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By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/29/2004 | Data | Unrated



By Katarina Tepesh

“According to records available from the Department of State, first ships from Dalmatia to New York arrived in 1797,” says Croatian genealogist Adam . The first Croatian captain on the ship “Postojani” was Luka Gerich, followed by Mato Fiskovich.

Due to economic conditions in the 1800’s Croatians came to America to look for work. “S trbuhom za kruhom” they headed in search of a better life. Many Croatians were landless peasants, driven out when the country failed to industrialize. Croatia easily ranked the highest in the percentage of small peasant proprietors on the land. Leaving the rural villages, Croatians had most difficult time reaching America. One word description comes to mind “krvavo”. They universally suspected immigration agents of excessive charges and bad advice and composed a rhyme on their experiences: “Jer agenti varalice jesu, samo za se napunjaju kesu.” Translation: “For the agents are surely swindlers, since they are always lining their own pockets.”

Despite the hardships and obstacles, Croatian people have succeeded in America, or for the purposes of this article in New York. The tremendous struggle to first reach the American soil and then to learn and assimilate is proven by how many of our people have changed their names and consequently lost connection to the Croatian community. 

New York City is one of the most vibrant, vital cities on  In New York one can take a tour of Croatian history:

The first Croatian church in Manhattan opened in 1913 on West 50th Street. First priest serving Croatian people was a Slovene. Fairly small church serving big community transferred in 1954 to a much larger church and hall at 502 West 41 Street called Sts. Cyril & Methodius Croatian Roman Catholic church. The church is exceptionally beautiful with its stained glass windows. Close to 2000 devoted parishioner’s celebrated 90th anniversary during 2003. Three priests and three nuns are serving the Croatian community, including visiting the sick. The nuns are teaching Catechism, Croatian language and religious songs to youngsters. The ethnic dancing “kolo” group “Cardinal Stepinac” performs regularly. Outside and inside you can see huge Croatian Coat of Arms and a large sign “Bog i Hrvati.” or “Croats! God be with you.” The church holds the sculpture of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac (1898-1960) by Ivan Mestrovic who was a great Croatian artist. Attached building to the church is the Croatian Center or the Sveti Nikola Tavelic Hall, where one can see well preserved wall paintings by talented artist Zvonimir Mihanovic. Born on August 12, 1946 in Sitno Polje near Split, Mihanovic painted the famous scenes of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Mostar, Sarajevo, etc. Mihanovic draws inspiration from the picturesque harbors, tranquility, the small harbor and the few fishing boats used by solitary anglers along the coast, marine vistas and small villages scattered. Mihanovic’s ability to calm the soul through his work in oil is legendary.

The spacious basement of the church served as the center where we collected first aid to Croatia from June 15, 1991 until 1995 during brutal attack by Serbs. In the best Croatian tradition, thousands of us volunteered by giving generous donation of our time, energy and valuable resources towards the success and continued progress of independent, peaceful and democratic Croatia. We also received help from generous Americans, including the popular actor and activist Martin Sheen.

For decades after the Civil War,Hell’s Kitchen on the New York City’s West Side between 14th and 52nd Streets, from Eighth Avenue to the waterfront was considered very rough neighborhood full of slaughterhouses, railroad yards, gas works and docks. This was the old Croatian neighborhood a hundred years ago when shipping was prominent.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, at 64 St and Broadway, is a place was many Croatians have performed. The first Croatian national opera was composed in 1846 by Vatroslav Lisinski called “Ljubav i Zloba”.

There are prominent photos of two famous Croatian opera singers Milka Ternina and Zinka Kunc Milanov on the wall of the Metropolitan Opera.

Milka Ternina (1863-1941), born in Vojni Kriz, Croatia. Began her career in Zagreb in 1882 as Amelia, went on to Graz and Vienna. Her fame dates back to Bremen in 1886. In 1890 the Bavarian Royal Opera engaged her. Years of triumph followed. Through her appearances at the Bayreuth Festivals and in several European capitals, Milka gained prominence at the height of her career as the foremost Wagnerian soprano in the world. For nine seasons she elated American audiences at the Metropolitan Opera. She was Met’s first Tosca performing with Enrico Caruso. She was hailed by the great Italian conductor Toscanini as the “world’s greatest artist,” with repertory of 85 roles. In 1906, Milka Ternina returned to her native Zagreb, forced by paralysis she retired in 1916. But in Zagreb, Milka discovered the young Zinka Kunc, coached her for three years and gave to the Metropolitan Opera one of its shining talents.

