The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCA) celebrated its 25th Anniversary milestone in New York City, September 21-23, 2018. It was a festive weekend of dinners and meetings culminating with a Sunday luncheon extravaganza featuring Her Excellency, Madam President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.
There were over 400 in attendance with 70 special guests including diplomats, guest speakers from the Saturday meeting plus all the NFCA delegates from all over the United States. Father Nikola Pasalic warmly welcomed Her Excellency Madam President Grabar-Kitarović to New York City and to his Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church.
His Croatian Catholic Parish was wonderful co-host with the NFCA for this memorable luncheon saluting the Croatian American community in many ways.
President Grabar-Kitarović acknowledged the 25th Anniversary of the NFCA for the purpose of her visit. She encouraged the Croatian diaspora to accelerate the process of integration into Croatian society by studying existing programs of education and learning the Croatian language amongst the 3rd and 4th generations.
”We are here today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Federation of American Croats. All of you gathered here today honor the 25 years of this organization that helps the homeland of Croatia and Croatian American people in all your political and social circles. You have made a lot of effort to focus on key issues of interest to the Croatian people in the Republic of Croatia and to foster the link between the homeland of the Croatian people and American society. For all of your efforts and patriotism we are especially grateful,” said President Grabar-Kitarović.
Her message was that her government is very proud of the NFCA and that the organization is one of the cornerstones of the Croatian American community.
Madame President Grabar-Kitarović addresses the attendees of the National Federation of Croatian Americans at their 25th Anniversary Luncheon
President Grabar-Kitarović presented Steve Rukavina, President of the NFCA, Ed Pazo, President of the Croatian Fraternal Union (CFU), and John Krajlic, President of the Croatian Academy of America (CAA), with the “Charter of the Republic of Croatia” Award for their life long dedication to Croatian causes and for each of their organizations with their extensive time commitment to Croatian causes.
It was a very memorable event as President Grabar-Kitarović graciously visited every table and took pictures with all the attendees. John Skibola, a local New Yorker, was the Master of ceremonies and emceed the entertainment.
This included pop singer Tommi Mischell singing the Croatian Anthem and Anna Najasmic who sang the American National Anthem. Both Ana and Tommi later sang a patriotic Croatian song with Madam President on the stage, too, which energized the crowd. Performances from Klapa Astoria and Hrvatska Ruza Kolo Dance Group, both from Astoria NY, also were part of the entertainment lineup for the luncheon attendees. NFCA President Steve Rukavina presented three NFCA lifetime achievement awards to Mijo Radocaj from Cleveland, Dr. Joe Cindrich and Branko Barbir, who are both from the San Francisco and key co-founders of the very successful Croatian Scholarship Fund.
NFCA President Rukavina publicly thanked his co-hosts for making the NFCA’s 25th Anniversary luncheon such a resounding success.
Mass was well attended at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church with honorary guest Madame President Grabar-Kitarović
”We cannot thank Father Nikola and his Parish members enough, especially ticket co-chairs Milka Zepina and Ana Glavan for all their meticulous work in September to put this event together. We salute John Skibola for his management and and arrangement of all the entertainment. Also, I want to thank Sami Ramic and Ane Strazicic Rodriguez, along with the company Wine World Wide Inc, for their donations of wine for the event. A big thanks also goes to Jere and Ojdana Kursar and LaFortuna Restaurant for the wonderful luncheon food menu and all their outstanding service.”
Father Nikola Pasalic and his staff warmly welcomed Her Excellency Madam President Grabar-
This year’s Grand Jubilee Assembly provided a wide variety of topics from great speakers throughout the weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NFCA organization. The Saturday Assembly’s topics focused on current policy advancements that cover projects to support Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the promotion of the Avoidance of a Double Taxation Treaty between Croatia and the United States. All the events on Saturday, September 22, took place at the LaGuardia Airport Marriott.
NFCA Public Affairs Consultant Joe Foley provided several updates for the Delegates about Croatian American-related activities in the US Congress as well as details about ongoing Congressional Croatian Caucus projects.
These topics included an update on the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program to permit additional countries into this US visa program, the growing concern of the Congress in Russia’s renewed de-stabilizing interests in the Western Balkans, and NFCA’s continued participation in Congressional hearings regarding national elections and related reforms in BiH. Foley also reviewed in detail the current impediments in the US Senate to the passage of a Double Taxation Treaty between the US and Croatia.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul currently asserts that these Treaties unfairly expose too much US taxpayer personal information, and he continues to block legislative progress on these Treaties in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on which he serves. Foley also thanked the Croatian Fraternal Union for their continued excellent Croatian American-oriented national and international news coverage in the CFU’s biweekly ”Zajednicar” newspaper.
