Domagoj by Ante Badzim

 Initially travelling to Croatia brought some hesitation and anxiety. The main reason is not because I didn’t want to go, but how can I be true to myself while there. I wanted to answer questions from relatives and extended family honestly in relation to the finer details of my life and who I love.  Life surprises you in ways that you can’t imagine. Not only did my journey take me to beautiful locations with my parents, I was able to reconnect with family like I didn’t think was possible.  In this picture is Domagoj. My cousin, my friend, my twin. There are moments in life when you connect with someone instantly. My time with Domagoj was filled with honest, raw and real conversations. Moments that leave your heart full and your mind open.  There are many things that Domagoj taught me but one that will last a lifetime is to accept life how it is and change it where you can. In all adversity there is possibility.  When you are honest and true to yourself, life will in its own way reward you. From beginning to end my time in Croatia has exceeded any expectations.  #croatiafulloflife

Initially travelling to Croatia brought some hesitation and anxiety. The main reason is not because I didn’t want to go, but how can I be true to myself while there. I wanted to answer questions from relatives and extended family honestly in relation to the finer details of my life and who I love.

Life surprises you in ways that you can’t imagine. Not only did my journey take me to beautiful locations with my parents, I was able to reconnect with family like I didn’t think was possible.

In this picture is Domagoj. My cousin, my friend, my twin. There are moments in life when you connect with someone instantly. My time with Domagoj was filled with honest, raw and real conversations. Moments that leave your heart full and your mind open.

There are many things that Domagoj taught me but one that will last a lifetime is to accept life how it is and change it where you can. In all adversity there is possibility.

When you are honest and true to yourself, life will in its own way reward you. From beginning to end my time in Croatia has exceeded any expectations.

#croatiafulloflife

Ana by Ante Badzim

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Ana

There are so many things I want to share with you about Ana. Ana is my auntie, my tetka. She has seen and endured many difficult moments.

To share briefly only one story it would be her experience during the Yugoslavian war in the nineties. When the Serbian army had taken hold of her village and surrounding area, Ana went into hiding.

For several months she would hide amongst the shallow caves near her home to avoid being caught and killed. The area in which Ana stands in this photo was her hiding ground.

Ana would also scatter her possessions amongst rocks and other obscure locations in the hope the Serbs would not find them. To this day some of the items remain hidden as she understandably is unable to remember where they were all placed.

There are gruesome details I am unable to share, but it can be said, Ana endured things that were evil. Things that no sane human would wish upon their enemy. Regardless of her torture she kept fighting.

This woman amongst so much pain and grief remains resilient, positive, loving, gentle and with an infections smile and laugh that would melt your heart.

If I could be only a portion of this incredible human it would be more than enough.

Tetka Ana you are my hero.

Village Life by Ante Badzim

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Village life in Miljevci.

It’s hard not to get emotional when I simply think about this place. This is where my fondest childhood memories were made. This scene is a regular one where the remaining locals sit in the street during the cooler parts of the day.

This village is where my mum was born. Sadly many of the elderly have passed and the young have moved to the city. Many houses are deserted but in my mind I can still hear people taking, laughing and kids playing.

Even though there isn’t much here, there is more than you will ever find in any city. Time really does stop in Miljevci and your senses come alive. Even as I write this I can feel my heart beat, hear the rain falling on the trees, the leaves rustling and cicadas singing.

#croatiafulloflife

Dubrovnik by Ante Badzim

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Dubrovnik

Easily my favourite city in Croatia. My fondest memory is coming with my parents many years ago and buying old postcards in tiny stores nestled amongst the stone walls, eating burek and taking photos.

A visit with my sisters a few years later we walked the walls of Dubrovnik at sunset. birds flying above, warm summer night, church bells ringing and reminiscing about our many visits to Croatia.

I am so grateful for the places I have visited, they all mean that much more when shared with the people you love.

#croatiafulloflife

Visovac by Ante Badzim

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Visovac

Summer walks, swims and boat rides all centred around this magical place. This is a playground that brings back so many fond memories.

There is nothing like being in your homeland. It’s like you reset and you feel every breath. The last few days I have felt so alive it has has brought me to tears.

My mama was born not far from here and it’s a place that makes me feel like no other.

#croatiafulloflife

Slavka by Ante Badzim

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Slavka

One of the sweetest ladies you will ever met. A smile so pure and affection that is so tender. She kissed me multiple times with tears in her eyes and an embrace that made you truly feel loved and welcomed.

Every question she had for me she looked me directly in the eyes and stayed focused on my every word. Even her cat and dog where swept up in her endless love and affection.

Every interaction I have in Croatia continues to fill my heart.

 #motherland

Motherland by Ante Badzim

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Croatia is home away from home. Since my first visit at the age of 2, I have been back more times than I can remember.

Visiting Croatia stirs up many memories of reconnecting with family, crystal clear waters, donkey rides, prosciutto, more prosciutto and my fondest memory in life is being in the village with my grandma and auntie for a year at the age of 5.

My Baba and Tetka were my second mums who fed me endlessly and didn’t cut my hair. I forgot how to speak english and came home chubby with long curls. I also gained a nickname ‘porky’.

Here I am back in the motherland. I have so many emotions that some I am unable to describe. This visit is a special one as I spend the next few weeks alone with my mum and dad.

My parents left Croatia in 1967 in search for a new home for the family and life they dreamt of. Their journey to Australia started when they went to Austria to watch an ice skating show as part of a group tour. They were joined by my uncle and his wife and while in Austria they all seized the opportunity and fled.

After spending 2 months in a Vienna camp they were granted the opportunity to call Canada or Australia home. The rest is history.

Proud of my Croatian heritage, proud of Croatia and proud of my parents.