Tears for Slavonia: The Pain of Emigration in Spoken Word

Total Croatia News

The desperate economic situation in eastern Croatia continues, with the pain of emigration on those left behind told powerfully in a viral video in Croatia earlier this week. We welcome T.M Urank to the TCN team on March 4, 2017, with thanks for a thoughtful translation of the powerful spoken words which reflect the sad reality on the ground in Slavonia, as well as the video and transcription of original text in Croatian. 

Recently a viral video captivated the hearts and souls of many Croatians, near and far, particularly those from Croatia’s most eastern region, Slavonia. If you imagine Croatia as a boomerang, with one end being the seaside, Slavonia is the other end, land-locked but full of wide, open spaces of golden prairies dotted with charming towns and their church steeples dotting the horizon beneath big, blue skies. It is also one of the regions that supplies the tourism-rich seaside with a large portion of its seasonal workforce. However, as anyone can imagine, depending on seasonal work to get through life and pay the bills is most often far from ideal. Poverty is not a stranger in these lands, and many young people (often well-educated) and entire families, have found themselves having to make that tough choice facing many across the world, to stay or to go and try for a better life somewhere else, often somewhere very far away.

Amongst Croatians, Slavonians are often thought of as warm, friendly, hard-working and down-to-earth folks. They are also, in general, quite tied to their families and communities. Many return once they retire after spending years abroad missing the hometowns, family and friends they left behind. More often than not, those who left are in some way or other helping to financially support the loved ones who stayed. Although this is nothing new in many places in the world, and nothing new in Croatia, in general, or Slavonia in particular, what is somewhat new is that in the past few years the number of those leaving has increased greatly, perhaps even exponentially. Leaving painful, even visible, gaps in communities and in the hearts of those who remain.

It is this increase and the subsequent sadness and despair that inspired Miroslav Mita Jerković, a citizen of Slavonia’s largest city, Osijek, to write the words we hear in the video below. In these times, it seems quite likely that many others out there, across the world, regardless of where they are from, may also find something familiar in the words below, just with other names and other places. Now, more than ever, human migration, regardless of the cause, has become all too familiar, and sadly not for the right reasons. Exploring our beautiful planet, learning about new cultures, learning new languages and ways of seeing the world, these are all things that feel completely different when done with the sense of choice and the excitement that comes from learning about the many other fascinating worlds that share this planet because of a vacation or studying or an excellent job opportunity abroad. But when we feel we have to leave just to be safe, or just to have enough food to feed ourselves and our loved ones, this kind of experience can only be bittersweet. Grateful for safety, grateful for survival, grateful for opportunities and new friendships, but a piece of us always feels somehow torn out, remaining behind for others to fill the gap we’ve left.

The text of the full poem and a translation in English (with kind permission from the author) have been provided to help our readers get the full feeling Mr. Jerkovic’s words which have reportedly brought many of his fellow citizens to tears. So, just in case, have some tissues handy, you may need them, too.

The original text is transcribed below, with an English translation below that. 

Slavonija moja

Moj Osječe, moj rodni grade
Bijeli svijet djecu tvoju krade
Politika loša na te bacila čini
Sve nas je manje na istocnoj tribini
Konobaru, donesi mi jednu stelu
Popiti cu sam, nema nas za belu.
Sa sjetom gledam tu flasu pivsku
Mario među prvima otišao u Irsku.
I Veši život u Hrvatskoj posta muka
Za nijemce kuha mali Luka.
A među onima što uhvatiše pedale
Ekipu iz Čepina povede rođak Sale.
Dosta su mene institucije muzle,
Kaže Darko, u Englesku ode avionom iz Tuzle.
U Njemačku ode i kockar Pinci,
Mali Šapa i njegovi klinci.
Renči, moja napacena seko,
Sa kim cu sada piti, i ti ošla preko.
Nije tu više ni šarmer Bole
U Frankfurt otišao odmah poslije škole.
U najdražoj birtiji nestala je vika,
U Bavarskoj sad autobus vozi Prika.
Ma otišle iz Slavonije obitelji cijele
Nema Ante i Ivane, ajme kukulele.
Kuću prodaše po povoljnoj cijeni
I sa djecom odoše Ivanka i Deni.
Kruno je prodao svoj stari fiat uno,
Za praznike dođe, ne viđam ga puno.
Nema Marijete fajterice stare
Djecu rađa preko Velike Bare.
Susjed Domba u Švedskoj vozi kamion
A dobri Bane čekirao karte za avion.
Slavonija moja toneš u provaliju
Čim se i Okac sprema za Australiju.
Jure i Božo otišli pod stare dane
U Austriji Jozo zarađuje pare.
E moj živote, e sudbine klete,
Za boljim životom otišla i žena, povela i djete.
Pola Slavonije otišlo da se spasi
Tko zadnji ode neka svijetlo gasi.

~ Miroslav Mita Jerković

My Slavonia

My Osijek, place of birth, my hometown
Your children are being stolen by the world, all around
Rotten politics have cursed you, chased away all the fans
There are less and less of us to cheer in Osijek’s stands
I order a beer from the waiter, with a broken heart
I’ll drink it alone, not enough of us for cards.
I wistfully look at this bottle of beer
The first to go to Ireland, Mario’s no longer here.
Life in Croatia’s become too tough for Veši to take.
Little Luka cooks for the Germans and makes them cake.
And amongst all the others that also took flight
Sale’s taking the guys from Čepin with him tonight
Darko says, these institutions have milked him enough
To England from Tuzla, but he’s still living rough.
Off to Germany goes gambler Pinci and sons,
Little Šapa, too, and his little ones.
Renči, my tormented sister, no longer around
Who will I drink with now that you’re across the pond?
Charmer Bole is also no longer here
He left for Frankfurt at the end of the school year.
No more brawls in our favourite old pub
Now that Prika’s driving buses in Bavaria’s hubs.
Entire families have left our Slavonija, our land
No more Ante, no more Ivana…oh man!
Selling their houses at bargain prices, what a steal!
Ivanka, Deni, and the kids, they know how it feels
My buddy Kruno sold his old Fiat Uno, his prized ride
Only comes for holidays now, no more hanging out all night.
No more Marijeta, remember her? That old fighter, that legend
Bearing children across the seas, will we ever see them again?
Neighbour Domba’s in Sweden driving a truck
Good old Bane looks for plane tickets and better luck
My Slavonia, you’re sinking into an abyss, into a dark hole
Now that even Okac is going to Australia, his final goal
Jure and Božo left long ago, back in the old days
And Jozo earns cash in Austria, seems to be the only way.
Oh my life! Oh you cursed destiny! When for a better life,
Even my wife and our child had to leave.
Half of Slavonia has left
to save themselves from this plight
So whoever is the last to leave,
Don’t forget to turn out the light.

~ Miroslav Mita Jerković (translated into English by T. M. Urank)


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