Mira Teresa Zinka Kunc Milanov (1906-1989), was born in Zagreb. She was widely acclaimed for her operatic talent and even now opera lovers say when Zinka stopped singing, it was the end of an era. Zinka gave 298 performances at the Metropolitan Opera plus 123 on tour. Starting in 1937, Zinka had the honor to open the season four times. Considered among the great artists, she covered Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Mascagni and others. During 29 seasons at the Metropolitan she sang Leonora, Aida, Gioconda, Tosca, the two Amelias, Santuzza, Maddelena, Norma, Donna Anna, Desdemona and Elvira. Zinka was considered “primadonna assoluta, la Regina Della casa”. Zinka was extremely proud of her American citizenship.


The gift shop at the Lincoln Center is still selling cassettes of Zinka’s operas. Unfortunately Milka’s voice is not preserved, as during her lifetime recording was not perfected. Just as the great prima donna Milka was teaching Zinka, she too was teaching among others, Rosalie Olinski. After Zinka’s death, Rosalie performed at a concert in honor of Zinka where she sang the old favorites of Zinka’s including “Domovini i Ljubavi”, “Gor Cez Jezero”, “Daleko Je Moj Split”, “Pastirica”, “Ko Lani Sem”, etc.

Bozidar Kunc (1903-1964), composer and pianist. He often acted as accompanist and mentor to his world famous sister Zinka Kunc.

Ilma di Murska or Ema Puksec (1834-1889),the “Croatian Nightingale”, as the Viennese used to call her. Ilma di Murska was born in Ogulin. After studying singing in Zagreb and Graz, she went to Vienna in 1860. In 1862, di Murska made extraordinarily debut as Queen Marguerite de Valois in Meyerbeer’s Las Huguenots, at the Pergola Theatre in Florence. After triumphant appearance in Italy, Barcelona, Budapest and Berlin, di Murska made her debut at the Royal Opera in Vienna as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, in 1864. In Vienna she sang in 17 different roles, and performing in 229 operas and 8 concerts. After appearing in Berlin, Paris and Hamburg, di Murska first appeared in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1865 as Lucia di Lammerinoor where she sang brilliant soprano. After 1871 she settled in America and was offered in 1880 a professorship of singing at the National Conservatory of Music in New York. She died on January 14, 1889 as one of the great singers in operatic

Vladimir Ruzdjak (1922-1967), opera singer baritone and composer. He was born in Zagreb. From 1962-1964 he performed at the Metropolitan Opera. During his 40 year career, Ruzdjak gave over 2500 performances mostly in Zagreb and Hamburg.  

Biserka Katusic Cvejic (1923), born in Krilu-Jesenice near Split. She was world-renowned mezzo-soprano. From 1961 she was a constant guest at the Metropolitan Opera.

Marko Rothmuller (1908-1993), born in Trnjani near Slavonski Brod. Composer, bass-baritone performed at the Metropolitan with debut in 1952 and in Europe. He recorded for EMI.

Ljiljana Molnar-Talajic (1938), born in Bosanski Brod. She was a guest at the Metropolitan Opera, most famous for her interpretation of Aida at La Scala, Covent Gardens and Vienna.

Ruza Pospis-Baldani (1942), born in Varazdinskim Toplicama. Mezzo-soprano performed Magdalena in Riggolette at the Metropolitan Opera first time in 1966. She received an engagement in 1970 at the Met as Carmen. Ruza also performed at the Carnegie

Giorgio Surjan (1954), born in Rijeka. Opera singer bass performed at the Met during ’97-98 seasons.

Majda Radic (1933-1984), born in Sibenik. Mezzo-soprano performed in the US.

Boris Martinovic (1955) born in Zadar. Opera singer, bass-baritone was the youngest member of the Metropolitan Opera at age of 20 performing with Renata Scotto, while he was on full scholarship at The Julliard School of Music. Had a concert in 1978 at the Carnegie Hall and performed with Placido Domingo in Washington and Split. 

