A Search For Roots - Stivan, Cres, Croatia
First printed in the Zajednicar Fraternalist
Croatian Fraternal Union of America
PUBLISHED on 31 August, 1988; Vol.#83/No.33; Page 6
Written by Constant (Connor) Vlakancic
A Search For Roots - Stivan, Cres, Croatia
Sunnyvale, CA -- This is a true story. For the last two years, my life is this story. It is also a story of the end of life, Not my life, I hope, for I have only just discovered but perhaps yours, as you have known it, as I hope you have known it.
-- I am a grown man with a well developed and materially successful life. There is always more to have but as in all life, a price is extracted when we indulge in our wants. As such and in the best of health, and raising my son, a son I am genuinely proud of, what more does the soul of man hunger for?
-- That which I have never known or known about. That which my grandfather left behind on the island of Cres in 1918. He bravely left on the greatest adventure of his young life. With a single mindedness, he looked forward, never went back that I know of and he built a life with the timber of the new world but on the foundation of his heritage that he knew so well but took for granted. For reasons that were his, he took this foundation to the grave with him.
-- My grandfather died when I was but a young teen. Yet I do have memories of him. A machinist at Barber-Green in Aurora, Illinois, respected and responsible, he had built his life to his measure. I did not know him real well as we (my father "his son", my mother, my sister and myself) did not live nearby. But this I know without hesitation, I never heard any words from him but articulate English. From my own father who had known him for all his life, I never heard any words except English. Whatever he knew, he also took to his grave many years ago.
Now moving forward to but two years ago, I accidentally learn (an amazing story in itself) that I am Croatian. A word, a nation, a culture that I had never known of or even heard of. A heritage to feed the hunger in my guts, in my heart. In two years, I have learned of things that I could not even have dreamed of. But this has not been learning to satisfy the hunger, this has only been learning that the food exists.
I sit writing this in a jet plane returning to the United States from three weeks in Croatia. I have lived the monumental frustration of my hunger that I do not know if I will ever surmount. I cannot communicate in my grandfather's native tongue. Oh father of my father, why must I suffer this so. I am a bird with spirit in my heart, with wings to fly, to soar in this beckoning sky. Trapped in the small cage of my few words laboriously learned, I am deaf and dumb and nearly blind.
Through my own efforts, I have forged myself into a strong man, stronger than many. I demand of myself the courage to speak the unpopular thought, to perform the unpopular deed when in my heart I believe in the integrity of my convictions. And I will be patient as the oyster growing a pearl when actions are for naught. But I would say to you grandfather I am not certain that I can now still learn this language. Why did I not grow with it as a child?
I believe and live this; "To know and yet not to do, is not yet to know." I have done! I have traveled to the soil you washed from your hands and walked the paths of the village that bears your footprints. But will the research that I have started ever yield to me a life I have only just discovered? This is a story of the end of life. Not my life, for I will share with my son whatever soil is on my hands. I will show him the paths with my footprints. I will show him the food that he may hunger for.
But what of your life? You, the sons and daughters born on the soil you explored with your father but now emigrated to another land, have you washed your hands? Do you share your foundation with your children? Or teach them your language? Will you take to the grave your life as you have known it?
"If you do not return, with your children, then others most certainly will and your life, as you have known it, will be as dead as an old cold candle that nobody knows what it burned brightly for - or - may - never - care - again.˘ Constant Vlakancic/Lodge 1983
Connor Vlakancic, Exec.VP