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Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer? Rebecca from California in Trogir
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 22:00

Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer? Rebecca from California in Trogir

April 6, 2020 - Do foreigners in Croatia feel more or less safe sitting out COVID-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? A new series on TCN, with Rebecca Echevarria from California in Trogir as our 28th contributor.

Oxford University recently published some research on government responses to coronavirus which showed that Croatia currently has the strictest measures in the world. While inconvenient, this is a good thing in terms of reducing the spread of the virus, and I am certainly not alone in my admiration of the official Croatian handling of this crisis in recent weeks, both in terms of action and communication. 

But what do other expats here think? And how does it compare with the response in their home country? Would they rather sit this one out here or there? In the first of a new series on TCN, we will be featuring expats from all over the world to see what their views are on life in corona Croatia rather than back home. So far we have heard from expats in Croatia from Romania, USA, Ireland, UK, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Singapore, Holland, Canada, India, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Latvia, China, Honduras, Hungary, Moldova, South Korea and Germany. Next up, Rebecca Echevarria from California in Trogir.

If you would like to contribute to this series, full details are below. Now, over to Rebecca.

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Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels. 

I am alone. Very alone. I am an American digital nomad in my 50s from California, up until now traveling the world and enjoying every minute of it. This is my second spring in Croatia. This year I’m in Trogir. Things could be worse. I am still working online with my clients in the US, but wondering daily when they will either a) get in trouble for violating stay at home rules b) contract the virus. While I worry for them, I also have mixed feelings and am glad they are working, so I can be working.

Before the movement restrictions went into place, I woke at 7, went for a 6-mile walk, attended my swimming aerobics class in Split, shopped at the fish and fruit/veg markets, took in a museum, went to a play or got a massage and possibly went for a drive. My day now consists of sleeping till sometime between 10 am and 1 pm. Spending some time cleaning, pulling weeds in the yard of my cute apartment, watering the flowers, laying in the sun and then getting to work at 4pm when my clients are up and about on the US west coast. I keep promising myself I’m going to learn Spanish but don’t seem to get around to it. Instead I work until midnight or 1 am and then watch Netflix till 3 am, go to bed and start all over again. What is today?

My life is boring but safe and my sanity has always been in question so this really doesn’t affect it much.

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When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue? 

That’s a mixed question. I don’t’ think anyone realized how serious this situation would become. I watched it intently while it unfolded in China, assuming falsely that the western world would take measures to mitigate the damage before it began. I was wrong. Some countries have done better than others, Croatia being one of the better ones, but overall it was something that could have been prevented, planned for and mitigated against, but wasn’t.

I was in London in February and listening to the way they were blithely ignoring the entire situation and discussing herd immunity made me realize I needed to leave while it was possible. I had a choice, go back to America where health care is costly and difficult to get, where the bottom line of capitalism is measured in lives and where my country is currently run by buffoons in a clown car. The option to continue as planned and spend 3 months in Croatia seemed the smarter move. When I arrived at the airport and they asked us where we have been the last three weeks, it hit me things were getting serious.

What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

I think Croatia as a whole is handling the situation very well. Certain individuals have flouted the restrictions and recommendations and endangered others, but the government overall seems to know who they are and is taking appropriate measures. I feel safe in my little corner of the world. I do get frustrated though with others who are not taking this situation seriously even now. As an example I was in Lidl today. The workers were congregated in front in a tightly packed group enjoying a smoke break with no masks or gloves. The clerk grabbed my card from me to put in the machine even though I wanted to do it myself and there is no one monitoring how packed the store gets. So I wipe, wipe, wipe with disinfectant and keep my distance as best I can while limiting my visits to the store.

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Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Croatia doing better/worse?

My daughter who is stuck in Dublin due to her University being closed and I discussed whether or not we should seek asylum as health refugees. The US is a complete disaster. My friends who work in healthcare are afraid. Most have already contracted the virus, but were still pushed to work with patients. The bottom line is the most important thing in America. Adding insult to injury the unemployment now being driven by measures met to save Americans is not followed up with public health and food insecurity measures. I have scarred lungs from untreated Valley Fever as a child and Hashimoto’s disease. Normally nothing to be concerned or worried about. I honestly feel if I had flown home to the US I would be dead now. The inability of my country to do much of anything at the federal level at this time is borderline criminal and costing lives. I worry about my son and his wife (a medical doctor) in California due to having their first child in a few weeks.

