Croatian Returnee Stories: Australia’s Oldest Married Couple from Vrgorac

Total Croatia News

Updated on:

The TCN inbox has never been dull, but since I posted an offer of a free interview to any returnee who wanted to share their experience of moving back to the Homeland, things have been very interesting indeed. 

The TCN series, Croatian Returnee Reflections has been a big hit – check out the stories so far here.  If you want to share your returnee story, contact [email protected] Subject Returnee

That led to the first TCN/AVG Returnee Drinks Night in Zagreb, which was attended by more than 50 people. This will become a regular monthly event.

That in turn led to the formation of the TCN/AVG Croatian Returnee Networking Facebook Group. All welcome.

And the inbox keeps on giving with more stories of those returning or planning to return, including Michael, whose relative was part of the longest marriage in Australian history!


Hello Paul

I’m enjoying the articles very much on those Croats who have relocated to Croatia through their descendants and parentage

I am of Croat heritage (born in Western Australia) through all my descendants on both sides of my family (Tolj-Turkic i Ajduk) who relocated from Vrgorac in the early 1920s and started the wine industry in Western Australia. Of particular interest is my great uncle Joze Zekulic who died at 108 having been married for over 80 years to my great Aunt Ruze Zekulic (nee Beus), Australia’s oldest living married couple at the time, and 12th oldest in the world. Now sadly both passed on.

I have applied for my citizenship with a view to retirement, and I’m sure others of my age group would like to follow the story and share theirs.

I asked Michael to send me some details. 


Hi Paul

Thanks for your response

Insofar as your thread for the website is about relocation and acquiring Croat citizenship my experience is noted below (tried to keep it as brief as possible, but its beaurocracy right?) so here goes:

Croats in Western Australia:

I am the grandson of two great WA Croat families: On my mother’s side Ajduk & Beus, and on my father’s side, Tolj-Turkich, later upon arrival in Australia, just Turkich, both families originally located im Zavojane (Ajduk) and Stilja (Turkic) with my great grandmother’s family (Ante i Antica Beus) just “down the hill” in Podgora.

Having now lodged my application for Hrvat citizenship here in Sydney through my paternal grandmother: Ruza Turkich (nee Turic) as the other records no longer existed, I suspect due to war, fires, dislocations, and other loss-inducing events.

Both Andrija Ajduk (maternal grandfather) and Joze Tolj-Turkic left Croatia in the early 1920s, their wives and families following 4-5 years later. Andrija Ajduk was also a personal bodyguard to the late King Peter Georgevic.


Andrija’s wife (Mara Zekulic) passed away after complications from childbirth, leaving their infant son Tonko, in the care of his maternal grandmother while his father sought a better life in Australia than that which could be provided in Croatia after WW1.

Andrija was one of 5 siblings: Ivan, Ruza, Jure, Mate, all using the name AJDUK except for MATE who migrated to the USA in 1919, changing his name to MATTHEW HYDEK. Jure and Ivan stayed in Zavojane, and I am close to them to this day, having just returned from summer there in Makarska, which is the closest port town to Zavojane and Stilja

Andrija upon arrival to Perth in Western Australia quickly made his way to Kalgoorlie, the most productive and richest plot of gold in the world at that time. As he was a toolmaker, his skill set was in demand in the mines.

He met and married his second wife DIANA BEUS soon after, then brought his son Tonko to Australia. Now 12 years old, this boy arrived with no English, a father he hadn’t seen in 10 years, and a new mother he never met before. Can you imagine? He is still with us in Perth aged 98.

Joe Turkich arrived around the same time to Perth on the SS Orsova with his wife Ruza and daughter Matija and son Mate arriving 5 years letter once they had all been granted citizenship. And we complain about beaurocracy today!!

He was a teamster and had horses haul timber to mills in South West WA prior to making the move to the famous SWAN VALLEY outside of Perth and beginning planting grape vines.

At the same time, Joze Zekulich migrated to Australia, married Diana Beus’ older sister Ruze and they lived to become Australia’s oldest living married couple and 12th oldest in the world. Wow! Ruza (Rose) passed at 98 years of age, Joe at 108. He was also inducted into the WA Agrivcultural Hall of Fame for his skills in blending and breeding grape stock that was resistant to Phylloxera and other funguses and pests associated with viticulture.

Other Croats in the valley also growing grapes, winemaking, running orchards and market gardens were in no particular order: Talijancich, Pasalic, Saric (Ralph the inventor of the Orbital Engine), Pervan, Boksich, Botica, and others.

You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning – Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



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