to relieve pressure in his brain. During this time, the medical staff did not exercise him at all because they were basically waiting for him to die. This resulted in severe contractures of joints on the left side of his body plus the partial paralysis that the stroke caused. The restrictions for covid already started so the family could not visit him. After the hospital treatment Matko was taken to a rehab center. Again due to covid the center was understaffed and his was neglected and his recovery was slow, painful and unsuccessful. The family was then informed of a private polyclinic in Croatia that offers a robot neurorehabilitation that is extremely expensive. With help from a local charity organization Matko attended the clinic for six months and made progress. Unfortunately he still has a long difficult road in front of him having to relearn to walk and perform basic human functions again and the funds are running low. He is also scheduled for rhinoplasty surgery in the upcoming weeks to replace the missing part of his skull. He had recently opened a restaurant with a partner and could not be there to work leaving Sandra at home with two young children and no income. Now she cannot work as she takes care of him and their young children. They also have to rent a 2nd apartment near the rehab center just so he can attend the 6 hour therapy sessions. Please help this family survive another one to two years of medical bills, rent costs and basic life needs. If Matko cannot get the therapy he desperately needs he may permanently lose functionality of some extremities and brain functions among other things. His only goal is to get back on his feet so he can work and support his family. Anything you can spare is GREATLY appreciated.

You can contribute to Matko’s Go Fund Me appeal here.


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