Croatia seems to understand, not just as a government, but most citizens that a group effort is needed to keep this health emergency under control. I’m hoping the measures in place, such a limiting movement from town to town, social distancing and tracking will keep paying off. I feel infinitely safer here than I would in the US.

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What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

This has been a bit of an issue because I do not speak Croatian. I keep an eye on Total Croatia News to keep me informed. My landlady has been helpful as well in keeping me up to date. I still can’t figure out where to get an actual medical mask from. People seem to have them, but I have had no luck in tracking one down.

I also think there is a bit of an issue with people believing masks and gloves make them immune from catching the disease. A pharmacist in Trogir actually told me a cotton mask would be better than a medical mask because I can wash it. I was dumbfounded he would say that. There seems to be a lack of education on how, why and when masks and gloves work, and how, why and when to use them.

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS. I loved to read and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. My children admonish me and tell me to read them on my iPad, but after a day of staring at the computer, looking at another screen just doesn’t hold any appeal to me.

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One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis. 

About myself I’ve learned I am fully capable of entertaining myself. I started writing a book since I can’t read one and figured out how to do yoga on my living room floor using spare carpet squares. I’m adapting.

About others I’ve learned that we are all interconnected in so many more ways than we realize. That each life is inadvertently affected by what happens on the other side of the world, so our choices and actions affect more than just our bubble. We have a unique opportunity here to affect those outside of our normal with the smallest of actions. We need to take advantage of the opportunity and come out of this situation, not smaller but wiser, with more compassion, more resilience and more love.

Thanks, Rebecca, stay safe and see you on the other side.

TCN is starting a new feature series on foreign experiences of sitting out COVID-19 here in Croatia compared to their home country. If you would like to contribute, the questions are below. Please also include a para about yourself and where you are from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum to news@total-croatia-news.com Subject Corona Foreigner

If you would be interested to record a video version for our partners www.rplus.video please let us know in the email. Thanks and stay safe. 

Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer Than in Your Home Country?

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue? 

What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Croatia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis. 

TCN has recently become a partner in Robert Tomic Zuber's new R+ video channel, initially telling stories about corona experiences. You can see the first TCN contribution from this morning, my video from Jelsa talking about the realities of running a news portal in the corona era below. If you would like to also submit a video interview, please find Robert's guidelines below 

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VIDEO RECORDING GUIDE

The video footage should be recorded so that the cell phone is turned horizontally (landscape mode).

There are several rules for television and video news:- length is not a virtue- a picture speaks more than a thousand words

In short, this would mean that your story should not last more than 90 seconds and that everything you say in the report should be shown by video (for example, if you talk about empty streets, we should see those empty streets, etc.).

How to do it with your cell phone? First, use a selfie camera to record yourself telling your story for about a minute and a half. Ideally, it would be taken in the exterior, except in situations where you are reporting on things in the interior (quarantine, hospital, self-isolation, etc.). Also, when shooting, move freely, make sure everything is not static.

After you have recorded your report, you should capture footage that will tell your story with a picture, such as an earlier example with empty streets.

One of the basic rules of TV journalism is that the story is told in the same way as a journalist with his text. Therefore, we ask you for additional effort. Because we work in a very specific situation, sometimes you may not be able to capture footage for each sentence of the report. In this case, record the details on the streets: people walking, the main features of the city where you live, inscriptions on the windows related to the virus, etc.

The same rules apply if you are shooting a story from your apartment, self-isolation, quarantine. We also need you to capture footage that describes your story.

When shooting frames to cover your reports, it is important that you change the angle of the shot (in other words, shoot that empty street from several angles). Also, when shooting a detail, count at least five seconds before removing the camera to another detail.

