Pride of Croatia: Helping Sick Kids See the Sea for First Time

Lauren Simmonds

Got a box of tissues ready?

As Morski writes on the 4th of February, 2018, throughout the year, the Pride of Croatia Association (Udruga Ponos Hrvatske) collects stories about potential candidates deserving of awards, these people have shown exceptional humanity through their actions, inspired others, or are inspiring to others in some other manner, whether it involves saving lives, great will, or incredible courage.

Two of the candidates are Vjera Matulić and Dražen Predovan. Vjera launched a Facebook group called Iznajmljivači sa srcem (Renters with a heart) where renters based on the Adriatic coast offer free summer holidays to families with children with disabilities while Dražen later included free transport for those who had no way of getting there.

”It was the 5th of June last year. I saw an ad from Nikolina Kadijević from Dubrovnik who was offering free accommodation for families with children with special needs. I said to my husband Ivica “Look how good this is!” And we started offering the same thing – free accommodation for sick children and their family members. Within ten minutes families were showing interest,” said Vjera Matulić (55) from Postira on the island of Brač to Dalmacija danas today.

“My daughter Mihaela was a group administrator, and every day around 100 people would join the group. Landlords from all over Croatia, including the neighboring countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia started to appear. In the end more than 650 renters were offering free accommodation,” said Vjera.

A month later, in July, Dražen Predovan (43) was in hospital in Zadar recovering from the amputation of his legs due to diabetes, while in hospital, he saw a publication in the Facebook group Iznajmljivači sa srcem (Renters with a heart) saying that a sick woman from Kutina, otherwise a mother of three sick children, one of which is in a wheelchair, received a free five-day stay in Novalja, but they didn’t have the money to take the kids.

”I watched, and there was a sea of comments. You’d send money, then another would pay for a taxi, flowers, hearts, but nobody actually doing anything, then I wrote ‘I will’. And I set off from the hospital.”

He put prosthesis on his feet, went to the parking lot, started the car and headed off on a 420km long trip to Kutina, where his future passengers were waiting for him, still in disbelief about his arrival.

“The woman cried and thanked me constantly, I told her everything was fine, lets go… Only when we arrived and when I saw happiness and tears of joy on their faces did I realise how much it meant to them. They saw the sea for the first time in their lives! It’s there in front of my house, so to speak, and I’ve not been swimming in the last ten years, and they’ve wanted it so much, its incredible. It’s weird to understand just how much you don’t really value something you’ve got, and how much it can mean to someone else,” Dražen concluded.


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