Mia Slavenska (1914-2002) was born in Slavonski Brod and became a ballerina of the Zagreb Opera from 1930-33. Mia also studied in Vienna and joined the Paris Opera in 1933. In London Mia danced with Anton Dolin before joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1938-42). Slavenska starred in wonderful French film, La Mort du Cygnet (1938).

She later formed her own company, Ballet Variante. In 1953 Mia established the Slavenska-Franklin ballet company with Frederic Franklin. In 1950’s she was primabalerina of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. By the end of her career she was teaching in Los Angeles, California. Said to be fearless on stage and in life.  or

Josip Kasman or Giuseppe Kaschmann (1850-1925), born on the island Mali Losinj, the youngest of 14 children, proclaimed baritone, and the first Croatian that had opportunity to sing at the New York Metropolitan in 1883 as Hamlet. First studied law, then opera and performed at La Scala, Covent Gardens and elsewhere.

Louis Svedenski, (1862-1926) was born in Osijek. The violinist had a long and successful career in the United States. He studied in Zagreb and Vienna. In 1885, he accepted a bid from the Boston Symphony Orchestra as first violinist. He played the viola for the Kneisel Quartet for 33 years and was the director of New York’s Institute of Musical Art. On many occasions he toured America and Europe.

Zlatko Balokovic (1895-1965), famous violinist virtuoso and political activist. He was born in Zagreb. During the peak of his career during the 1920’s and 1930’s, he performed throughout the entire world. His papers are part of the University of Minnesota, Croatian American Collection

Emil Blazevic, (1880-1960) born in Kraljevica. A famed teacher of music and singing, he had his own school of music in New York. For more then fifty years he contributed as a singer, composer, conductor and popularizer of the tamburitza music.   

Ivo Pogorelic (1958), world-renowned pianist. He received his first piano lessons at the age of seven, and went to Moscow at the age of twelve to study at the Central Music School and then at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. In 1976 he began intensive studies with the renowned pianist and teacher Aliza Kezeradze with whom he was married from 1980 until her premature death in 1996. He won numerous international competitions. Ivo gave his debut recital in New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1981. He recorded mostly Chopin.

Lovro Pogorelic (1970), world-renowned pianist performed at Carnegie Hall several times with numerous international concerts. The works of Russian masters as well as Chopin have a significant place in his repertoire. Since 1998, Lovro has taught piano at the Academy of Music in Zagreb. In 1999, he founded The Summer Festival in the town of Pag and continues to serve as its artistic director. In 2001, he started teaching at the Lovro Pogorelic Summer Piano School in Koper, Slovenia. He lives in Zagreb, Croatia.  

The Bryant Park, the corner street sign on Sixth Avenue and 41st Street in Manhattan reads Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) A great inventor, Tesla had at least two labs in Manhattan. He spent his last days feeding pigeons in his beloved Bryant Park.  Tesla was born in the village of Smiljan, Lika, Croatia. He came to New York in 1884. Tesla was a physicist, and one of the greatest scientists in the fields of electrical engineering. He projected the first hydroelectric power station at Niagara Falls using alternating induction (Tesla – T) was named after him. He died on January 7, 1943 in his room at the Hotel New Yorker. Tesla is portrayed in movies and several books.

It is not widely known that the first hydroelectric power plant in the world has been built up in Croatia, on the beautiful Krka waterfalls. It brought light to the city of Sibenik. It was built in 1895, one year before Nikola Tesla’s famous power plant on the Niagara Falls. The chief engineer was Ante Supuk.