The material should be about 5 minutes long (90 seconds of your report + frames to cover your story).

After recording everything, send us to Zagreb, preferably via WeTransfer to rplus.video@gmail.com


He's Back! Dario Jurican aka Milan Bandic New Show: Lets Go Stealing
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 20:32

He's Back! Dario Jurican aka Milan Bandic New Show: Lets Go Stealing

April 6, 2020 - He was the star of the recent Croatian Presidential campaign, and now erstwhile presidential candidate and Zagreb mayor namesake wannabe Dario Jurican, aka Milan Bandic is back with a new show - and the world is suddenly a better place. 

Even though life is brutal at the moment with my own corona economic realities, coupled with the need to work 15-16 hours a day to mitigate the disaster, I can honestly say that I have never been more challenged or fulfilled professionally. 

Trying to deliver the content so many non-Croatian speakers are looking for at this time of crisis is TCN's priority, and I am so proud of our little team who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the last few weeks. 

Everyone's world has been turned upside down, and I find that it has levelled the playing field in a number of ways. People I would perhaps never associate with are now great online friends. 

I am having the most sensational daily exchanges, for example, with the man who is doing more than most to advise our leaders on how to save our species from extinction - eminent Croatian scientist, Igor Rudan. TCN editor Lauren Simmonds is translating much of Igor's work, and I somehow get to be a fly on the wall in their daily chats, and sometimes feel brave enough to make a comment or two. 

I am also in daily contact with legendary documentary maker, Rober Tomic Zuber, whose new R+ video channel is proving to be an absolute hit. I am learning a LOT from the master. 

And so it was perhaps fitting to get a message from Robert this evening that he had a new contributor on his new channel - another hero of mine who has been in touch with me recently. Dario Jurican, aka Milan Bandic, whose brilliant anti-corruption campaign as a Presidential campaign was one of the highlights of 2019. 

And if you expected Dario Jurican to go away quietly... 

From the Rplus website:

Director Dario Jurican on Wednesday, 8th April 2020 will air the first episode of his new series titled “Let’s steal!�.Director Dario Jurican on Wednesday, 8th April 2020 will air the first episode of his new series titled “Let’s steal!�.

“The first episode is called #Bundekfest and thematizes USKOK’s indictment of “acting� on the 2014 Bundekfest and Advent 2013 festivities. The aim of the series is to educate an ordinary man on how to steal!

I dedicate the first episode to the Cinema Europa, which was closed without any real plans by the mayor Milan Bandic, the biggest pest in the city of Zagreb, with partners who support it – HDZ and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

Of course, one should not forget the role of the perpetrator and the political misfit: Davor Bernardic called Badger and Zvana Brumnic called Hero.

8th April was chosen as the premiere date because on that day, Cinema Europa was opened.

Cinema Europa Happy 95th Birthday!

Dario Jurican, Mayor of the Universe�

#stayhome

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Croatian PM: Relaxing measures should not be sudden
Izvor:  Croatia Week
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 20:15

ZAGREB, April 6 (Hina) – After conducting on Monday a second video conference with Croatian medical experts from the country...

Over €2.2 million donated to ‘Together for Zagreb’ & ‘Croatia against coronavirus’ campaigns
Izvor:  Croatia Week
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 17:11

ZAGREB, April 6 (Hina) – In the period from March 24 to April 3, more than 17 million kuna (approx. €2.236...

Support payments for Croatian farmers begin
Izvor:  Croatia Week
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 16:30

ZAGREB, April 6 (Hina) – The Ministry of Agriculture said on Monday that the second tranche of payments of HRK...

Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb launches virtual programme
Izvor:  Croatia Week
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 16:02

ZAGREB, April 6 (Hina) – In order to stay connected with its visitors, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb (MSU)...

Zagreb Mayor Does Not Blame Citizens for Earthquake
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 15:51

Zagreb Mayor Does Not Blame Citizens for Earthquake

ZAGREB, April 6, 2020 - Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić said on Monday that he had never accused Zagreb residents of the March 22 earthquake but that citizens, the city and the state were responsible for the damage caused by the quake to their property as they had not invested in it.

