Touching "come back" to the roots in Gorski Kotar
AMERICAN MIHALEVICH PEOPLE HAVE VISITED A HOMELAND OF THEIR ANCESTORS
Touching "come back" to the roots in Gorski Kotar
Our roots perform a big part of what we are. I would want that my daughter also see the land of her ancestors, because if we wait any longer, a connection with these roots will be lost.But,when we`ve come here and whenwe've visited our relatives, we`ve realized the meaning of the words that we are the sameblood, no matter how many kilometers we are separated, says Jenny
Text writer: Smiljana Radovic
Cameraman : Roni Brmalj
"With stomach for the bread", in exile in 19th and 20th century went a lot ofCroats, and they were,depending how much time has passed since they've left, becomingrelatives to whom one is coming once in a lifetime or those who has stood here simply has erased them from the generationmemory. Since that time America has, until nowadays, become in popular stories a land in which honey and milk flows and from where packages with Truman eggs arecoming. Today exiles are no longer illiterate farmers and they are highly educated youngmen, but for all of them the common thing is that this land couldn't afford conditions for a decent life.
The story of parents of 86-years old John Mihalevich from the U.S.A. is one of the many similar stories that are talking about poverty and going over the Big Pond.But,why this story is different is that John has decided todiscover, together with his children, what does a land of his ancestors look like,what is hiding under the unknown name Fuzine,what kind of people are distant relatives whose ancestorsdidn't push off to a distant continent.... For the first time the land of his ancestors John met this summer,and conversation with that American man and other "culprits" for this adventure we`ve guided in a restaurant"Volta" in Fuzine,at a place that runs Renata Korica,who is also in family relations with Mihalevich people,where the reunion and companionship with music took place for american as well as croatian side of the Mihalevich family.
" My father has exiled from Croatia at the beginning of the last century, and the road has drifted him to Iowa.His first goal was to collect enough money so as to return to his homeland and find his wife,since he didn`t want to marry anyone but a croat girl.His plan has realized,they were married here and they have come back to the States.They`ve had 8 sons and 2 daughters,and the living ones are my brother Phillip and I and both sisters, Catherine and Margaret.He has settled again in Iowa and worked in a coal mine until the 1925.when he got a job in a hospital" said John. "This was one of the reasons why I later went to the medical school and became a doctor".The whole story is confirmed with data that were taken out from the arhives by Bosiljka Grubisic,an ancestor from the part of the Mihalevich family that has stood in a homeland.These data are saying that Phillip Mihalevich from Fuzine,Breg 214,on May,16,1908,married Katarina Rupe from Fuzine.
Meeting full of emotions
Besides the history of their family in the States,John and the other visitors from America have spoken much more about what was "wind out" in their hearts and soul since they`ve stepped on a soil from where a long time ago "with stomach for the bread" their ancestors pushed off.
" Tears were coming to my eyes when I`ve seen a birthplace of my parents.I am delighted that we are here;when we came to this beautiful land,to Gorski Kotar, one question has come to all of us on mouth:"why would anyone want to leave this wonderful country?"But,from the stories of my parents,and from the stories of many relatives from Croatia that I`ve met,I know that they were forced to do so because of the bad conditions,or what they simply said – bread.As far as I know,my parents had here a garden,but I don`t know whether my father has worked here,and I think if he had worked,he would be a wood-cutter",said John,looking all the time on his sons and daughter,messaging that in that adventure are all equally "ducked" with equally strong emotions when they met a land in which their parents or their grandfathers,has fell in love.
Prejudices are carburetted
All the children of John Mihalevich Sr.,Don,Rick,John Jr.,Rob and Jenny,have pointed out the great hospitality of masters of the house in Gorski Kotar,because,as they emphasized,they`ve received them as they`ve never gone.To proove that they feel here as if they are at home,on question what do they think about our victory over Italy,Rick, the youngest son of John, has pulled out the dress of croatian national team,with a remark that when he returns home he will show it to everyone. One of the good indicators how they were emotionally shaken with the visit to the ancestors`land,was when they were asked who will win in a possible game between Croatia and USA- they simply didn`t know the answer. Besides they were surprised with natural beauties of a small country as Croatia is,in talking with their relatives and other Croats, they `ve understood that many of their comprehensions about our country were wrong.But,what was the most important,in touch with pure air of Gorski Kotar prejudices were carburetted.As well as many other strangers
they also couldn`t understand at all war events and that in Jugoslavia,in a same country,have lived same people.