One of the symbols of the United Nations is the “Horsewoman”, a sculpture of Anton Augustincic (1900–1979), which graces the garden in front of the United Nations at 46 Street & First Avenue, on the East side. The sculpture “Horsewoman” is a depiction of the Spirit of Peace. The bronze, female equestrian figure symbolizing the United Nations, in right hand holds the globe and in left hand holds the olive branch as a sign of Peace on Earth. In conversation with journalists at the opening of the monument in December 1954, Augustincic said that Peace is a woman because “if politics could be ruled by women, there will be no war!”. The monument has 10 meters high stand, which is made of the marble from the island of Brac. The equestrian sculpture is 5.5 meters high. Note one hoof raised; “Peace” is always wounded, never dead! Augustincic was born in Klanjec in the Sutla river valley, surrounded by the lovely hills of Zagorje strewn with vineyards and green meadows. He studied under guidance of Ivan Mestrovic. Augustincic sculpture “Sleeping Girl” is the trademark of Klanjec. The place is known for its rich cultural tradition featuring prominent Croatian artists like Antun Mihanovic, poet and author of the Croatian national anthem. Zagorje is also the birthplace of Mirko Drazen Grmek (1924-2000) born in Krapina. He was director of International School for History of Science in Naples, Ischy, and Annecy, editor of several professional science lexicons as well as author of about 30 books. Grmek was the first president of Almae Mater Croaticae Alumni in Paris. AMAC also has a chapter in New York/New Jersey region. 

Franjo Tudjman (1922-1999) born in Velikom Trgoviscu in Zagorje, politician who founded HDZ. Tudjman was the first President of independent Croatian state. He visited New York several

Josip Broz, often known by his military title as Marshal Tito (1892-1980) born in Kumrovec, Zagorje. Broz was the seventh of fifteen children born to Roman Catholic peasant parents. He was a politician and statesman. Tito, a Croatian Communist, founded partisans. Tito visited the White House and US in 1960, 1963, 1971 and 1978. He spoke at the United  Tito and the late Mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia played chess game together. Fiorello worked in Rijeka and spoke Croatian fluently.  

On October 11, 1991 Croatians held one of the biggest of several demonstrations in front of the United Nations for peaceful independence and against war in democratic Croatia.

The magnificent mountain of Velebit, and the famous Primosten vineyards offer the unique beauty of Croatian landscape, where folk builders used dry stonewalls to protect every handful of soil from being washed away from the arid rocky terrain. Thus an amazing rocky lace of Primosten has been obtain over the centuries, whose large sized photo can be seen inside the building of United Nations at 1st Ave & 46 St.

The white marble from the island of Brac, near small and lovely village of Pucisca, is highly appreciated among sculptors. Pucisca has a great tradition in stonemasonry. It was also used in building of the Battery Park in downtown New     

Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962) born in Vrpolje, Slavonia. As a sculptor, he was influential throughout the world. He has six magnificent bas-reliefs at the Hunter College School of Nursing, 425 East 25 Street. Partially it can be seen on their website at Born in 1883 in the Croatian village of Vrpolje in Slavonia, Mestrovic was the son of poor parents, who were unable to provide their talented son with the education he needed. So he tended sheep, living an isolated life in the Slavonian countryside. Eventually, however, his boyhood carvings in wood and stone attracted attention, and local monks gave him some work carving for them. When he was 15, he was introduced to a retired army officer, who started a fund to allow Mestrovic to receive some formal training. Finally, Mestrovic’s father took him to the city of Split, where he was apprenticed to a marble carver. A late immigrant to America, Mestrovic’s formative and early productive years were spent in his homeland and in other nations in Europe. After World War II, however, disillusioned with Croatian dictator Josip Broz Tito’s communist government, he came to America. He joined the art faculty of Syracuse University in upstate New York. Later, Mestrovic moved to the University Of Notre Dame, where he lived until his death in 1962.


Mestrovic sculpture “History of Croatia” portrays a woman sitting down with her head high, looking straight ahead towards the future, with her hands folded in a sign of prayer and holding a book, “History of Croatia.” This beloved artistic portrayal is all time favorite of Croatian people and widely copied among artists. According to Mestrovic will, there are only four originals located in Split, Zagreb, Belgrade and Pittsburgh, in the offices and museum of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America or CFU, which was founded in 1894. CFU also holds the Croatian national string instrument tamburitza, which is one of the hallmarks of Croatia. The orchestral tamburitza play started in Osijek in 1847. CFU has number of chapters in New York area, including “Lodge 1990 Kralj Tomislav”, “Lodge 789 Slobodna Hrvatska” and “Lodge 1981”


Kristian Krekovic (1901-1985), an outstanding artist, born in Koprivina, near Tuzla. His art appears in the Law Library Columbia University and the Ambassador Hotel, 1956 in New York. His extensive opus of 143 large formal works, devoted to Croatian history, including 63 portraits of Croatian Dukes and Kings (from Porga from 620 till Stjepan Tomasevic in 1463), was unfortunately not preserved. Krekovic moved and worked in Peru, where he signed himself as “pintor croata or pintor croata – peruano.”