Addressing a news conference, Bandić accused reporters of misquoting his statement that "citizens are to blame for the earthquake", saying that nobody was to blame for it but that the failure to invest in one's own property was to blame on both the state and the city as well as its residents.

Responding to a reporter's remark that his previous statement was "a slap in the face for Zagreb residents", Bandić asked the reporter why she was nervous, accusing her of interrupting him and noting that she could not be helped.

Asked why he had decided to hold daily news conferences only two weeks after the earthquake and a month a half since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Bandić said that "things had to be organised."

Bandić said that the city budget would be revised in two weeks' time.

"Today you will have a decision on provisional financing, with priorities. This is not only the city's problem but a national problem. Only together can we cope with it," said the mayor, adding that a law should be passed to regulate the process of reconstruction in Zagreb and that the most severe cases, people who cannot return to their homes, would have priority.

He said that everyone would pay for the reconstruction of their own property - the city for its own, the state for its own and the city and state together for citizens' property that is treated as a priority.

Bandić said that the city would make apartments it owns available to everyone left without a roof over their heads and that in the autumn the construction of 300 flats would begin in the neighbourhood of Podbrežje.

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.


Defence Minister Stresses Importance of Information Sharing Amid Coronavirus Crisis
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 15:48

Defence Minister Stresses Importance of Information Sharing Amid Coronavirus Crisis

ZAGREB, April 6, 2020 - Defence Minister Damir KrstiÄ�ević on Monday stressed the importance of information sharing in safeguarding public health in Croatia and the European Union. "We will share national experiences in providing support to civilian institutions, with emphasis on further strengthening cooperation and solidarity among the EU member states," KrstiÄ�ević told the press in Zagreb ahead of a video conference of EU defence ministers, the first such conference on efforts aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic.

The emergency meeting will be chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Krsti�ević said that the meeting was important because of sharing experience and information. "As we can see, we need to adapt and do our best to safeguard the health of our citizens in Croatia and in the EU," he added.

He underscored Croatia's prompt response to the coronavirus outbreak, including measures aimed at "healthcare, safety, education and the economy."

Krsti�ević said that the Croatian military had played an important role in assisting the healthcare system, citing the erection of tents for patients outside the Dubrava hospital in Zagreb.

He said that he would inform his EU counterparts of the strong earthquake that had struck Zagreb on March 22, which made the fight against the coronavirus more difficult.

"We had two crisis situations at the same time, and the Croatian army, as part of the homeland security system, responded to the earthquake in a timely fashion as well," Krsti�ević said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.


Croatia's Islands: Few Coronavirus Infections Betray A Dark History
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 15:42

The small island of OÅ¡ljak off the coast of Ugljan served as a lazaretto during plagues and pandemics. It's the least-populated island in Dalmatia.

April 6, 2020 —  The Bura swung then pummeled the island of Iž along its flank. “Bura de levantara,â€� as the elderly call it. The air was briny. The seagulls hung suspended in the sky, beaks piercing the wind.

The coronavirus yesterday claimed the life of a middle-aged, otherwise healthy man — the first such victim in Croatia. Yet on this island and many other bucolic, empty hideaways, you’d never know there was a pandemic.

The nation's islands have been spared the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Infections remain low, with Murter being the lone exception.

Locals admit their feeling of safety comes with a dose of guilt... and fear that every island's inoculation against this global pandemic is mere luck. Luck which may run out.

“Ne izazivaj vraga,� they say. Don’t tempt the devil. Indeed. History has offered its fair share

Women of a certain age still say, “Kuga te ubola.â€� 

It loosely translates to “May the plague get you.� Depending on the context, it’s either a curse against an enemy or expression of delighted shock at inappropriate humor.

It’s still in use for a reason. Because Iž and other islands like it suffered terrible losses during previous pandemics. The Bubonic plague, cholera and Spanish Flu swept through these coastal hideaways like a tsunami. 

COVID-19 is the outlier — for now.

