September 7, 2023 – We are delighted to welcome Kreso Raguz to TCN. An accomplished journalist of many years, we start with a series on the experiences of his Croatian-Rwandese family, beginning with a child’s views on the differences between Zagreb and Africa. Welcome!
Luna was born weighing 990 grams. She was born in Kigali, Rwanda, at La Croix du Sud Hospital. Down in the south, in Africa, in the ‘Southern Cross’ hospital. She was born three weeks before her due date. None of the doctors diagnosed Luna’s mom with preeclampsia. So instead of Luna being born, they both almost died. But Luna and her mom are fighters. So they won. And survived. Luna will turn 25 months in a few days. She has seen everything in her life. Too much for such a small child. For the baby.
Luna moved to Zagreb from Africa three months ago. And as her dad, I never stop wondering how she sees this new world around her. I can’t ask her because she would answer me in a combination of French-English-Croatian-Kinyarwanda. In her four languages which she combined into one. And she is too small. Well, she wouldn’t really answer me anything.
And that’s why I decided to jump into her curly head to see for myself what thoughts were swarming inside her. What is the difference between Zagreb and Africa in the mind of a baby. Dad asks, Luna answers:
1) Luna, what do you miss most about Africa?
Children. There are no children there in Zagreb. Mom and dad always bring only one child to the park. And they constantly run after him so that he doesn’t fall and hit himself. In Africa, five brothers and sisters bring the youngest, the sixth child, to play. Without mom and dad. And they brought five more children from the neighbors. And they all fall and crash. And they continue to play. In Africa, nobody gets mad when you get dirty. In Africa, everyone laughs when you fall in the mud, but in Zagreb they immediately take you home.
2) Where food is better?
In Zagreb, because that’s where everyone gives you candies and chocolate. And donuts. In Africa you have to eat fruits and vegetables all the time. Here, when you are hungry, mom and dad have to go to the store, and in Africa they go to their garden at home.
3) What does Zagreb have that Africa does not?
Dogs and cats. There are as many dogs in Zagreb as there are people. But there are no chickens and cows living in Zagreb, so I don’t know who gives us eggs and milk. I guess an aunt in Konzum.
4) Where is the nicer weather?
It has been very hot in Zagreb so far, more so than in Africa. And then suddenly it gets very cold at night. Well, my mom keeps wiping my nose. Dad says that the way things are going, soon Zagreb will be Africa, and Africa will be the North Pole. I don’t know what that means. I’m afraid of that winter that they say will come soon.
5) Are adults better in Zagreb or in Africa?
In Zagreb, because they keep coming up to me and saying I’m cute, they talk goo-goo-ga-ga with me in the tram, on the road, everywhere. And they give me sweets. I don’t understand why they keep asking my dad where he adopted me from and if I’m from Zambia. I don’t understand what it means, but my dad always solves it quickly. Sometimes he even yells at them. It’s better in Zagreb because when I cry, the big ones always give me something to stop. In Africa they just let me cry. And they don’t give me anything.
6) Who guards you in Zagreb, and who guarded you in Africa?
In Africa, everyone looked after me, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, other children, nannies. In Zagreb, children are looked after by aunts from kindergartens. That’s strange to me. In Zagreb, you sometimes go out of the house. In Africa you sometimes go inside the house. I’ve heard my dad often talk about some baka service that we don’t have, and then he usually says that we will all go 3PM (in Croatian, not English) if he can’t be alone with my mom for five minutes a day.
7) What is a mobile phone?
In Africa adults talk on mobile phones. In Zagreb, all children have mobile phones, watch cartoons and play games. A cell phone is stupid because children don’t want to play, they just stare at it.
8) Who makes you angry?
When dad keeps saying psss to me, stop yelling because of the neighbors. In Africa, neighbors don’t mind when children scream. Even my dad in Africa didn’t mind when I lashed out for no reason. But here it bothers him. My mom also makes me angry when she keeps putting diapers on me so that I don’t pee somewhere where it’s rude. There is no rude place in Africa when a baby pees. I hate diapers, I’d be weaned off them already if I didn’t move here.
9) Is someone making fun of you?
I heard in the park that some children from Zagreb were asking my big sister if I was black. My sister usually yells at them, as did my dad, so the kids stop. In Africa, some children also teased me that I was a ‘muzungu’, a white. It seems that kids like me are being talked about the same way everywhere. In Africa because my dad is white, and in Zagreb because my mom is black.
10) Would you rather stay in Zagreb or return to Africa?
I often hear mom and dad say that we are going to move to Mars now. I can see they are not happy. There was work in Africa, but no money. In Zagreb, there is no work due to some papers we are waiting for. I guess that means there is no money either. I don’t mind if we go to that Mars, as long as we all go together; mom, dad and me.
Reporter Krešimir Raguž has been writing for numerous Croatian media for the past 20 years; Jutarnji list, Večernji list, 24 sata, Lider, which published more than a thousand of his stories. Nova TV published more than 60 of his short documentaries. For years, Raguž reported from war conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, DR Congo, Georgia and several revolutions in the world, but he also always wrote stories about ordinary people and their destinies from 108 different countries. From the Himalayas to the Amazon.
He has lived in Burundi, Rwanda, South Africa, China and Colombia for the last 12 years. He was running few companies in Africa. Three months ago, he returned from Rwanda to Croatia with his family, his wife Larissa and their baby Luna.
This is his story about what it’s like to be white in Africa (him) and black in Croatia (his wife). About what it’s like to be a mulatto on both places – their daughter. About everyday life, about adaptation, about corruption, delusions and a different reality. And to what is the same on both sides of the world – politics and bureaucracy, love and struggle. You can contact him via LinkedIn.