He also mentioned that he was very appreciative and pleased to be entering his third decade of service to the NFCA.
NFCA delegates hold successful 25th Anniversary Conference
NFCA President Rukavina, announced the second “40 Under 40” program for the nationwide Croatian American community. This program will center on a selection process to nominate and select forty rising stars in their professions as Croatian American role models – all under the age of forty. The NFCA will continue its collaboration with Special Olympics in Croatia as part of its humanitarian outreach program, along with its support and partnership with Bishop Franjo Komarica.
Speakers presented reports regarding diaspora activities, which included Joe Brajevich’s report from the Croatian Government’s Croats Abroad Advisory Committee. Brajevich is one of five US representatives serving a four year term with Croats Abroad. Brajevich said that Croatian citizenship is a challenging process, and it is difficult to attract people to Croatia. The Committee is working on communication strategies and has recently rolled out a Croatian Registry for the diaspora.
The next speaker was John Kraljic, President of the Croatian Academy of America (CAA), one of the oldest US-Croatian cultural organizations having been founded in 1953. Krajlic presented the ongoing research and cited current publications from the Academy. He explained that the primary function of the CAA is to publish the Journal of Croatian Studies. The Journal includes scholarly articles about a broad range of fields – in history, literature, fine arts, music, philology, philosophy, and political science. It also publishes documents of historical and cultural significance to Croatian Americans and their descendants.
Krajlic announced that the Association of Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasion Studies will hold its 50th Annual Convention from December 6 – 9, 2018, at the Boston Marriott Copley Plaza.
Dr. Joseph Cindrich, a 50 year CFU member and NFCA founding member, shared key details about the Croatian Scholarship Fund. Cindrich recognized Joe Rukavina, Anne Pavlich and Bernie Luketich as his early mentors. He introduced Branko Barbir, one of the co-founders of the Croatian Scholarship Fund, which was created to support students in need. Today the Fund has $1.5 million in assets. It annually funds 70 students who have received $2,000 scholarships to study yearly in Croatia. The Fund has supported 400+ graduates over recent years.
Croatian Ambassador to the US Pjer Šimunović spoke to the NFCA Assembly of Delegates and expressed his deep appreciation for their preservation and promotion of Croatian national identity, which reinforces the continuation of the Croatian nation. He indicated that there are 5th and 6th generation Croatians keeping their Croatian heritage in their hearts, and he also noted that Croatians in Panama are currently learning the Croatian language.
Ambassador Šimunović addressed the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and said that there are only three NATO countries that aren’t members of the the United States’ VWP – Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia. Šimunović mentioned that the passage of Double Taxation Treaty remains a high priority for the Croatian Government, and they fully appreciated the Croatian American community’s support. He additionally cited the building of the LNG terminal in Krk along with the upcoming UN General Assembly where President Grabar-Kitarovic will be giving a Floor speech.
Šimunović introduced Los Angeles Consul General Sinisa Grgic, who will become the next Ambassador to Sweden, and Chicago Consul General for BiH Berislav Vujeva. He also acknowledged in attendance Brigadier General Ivica Olujić, the Embassy’s Defense Attaché in Washington, as one the people instrumental in keeping Croatia’s membership in NATO strong. The Ambassador also cited the importance of his government’s current relationship with the Minnesota National Guard and that this military cooperation between the two countries was a main pillar of this very effective bilateral relationship.
Biljana Lovrinovic presented the Association of Croatian American Professional’s (ACAP) recent work and new developments with the ‘medical tourism’ project for Croatia. Lovrinovic identified that 1.2 billion people travel internationally for the purpose of medical care and that it is a $50 to $75 million industry. ACAP is working to connect Croatian clinics and exploring how to market Croatia as a destination for medical professionals. Lovrinovic announced that Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, CEO from the Cleveland Clinic, will headline next year’s ACAP meeting.
Marko Buljan promoted the four-day ACAP 3rd Annual Conference. It will be held October 18 – 21 at Croatian American-owned venues in California’s Silicon Valley region.