Familiar with plagues

Virtually every deadly pathogen that hit Europe also swept across Croatia's islands. Anecdotes, church records and census numbers show odd demographic oscillations so precise, they can’t be the usual harbingers of death — war and famine. Process of elimination leaves only disease.

The Bubonic plague hit Zadar 20 times between the sixth and 17th centuries, according to late historian and Iž native Dr. Roman Jelić. The plague became so common, locals built churches, chapels and altars devoted to Saint Rocco, who protected against the illness (Mali Iž’s altar among them).

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The island of Lokrum served as a lazaret for Dubrovnik during the Black Death. The innovation quickly spread.

As the plague hit over and over, Zadar’s islands coopted an efficient system of stopping the spread of the illness, one recognizable today and oft-attributed to Dubrovnik. Good ideas, like plagues, often spread quickly.

Confirmed infections on islands went to lazarettos, or infirmaries, built in the hinterlands or the uninhabited islets. This early form of the quarantine and forced self-isolation set the foundations for the current fight against COVID-19.

Still, the numbers were staggering.

The island of Ugljan at the end of 17th century lost nearly 10 percent of its population in a single year. Records suggest the plague swept through the island, end-to-end, with the neighboring islands Galevac and OÅ¡ljak serving as lazarettos for the ill.

A century later, Molat lost 141 residents — more than a quarter of its population — in the four years between 1772 and 1776.

Medieval medicine at the time included some isolation measures, but hygiene and knowledge of microscopic killers were non-existent. The islanders of lore were helpless to stop the viruses. A full-time medical professional on a Dalmatian island is a modern invention, around the same time as electricity. 

The deadly pathogens continued well after the plague: diphtheria, smallpox, scarlet fever, typhus, dysentery, and the Spanish Influenza. The lazarettos built for plague sufferers remained, repurposed for every new disease.

No one to infect

The modern coronavirus pandemic in Croatia began around in the beginning of March. Not that anyone on the islands noticed a difference. 

The newer houses built by foreigners sit dormant — as usual. The homes grow quiet, one by one, every time the death bell tolls. 

The coronavirus’s great gift to Dalmatian islanders was its timing. It arrived during the annual stretch of ghoulish emptiness that leaves one wondering if anyone lives here at all. Had it hit two months earlier or later — New Years or the summer — and the situation would look bleaker.

The few who live here all year emerge from their homes every morning. Some split olive wood to prepare stoves for the single match that’ll heat their house at sunset. Others wait in line for a loaf of bread.

All have routines to survive early March: the temperature fluctuations and bitter wind sweeping down from the Velebit Mountain. That signature March Bura. The “healthyâ€� wind which pseudo-scientists around here claim is a panacea for many ailments. 

It clears humidity out of the air, they say. Dries the sinuses, leaves a crust of salt on doors and windows. It cuts through the thickest of jackets.

Winter life will keep us safe, they say. Here, the winter sun is medicinal. Still. (From April onwards, it’s a menace.)

Social isolation doesn’t need a mandate here either. At this time of year, it’s the norm.

If COVID-19 found its way to islands like Iž, it’d lack hosts. The regulars on Iž always keep a safe distance from each other — blame water-saving over hygiene, emotional suppression, and the disinterest that comes with seeing the same faces at the same time every day. Attempts at physical contact betray a too many drinks… or fair-weather friend trying to make good with the locals. We know better.

When a biting wind sweeps across your face and sends a chill to the base of your skull, a hug or a handshake feels ridiculous. Head nods and grunts are enough.

No well-wishers, family members, weekend visitors, or preparations for summer flings. Save a weekend bacchanal for carnevale, or perhaps a funeral, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone visiting Iž or any other island before Easter. 

Still Following Protocols

Make no mistake: people here follow the rules with aplomb. The store only allows one patron at a time, each greeted with a squirt of hand sanitizer at the door. The others wait outside in a haphazard line, with each new arrival pointing a questioning finger to see who’s ahead of them.

This rationing and pseudo-caution that comes with assuming everyone is a vector for a virus, it’s familiar. The history of population-wide illness left a mark on many island norms. 

