A Croatian View From Dublin: Pandemic Responses in Ireland and Croatia

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In March 2020, I found myself in Dublin, Ireland, which has been my home since September 2013.


The pandemic was looming, and it all seemed like a bad dream. In the weeks prior to the lockdown, I was very busy in the hair salon where I was working at the time. It was a bit scary, because many of my clients are international travellers, and being in such proximity to hundreds of them, made me slightly uneasy. So, it felt like a real relief when the owner decided to close, 10 days before the government officially closed our sector.

Immediately afterwards, the government introduced a package of measures, including a pandemic unemployment payment, the first installment of which was in my account the next week. I found myself, like all other parents, in homeschooling/cooking/walking routines. I was missing work, missing my friends. But it was nice to have security, knowing I was getting paid although I was not allowed to work. My husband is a web developer, so he was able to work from home, which gave us an additional sense of stability.

My teenage daughter was slightly sick at the beginning of March, so she was in quarantine. Then I got slightly sick at the end of March, but couldn’t get the COVID test, so we never found out if we catch it, or if it was due to some other viral illness, which seemed more likely. It was still frightening and made us even more determined to try to avoid it at all costs.


In the first wave, almost 2000 people died in the Republic of Ireland, while my native Croatia seemed untouchable. At the time, Croatian egos were flying high, and there were those theories about genetic superiority and Tuberculosis vaccines. From my perspective, Croatia was safe because the government had introduced strict travel measures early, and people responded well. I was proud of that fact and it made sense; most of us had experienced war, hiding in basements and shelters and our fight or flight responses are heightened, you could call it collective PTSD, but that´s a taboo subject in Croatia. We´re all perfectly fine and tough, allegedly.

As the summer of 2020 was approaching, I was shocked with images from Croatia. Ireland’s bars, pubs, stayed closed at all times, and Croatians were expecting to host millions of tourists, nightlife was like before the pandemic, everyone I know lived a life like before the pandemic. I was constantly worried about my Mum, my aunts and uncles and I felt like people are letting each other down. Even to this day, I feel like we are a universe apart, Ireland is in a third lockdown, numbers are better again, while Croatians are dying at faster rates, and it seems that nobody cares. COVID theories seem to be spreading faster than the “bura” wind. I have never been supportive of Croatian government and institutions, I always felt they do not really care about citizens, and the way Ireland is handling this pandemic has confirmed my suspicions. Empathy is on high levels here, apart from some exemptions, and the health and wellbeing of citizens matter.


Ireland takes care of its citizens, their aspirations and dreams. Two hundred different nationalities living together and sharing this small island, mostly in peace with a good sense of community.

I had a lot of time to think, and I realized: I am happier living a full year in a lockdown in Ireland, than I would be living freely in Croatia. Because in this country, I feel safe, I feel respected and protected. I feel like I matter as a human being. I´ve changed so much since I came here, bad things also taught me some things. I discovered you can be a white European and another white European can discriminate against you based on race. That one was new to me.


Do I miss holidays in Croatia? Of course I do, I haven’t seen my family and friends since the summer of 2019, and it looks like it might be another year before I visit again. Currently in Ireland, it is illegal to go on holiday abroad, or to even leave the county. But even if I could, I would not go, not before my whole family is vaccinated, which will be some time away, considering vaccines are still not approved for under 16s. Croatia doesn´t look appealing to us right now, with high rates of infections and low levels of social distancing.

Also, I feel deeply grateful for this new home of mine. In January last year, we bought our own home. I feel Ireland is my forever home and I´m happy to support and give back to the Irish economy, before I spend it elsewhere, some other year.

You can follow Ana-Marija in English or Croatia on her blog:




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