Croatian Fraternal Union President Ed Pazo thanked and urged the NFCA to continue its important work with its many Croatian projects. Pazo stated he is very proud of the CFU’s founding connection to the NFCA over the prior 25 years. He cited the $200,000 in youth scholarships to their members and acknowledged the $6.5 million in CFU assets. Pazo proudly talked about the recent 50th Junior Tamburitzans Anniversary in 2016 where 1400 children attended twenty performances all over Croatia. Each year, the Junior Tamburitzans perform in a different city.
This past year, they went to Zagreb over the July 4th holiday. After this event, the daughters of Bernie Luketich, Marlene and Bernadette, attended a dedication of the Bernard Luketich Elementary School in Ogulin.
Speakers for the NFCA conference include Nicola Knez, Joe Foley, Dinka Kalinic, Elle Mische, Luka Misetic and Joe Brajevich
Prominent Attorney Luka Misetic discussed issues with the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and his successful defense for General Ante Gotovina. Misetic noted that war crimes were crimes against humanity. The ICTY findings were authoritative and will impact Croatia and other countries in the future. Misetic revealed that the Gotovina trial was an important opportunity to fully authenticate the facts related to Croatia’s Homeland War. The ICTY did not convict any Croatians concerning the conflict in Croatia in the 1990s. The NFCA delegates were very impressed with Luka's role dealing with the ICTY and especially with his defense of General Ante Gotovina and asked many questions about the ramifications of the United Nations created Tribunal.
Film maker Nikola Knez presented a showing of his new documentary entitled ”Bleiburg: Tito’s License For Genocide”, which is the first full length documentary regarding the tragedy that occurred in Bleiburg. This amazingly researched movie included many filmed interviews with British officers, military intelligence officials, survivors, and scholars. It traces the many violations of the Geneva Conventions and related international law in what has become known as The Bleiburg Massacre and Operation Slaughterhouse.
In addition, Knez provided insights regarding his new film about ”Oluja” (Operation Storm) on which he is currently working.
Zvonko Labas, NFCA Executive Vice President, presented Steve Rukavina with a well-deserved award for his tireless dedication and outstanding contributions for his past 25 years of leadership in the NFCA organization. Assembly Delegates warmly applauded President Rukavina’s many years of service.
Election results for the NFCA’s 2018-19 officers are: President, Steve Rukavina; Executive Vice President, Andrea Novak Neumann; Treasurer, Eric Gregrich; and Secretary, Gerald Skrlin. Vice Presidents include John Kraljic, Frank Jerbich and Mario Spalatin. Officers at Large include Bernadette Luketich-Sikaras, Biljana Lovrinovic, Vido Artukovic, Dr. Joe Cindrich and Carolyn Agin Bruno. Other Board Members elected and Delegates participating in New York City included four “40 Under 40” winners as delegates: Marko Buljan, Tatjana Mustac, Jelena Rudela, Lydia Antoncic, Franjo Bertovic, Marko Kirn, Zvonko Labas, Jim Kresnik, Tom Mustac, Sanja Newman, Ed Pazo, Adam Radman, Michael Ricci, Mijo Radocaj, Tom Steich, Dr. Marion Vujevich, Dr. Steve Pavletic, Iva Vukina, Branko Barbir, Vedran Nazor and Ron Zivic. This is the largest gathering of NFCA Assembly delegates since the 1990’s.
Saturday evening’s Special Olympic Fundraiser event included a visit to Astoria’s Istria Restaurant with entertainment by Klapa Astoria, a popular Dalmatian singing group. Attendees dined on a light calamari dinner and enjoyed Croatian wines. It was a festive evening for NFCA members and guests. The NFCA has raised over $2,500 for this great organization in Croatia.
The National Federation of Croatians Americans Cultural Foundation was officially founded in September 1993 at a meeting in Chicago when the ”Croatian Unity Committee”; voted to create a new national umbrella organization. At that time, all major national Croatian American groups were in attendance. The first convention was held in St. Louis a few months later. More than fifty delegates from eighteen states attended, and twenty national and regional diaspora groups were represented.
The NFCA’s annual meeting next year is planned for Cleveland. The NFCA encourages those who are interested in becoming a member to visit their website.
The NFCA is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to promoting the interest of the Croatian people – embodying heritage of culture and language, integrity in human rights and equality in self-determination, advancing economic development, and freedom from persecution. It is the national umbrella organization established in 1993 for Croatian Americans, related professional associations, and the many fraternal lodges that collectively represents over 80,000 members.