In a long enough conversation, someone will mention a distant ancestor known to have died of… something. Those tales still circulate, and some practices remain.

It’s still customary for a visitor to shout your name a few steps before they’re at your door — a bit of common decency that predates doorbells but also gives a chance to be sent away without getting too close.

Locals also used to fumigate their houses with burning juniper bushes to oust the plague. 

While nobody smokes themselves out of their own home, islanders still have an immeasurable fear of drafts — a well-documented phenomenon that dates back to the era when tuberculosis, common colds and pneumonia were death sentences.

Folk medicine remedies are still common. Every bodul (islander) shoveling spoonfuls of honey into their gullet to combat a cough can thank their ancestors, who did the same to survive tuberculosis and pneumonia. Ditto to inhaling the vapors from sage or chamomile tea, a centuries-old remedy for pulmonary illnesses. 

Some islanders even continue to pile on layers of clothing and blankets to treat a fever, believing it helps the body cook out the pathogen. These treatments are still being suggested to young islanders with the fervency of Gospel.

Perhaps the closest the islands saw to today’s pandemic was the cholera outbreak of 1855, which hit every settlement on every island in the Zadar archipelago. The incomplete records from the time show 7,770 people were infected, 2,690 of them died. A 34 percent mortality rate. (It should be noted Patient Zero arrived from Italy.)

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The author's home port: devoid of people whether there's a pandemic or not.

Offering An Escape 

During past the plagues, those fearing death often fled to the islands. It may happen again.

Already detached from societal epicenters, the potential for an island becoming a pandemic hotbed disappeared over the last century as islanders emigrated to the generous shores of Canada, Australia and the United States. Even Murter, now a hotbed, had its COVID-19 allegedly imported by tourists who wanted to get an early start on "The Season."

That's not to say the islands like Iž and others are immune to nasty pathogens and the ornery nature of life on this planet. But maybe the four-mile gap between these shores and the mainland is just enough to keep the inhabitants safe. 

That sense of detachment and self-sufficiency fuels the people living here year round. But the longer this pandemic lasts, the faults of island life will slowly become appealing to those who shun it: the “In Crowdâ€� who need to be at the center of it all have had their norms poisoned. Isolation, solitude, peace, and detachment from the throngs, shopping centers, cultural institutions and a quiet social life...  are suddenly luxuries. 

A parade of fresh faces uprooting their homes to these islands is inevitable. They’ve already made calls, promising to be here soon. They’ll also join a long and storied tradition: escaping to the Dalmatian islands for refuge. 

It’s something those of us with roots here all share: there is no native bodul. Everyone came here to escape from something: fights between Venetians and Ottoman Turks, famine… plagues. 

This pandemic will end. The sun will continue to rise just behind the neighboring island of Ugljan and settle in the west behind the church steeple at the top of the hill. Like it always does.

Those still alive when this is all over will tell their kids and grandkids what it was like to watch fraction of the world suffer even though the illness touched nearly everyone.

And those who passed the time on Croatia’s bucolic little islands will hopefully shrug and say, “Nothing really changed for us. A few more people showed up and, when it was over, they all left.�

 


Corona Voices in the Croatian Diaspora: Aleksandar in New York City
Izvor:  Total Croatia News
Ponedjeljak, 06 Travanj 2020 15:28

Corona Voices in the Croatian Diaspora: Aleksandar in New York City

April 6, 2020 - With as many Croatians living abroad as in the Homeland, what are the diaspora experiences of self-isolation? In the fourth of a new series, Corona Voices in the Croatian Diaspora, here is Aleksandar Bulajic from New York City. 

Last week TCN started a feature series called Foreigner Self-Isolation In Croatia: Do You Feel Safer? I can honestly say we have never had such a response or so many incredible contributions. The countries of origin of these expats in Croatia literally from all over the world. So far we have had submissions from expats from Romania, USA, Ireland, UK, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Singapore, Holland, Canada, India, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Latvia, China, Honduras, Hungary, Moldova, New Zealand and Germany. You can see all their stories here

Given the success of the series (still going strong) and large interest, it made sense to expand it to look at this from another angle - how Croatians abroad are coping where they are. If you would like to contribute your story to Corona Voices in the Croatian Diaspora, please find the submission guidelines below. And now, the view the centre of the pandemic currently - New York City. We are very grateful to New York resident Aleksandar Bulajic for this account of his current reality and view of Croatia. 