"This is one phenomenal experience,specially getting to know your customs and habits.American nation is actually a nation of exiles, and in honor of an american dream many of us have forgotten our roots.My family has decided to "visit" our roots because they perform a big part of what we are.I would want that my daughter can also see land of her ancestors,because if we wait any longer,a connection with these roots will be lost.But,when we`ve come here and when we`ve visited our relatives, we`ve realized the meaning of the words that we are the same blood,no matter how many kilometres we are separated.The best part of this trip was to see how my father experiences all that,specially the moment when we`ve visited the church in which his parents were baptized and married. Our two cultures are so different,because in our country there is no such a feeling of permanency,in difference from this place that seems so long lasting",said John`s daughter Jenny,once again coming back on a story about hospitality of people from Gorski Kotar because" here they gave them to eat and drink much more than they can consume" and suddenly she said that "women here are beautiful,and men look like manly".
Among twelve Americans we found the main "culprit" for the visit of " a cradle of civilization",Gaylene Mihalevich Billington,a daughter of Andrew,son of Phillip Mihalevich,for whom this has been a second visit to Croatia. Before first visit the american side of the family have already finished their ancestry,but the missing parts were data from the 18th and 19th century. The group of 6 Mihalevich people with one of their friends visited our country 2 years ago;the only thing they `ve known was that they originate from Fuzine and they were searching whether there still exist some members of their family in Croatia.They have come over the "Atlas" agency who has found a relative and it was Bosiljka Golik Grubisic,whose mother was a syster of Katarina Rupe.First contacts of family Rupe with the Americans was realized by Ivica Hus, Bozidar Kauzlaric and Ervin Grubisic with his wife Jasna.Delighted with a landscape and a reception in the family,Gaylene has decided to bring along Mihalevich people in Fuzine.Intended – realized,so in June,together with 13 members of the Mihalevich family and their 3 friends,in Gorski Kotar came also 9 representatives of families Crnic,Iskra,Frkovic and Blaskovic,originally from Mrkopalj.After they`ve seen Mrkopalj and Begovo Razdolje,they`ve visited also a birthplace of Phillip Mihalevich, father of John Mihalevich,where the descendant of family Mihalevich, Ivana Sljepcevic,in the house in Street Breg,has done a reunion.As for an introduction in reunion of american and croatian relatives that was taken its place in "Volta",there was a big tablet with Mihalevich` family tree.
Data burried in archives
"To accomplish all that,data from registers of births,marriages and deaths for the 18th ,19th and 20th Century were needed to be gathered.Now we have data for the ancestor Peter Mihalevich and his wife Maria from the year 1775.The data were found in Register`s office Delnice,State Archives in Rijeka and Croatian State Archives in Zagreb.It lasted 2 years in full,and the most informations I`ve found in State Archives in Rijeka.If it hadn`t been a comprehensive help of M.S. Mladenka Merdzanic,leader of the library,who has patiently introduced me in all that and has been always here ready to jump to help,this would have never been done.On the other side,in Mrkopalj, a poet Ankica Crnic has offered me a big help; herhusband Franjo has the relations with families Frkovic and Blaskovic"said Bosiljka Grubisic,emphasized that because of the dislocation of sources the research lasted so long.Small districts and towns have no money so it exists no possibility here in near future that inarchives, on one place,one can find the books ,in which data about forgotten relatives long ago of nowadays depopulated Gorski Kotar are placed. Leaving Fuzine,after us,we`ve left numerous Mihalevich family whose members have long into the night tried to store as much memories as they can,never again to be lost.
In family also a staged Mihalevich people
One of the curiosities connected to the Mihalevich family is that to this family belong also 2 well-knownCroatian musicians, Mario and Branimir Mihalevic,who pointed out that " there can be no more beautiful day than this one in which he has extended number of members of his family to such a big number and realize how yourrelatives are group of so many different people"
My Uncle John Mihalevich and his first cousin Bosiljka Grubisic met for the first time and he is 86 and she is 77. What a meeting this was, you can only imagine the tears. Uncle John's mother and Bosiljka mother were sisters. If you would like anything else let me know, until then thanks a million for all your help this day.
Gaylene Mihalevich Billington