Despite massive emigration, there are places in Croatia where people seemingly want to stay living. Still, the real situation is somewhat different than the official statistics.
What do Škabrnja, Nerežišća, Lastovo and Zažablje have in common? These are all small Croatian municipalities, located in Zadar, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Split-Dalmatia counties. They do not have a lot of inhabitants; Škabrnja is the largest with 1,776 citizens, while Zažablje is the smallest with 757. Most importantly, not a single person living there moved out of the country last year, reports Večernji List on November 23, 2017.
This is a rarity at a time when about a hundred people leave Croatia each day on average. In 2016, 36,436 citizens moved out of Croatia, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics. Of 127 towns and 428 municipalities, these four local government units are the only ones from which no one moved abroad. There were also eight units with just one emigrant.
It is interesting that these are mostly municipalities and towns along the sea. Although the numbers are clear, not even people living there think they are really true. “We have no emigrants? Impossible! I would be the happiest person in the world if that information were true,” said Maja Vrnoga, the Mayor of Zažablje, offering a different explanation.
“People are leaving, but they do not report that they have moved, so perhaps the data and the actual situation on the ground are in disagreement. People move where there are jobs, towards Dubrovnik and Germany. I know a young man who went to Germany a year ago and is now making good money there. He actually lives there, but he is officially registered as being here. We are a small and poor municipality which is trying to create normal living conditions. We do not have playgrounds or kindergartens and have just two elementary schools from the first to fourth grade. Most of the population here are older people. We have no industry; people are doing agriculture and struggling to sell their products. Unfortunately, tourism is not developed,” explains the Mayor.
“We have just three catering facilities which are open only during the season. I would like to say something positive, but … Yes, we have two old churches, one from 1616 and the other from 1617, and our municipality is the birthplace of many priests and nuns,” says the Mayor, hoping that the central government will invest more funds into the area. “I hope so. We have started efforts to solve the state property issues. The biggest problem is the cadastral survey which was started in 2006 but has never been completed. People use land plots, but they are not registered, so they cannot use incentives and EU funds,” explains Vrnoga.
Nediljko Bubnjar, the Mayor of Škabrnja, says that patriotism is the reason people are not emigrating. “We are lucky that Zadar is close, and Dalmatia has a developed tourism industry, so people can survive, unlike in some other parts of Croatia where it is a bit harder, and people are forced to leave. I believe that patriotism is the main reason people stay here. It is not easy to leave your homeland, regardless of better conditions and income abroad,” he says.
A large number of job-seekers travel to Zadar, and in the municipality itself, there are about 80 active companies. An additional source of income for people is agriculture. The most massive emigration wave in this area was seen in the 1970s when people mainly moved to Germany. Interestingly, the number of people coming to the municipality last year was also zero.
The situation is similar in Nerežišće, which last year did not have a single emigrant, with only two people moving abroad in 2015. Pero Goić says there are about 900 people living in three villages in this small municipality on the island of Brač. “I would move abroad immediately if I had a good opportunity. I work all day and make just enough to feed the family. You cannot save anything, while abroad I could save at least some money. I know guys working on ships, sailing for two or three months at the time, and their pockets are full of money,” says Goić.
If life is such in municipalities from which no one emigrated, how do people in other parts of Croatia manage to survive?
Translated from Večernji List.