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Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I’m living with my partner DJ, she’s American, along with our two cats, Jožek and Arlo. My teenage son Luka lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his mom. Luka and I would typically see each other once a month, at least until now. All-in-all, we’re doing, ‘knock-on-wood’, well. Monday, April 6, 2020 marks the start of our fourth week in self-isolation.  

Like many others in the restaurant business, I lost my job when our restaurant closed its doors. Delmonico’s first opened in 1837 - and as a cultural institution and barometer of NYC health, we’re hoping it and other businesses open soon again.

Thankfully, DJ is still working full-time. She’s an architectural and graphic designer with the international firm Rockwell Group. It took some adjusting for us to be working from home, though so far we’re handling this unprecedented situation fairly well.  

When did you realize that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

When Italy started falling apart — it was I think in the first week of March, when the number of deaths started going up like crazy — that I realized the coronavirus was going hit the US and the world like a tsunami. 

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When did you realize that coronavirus was going to be a big issue in New York in particular?

When prominent restaurants (like Le Bernardin) and restaurateurs (Danny Meyer, Eric Ripert) began closing their doors, which happened in the first half of March, is when it struck me that this would hit NYC hard. It was like a point of no return. And, in just a matter of days, one of the most populated cities in the world was abruptly a ghost town. To me, it seemed inevitable; there’s no way we can keep such a dense and bustling city as New York out of this pandemic.    

Give us a timeline on when and how life changed.

March 16, the day when Delmonico’s ceased operations and I lost my job of seven years. DJ’s office had also started a work-from-home policy on that day. Only days prior, it was merely a discretionary policy, but within two days became part of mandatory office closings throughout New York City.

Tell us about your day. Do you/can you leave your apartment?

Day-to-day, we can leave our apartment, but we try not to unless absolutely necessary. We typically order groceries for delivery, though that is becoming difficult as less people are available to do that job, and shelves are lacking basic goods. Typically when we place an order for groceries, the expected delivery is in three weeks. A small, family-owned grocery store across the street from our apartment has recently closed, and is no longer an option for staples such as toilet paper or milk. If we must go outside, it’s with masks, gloves, and a hat to cover our hair.  

Any delivered groceries or packages from outside go through a thorough routine involving both DJ and I to ensure the virus doesn’t enter the apartment.

Living in a NYC apartment building is also a bit tricky in the age of coronavirus. We attempt to avoid neighbors as much as possible — for both our safety and theirs, as the hallways are narrow and shared doorknobs not cleaned since mid-March.

On the brighter side, I’m cooking as never before. Yes, I’m definitely stress baking, though I’m grateful to have small pleasures at this time. And luckily we have a modest backyard that allows for some fresh air, table tennis, and soccer ball practice.

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How are the authorities doing at handling the situation?

We are really grateful for having Andrew Cuomo as our Governor. His daily press briefings are delivered with direct honesty and leadership. We truly feel he is fighting for New York State. He’s direct, eloquent, calm, and most importantly, Cuomo is well-informed. He also knows to surround himself with professionals that can address the myriad aspects of how a city is - or may be - affected by this pandemic.  

I wish I can say the same for the President of the United States who, by his inaction, is responsible for the exponential spread of this deadly virus that has and will cost numerous lives.

You obviously keep an eye on your homeland. What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis?

Kudos to the government of Croatia, both federal and local. Kudos to everyone in my homeland who is doing a great job with self-distancing, self-isolating, and taking this horror seriously. The right leadership in the right place at the right, critical time. Yes, I’m biased, though it looks like my county Istria — which is the closest one to Italy — is doing a great job.  

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Compare and contrast the responses of Croatia and USA. Who is doing what better?

