Realities of Pandemic Racism for an Asian Resident in Croatia

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I remember in the early day of the pandemic, around a year ago, reading of the experiences of a Chinese lady living in Croatia, and the pandemic racism she suffered on the streets of the Croatian city she now called home. The pandemic came from China, and so it was her fault. Or so seemed the logic. 

I have been meaning to catch up with a couple of Chinese friends here in the last weeks to hear about their experiences. Has that pandemic racism gone away? And how has being Chinese in a modern European city been as an experience, with so many conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19. 

And then I saw this on a social media post from a Chinese lady living with her Croatian partner here. A report in full with her permission.  

Having been through a crazy year in 2020 and now living a semi-normal life here, I was almost over the phase of being alert of the existence of anti-Asian/ coronavirus hatred in Zagreb (Not in Atlanta and New York, though). 

Today as I was walking alone in the cold on Ilica St., along with many other people, a woman who just came from the small path of Uspinjača stopped me and said, “You should wear a mask.” I took off my earplugs, “Excuse me?” I said. “You should wear a mask.” She said it again with an angry tone of voice.  I asked her, “Why?” “Because it is the LAW!” She said. What a stupid question.

Do I need to explain to her that I do wear a mask in shops, on the tram, in a taxi, at a restaurant, at school and library – INDOORS. I also have a dozen of new masks at home, now I have 2 in my pocket. I cut off the two strings on my used masks so they would not entangle and kill small sea animals and seagulls when this garbage is dumped into the sea and bla bla bla… So she should just mind her own business and not worry about me? I thought to myself. Or maybe I just do what she told me to and put the mask on and she’d be satisfied? 

So I looked at her, and then quickly looked at all the people around us, but nobody wore any mask, either… I then asked her, “But why don’t you tell them to wear the mask? Tell’em now, too!” my hand pointing at the people as I just blurted out these words. I turned to the bunch of passers-by, raised my voice and said “Hey people, this lady has something to tell you guys. She wants you to wear a mask…” 

As I was saying this, this woman quietly walked away and disappeared into the crowd.  She seemed embarrassed. I decided not to say “Hey lady, please don’t go. Come on…”

Of course, she would not target me in the crowd and specifically ask me to wear a mask, if I was not Asian. But seriously, whenever you see an Asian-looking person in town, this person has a mask on it, even when nobody else does. I have never been “anti-mask”, not even a little. But unfortunately, I didn’t wear one at this moment outdoors. 

Having this story said, and I just remembered the hate comments on a recent news about a newly-opened Chinese restaurant in Croatia. Some people say they cook and sell cats, dogs and rats meat, they bring the disease. I rarely fight back against internet trolls. But I never want to give in when these kind of scenarios happen in reality, especially being Asian and female, which means we could be easily taken as a target by the anti-Asian haters. 

Be a woman, be smart and brave, be physically and mentally strong, and always be ready to fight back. Fight back against any racism, the dictatorial government, any unfair things in life, and fight for your own rights. As a teacher I am, I constantly tell my young female students this.

What is It Like for Black People Living in Croatia?


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