'They need people to invest inCroatia'
About 500 members of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America, the largest Croatian organization in the United States, will be coming to Atlanta on Thursday for their convention. Scheduled speakers include ambassadors to the United States from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latest census reports 3,107 Croatians living in Georgia, with 2,209 of them residing in metro Atlanta.
Union President Bernard M. Luketich spoke recently with Journal-Constitution reporter Mark Bixler about the convention, conditions in Croatia and the history of Croatian-Americans. Here are excerpts:
Q: One of your members -- Rep. Dennis Kuchinich of Ohio -- is running for U.S. president. What do you think of his chances?
A: I think it's going to be very difficult, but Dennis has turned the tide in previous elections. Nobody thought he would win election as mayor of Cleveland. He's also a member of Congress. They thought that was impossible. He has something that draws people to him.
Q: If he wins, how would that affect relations between the United States and Croatia?
A: I think that would help. He's aware of what's happening between Croatia and the United States. For us as Croatian-Americans, we would certainly be very proud to have him as president of the United States.
Q: What are the major issues in Croatia today?
A: Basically, they have an economic problem. . . . They need people to invest in Croatia. They need American companies to look at the possibilities and teach them how to run a democratic country. They were under Communist rule for so many years.
Q: What kinds of business opportunities exist for American companies in Croatia?
A: There are many, many companies that do business in Croatia already, but many more are needed. The unemployment is very high in Croatia. They need jobs like everybody else.
Q: How did you choose Atlanta as a site for the convention?
A: We've had our conventions in various cities. We have a lodge in Atlanta.
Q: When did most Croatians come to this country? Where did they settle?
A: The majority came from 1900 to 1920. They settled around coal mines and steel mills, near places like Pittsburgh and Chicago. They were up in Minnesota -- anyplace where there was heavy industry.
Q: Was there an influx of Croatians coming to the United States after the war?
A: After World War II, yes, but not after the [Balkan] war in the '90s. Croatia became free and independent. People who live there are running their own country.
Q: We heard a lot about tension between Croatians, Bosnian Serbs and Muslims during war in the '90s. What is the status of relations between the three groups now?
A: It looks like the relationship is much better. They've got to depend on each other. They're neighbors.
• ON THE WEB: For more information about the Croatian union:www.croatianfraternalunion.org
Mark Bixler : firstname.lastname@example.org