Croatia is doing a much better job in fighting this disease than the US, mostly because our federal government has failed in acting on time to curtail this pandemic. 

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country? 

The daily press conferences by the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, are strait-forward, concise, and delivered with knowledgeable leadership. It’s no small wonder that many are asking him to run for the Presidency of the US.

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What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

More beer for sure. It’s sometimes the small pleasures that make isolation a bit easier.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

I used to be a full-time journalist, starting in 1997 with Glas Istre, a Croatian daily newspaper. As my late ex-boss Željko Žmak once said to me, “when you got ink under your nails, there’s no way you can get rid of itâ€�. That’s absolutely true. One thing that has shifted is my daily need, and time to write again. I’ve focused on my website Croatian In New York http://croatian-in-new-york.com which had been dormant for two years. I think we all need a way to express ourselves during this time, and thankfully words are flowing —  and It is fulfilling 

If you could be self-isolating in Croatia, where would it be, and why?

There’s only one place where self-isolation would be a gift and not punishment: the Island Unije. Back in 2015 DJ, Luka and I spent the most incredible 14 days of our life there. I believe that time spent on islands has a powerful effect on relaxing the mind and body, compared to time spent on a continent. I’m talking about small, tiny islands where one is completely surrounded by the sea. Time slows on islands, where one day of vacation on the island feels like two on the continent. 

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Thanks, Aleksandar. Stay safe and see you on the other side. You can see all the stories in both this diaspora series, and the one on expats in Croatia on this link

TCN is starting a new feature series on Croatian diaspora experiences of sitting out COVID-19 abroad and comparing your experiences to the situation in Croatia. If you would like to contribute, the questions are below. Please also include a para about yourself and where you are from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum to news@total-croatia-news.com Subject Corona Diaspora

If you would be interested to record a video version for our partners www.rplus.video please let us know in the email. Thanks and stay safe. 

Self-Isolation Voices from the Diaspora 

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue?

When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue in New York in particular?

Give us a timeline on when and how life changed.

Tell us about your day. Do you/can you leave your apartment?

How are the authorities doing at handling the situation?

You obviously keep an eye on your homeland. What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis?

Compare and contrast the responses of Croatia and USA. Who is doing what better?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

If you could be self-isolating in Croatia, where would it be, and why?

TCN has recently become a partner in Robert Tomic Zuber's new R+ video channel, initially telling stories about corona experiences. You can see the first TCN contribution from this morning, my video from Jelsa talking about the realities of running a news portal in the corona era below. If you would like to also submit a video interview, please find Robert's guidelines below 

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VIDEO RECORDING GUIDE

The video footage should be recorded so that the cell phone is turned horizontally (landscape mode).

There are several rules for television and video news:- length is not a virtue- a picture speaks more than a thousand words

In short, this would mean that your story should not last more than 90 seconds and that everything you say in the report should be shown by video (for example, if you talk about empty streets, we should see those empty streets, etc.).

How to do it with your cell phone? First, use a selfie camera to record yourself telling your story for about a minute and a half. Ideally, it would be taken in the exterior, except in situations where you are reporting on things in the interior (quarantine, hospital, self-isolation, etc.). Also, when shooting, move freely, make sure everything is not static.

After you have recorded your report, you should capture footage that will tell your story with a picture, such as an earlier example with empty streets.

One of the basic rules of TV journalism is that the story is told in the same way as a journalist with his text. Therefore, we ask you for additional effort. Because we work in a very specific situation, sometimes you may not be able to capture footage for each sentence of the report. In this case, record the details on the streets: people walking, the main features of the city where you live, inscriptions on the windows related to the virus, etc.

The same rules apply if you are shooting a story from your apartment, self-isolation, quarantine. We also need you to capture footage that describes your story.

When shooting frames to cover your reports, it is important that you change the angle of the shot (in other words, shoot that empty street from several angles). Also, when shooting a detail, count at least five seconds before removing the camera to another detail.

The material should be about 5 minutes long (90 seconds of your report + frames to cover your story).

After recording everything, send us to Zagreb, preferably via WeTransfer to rplus.video@gmail.com


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