Oton Gliha (1914-1999) depicted through his paintings his poetic impressions about hundreds of kilometers of dry stone walls called grimace, built on numerous Croatian islands during many centuries. Some of his paintings are held in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Tate Gallery and Italy as well as France. Gliha’s art reveals an intimate relation between grimace and the structure of the Croatian Glagolitic Script.


Josip Crnobori, (1907-199?) born in Banjole, Istria. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Zagreb. As a painter, Josip had his first solo exhibition in 1937 and in Trieste in 1946. He moved to Argentina in 1947 until 1978. Moved to New York where he portrayed Milka Ternina for the Metropolitan Opera in 1985 among many others, including former President Reagan.


Frank Zotti, a banker and real estate owner in the 1920’s downtown Manhattan, near Wall Street. He was a powerful steamship agent who had over 300 agents recruiting passengers in Europe during peak


Frank Zachary (1914-199?), the son of Croatian immigrants. As a writer he had a 60-year career in publishing, as an editor, art-director and publicist. He was called catalyst-in-chief.  


Narodni List or The National Gazette, was a daily Croatian newspaper in New York from 1898-1920. Copies of the newspaper are still available to see at the New York Public Library-Humanities and Social Sciences at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It is one of the largest public libraries in the world, and arguably one of the best examples of Beaux Arts architecture.   Microfilm of Narodni List is available at the University of Minnesota, the Croatian American Studies Fund. The Narodni List, was followed by weekly Domovina (1916-1917), tri-weekly Hrvatski List (1922-1928), Danica Hrvatska (1930-1941), New Yorski Tjednik (1973);


Among highly accomplished second generation of Croatians is Gene Rayburn (Jeljenich) (1917-1999) who was a comedian, announcer and television host. Before TV, Rayburn appeared on the daily radio program on New York’s WNEW. Daniel Antonovich with origins from Brac, was the fashion retailer in the garment center in the 70’s and 80’s.Gary Susnjara (1939-1993) was CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. 


Dr. Henry Suzzalo (Zucalo),(1873-1933) Born in San Jose, California had a long and distinguished career in education. He received degrees from Stanford and Columbia University, Ph.D. 1905. After a period as professor of elementary education and the philosophy of education, he assumed the presidency of the University of Washington in 1915 until 1926. During his tenure, he made Washington an important university, increasing enrollment, raising academic standards, and creating new programs. In 1927, he became chairman of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He served as president of the foundation from 1930 until his death in 1933. Suzzallo also served as an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, and was appointed to the War Labor Policy Board in 1918. He was concerned about Croatian immigrants throughout his life, and he never forgot hisDalmatian heritage. In his life and his work, Suzzallo promoted the democratic ideal. He believed in the great possibilities of American education and in its capacity to serve the individual searching for fulfillment. His books “Our Faith in Education” are examples of the commitment he always felt to the children of America. 


Janko Polic Kamov (1886-1910), a writer, he died very young at the age of 24. He was a distinguished representative of Croatian and European avant-garde literature. This little known and very original writer was discovered more than 70 years after his premature death. Some distinguished American literary theorists consider him the greatest literary discovery of the 1900’s in America. Polic-Kamov’s short story “Freedom” was published in the New York magazine “Grand Street” in 1996. He was also published in Boston, California and Spain, where he died.  


Bogdan Radica (1904-1993), born in Split. He had a long and productive career as a journalist, cultural and literary critic, diplomat and professor of modern European history at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, New Jersey. In October 1945 he received an exit visa for Bari, Italy. In ’46 he returned to New York where Reader’s Digest published his article “Yugoslavia’s Tragic Lesson to the World.” He wrote numerous articles on his conversion from a Yugoslav and pro-Communist to a convinced Croatian patriot and anti-Communist. He divided his time in retirement between living in New York City and at his estate near Florence, Italy.


Dr. Radovan Pavelic (1911-199?), born in Zagreb where he graduated in 1936 from University of Zagreb Medical School. He completed residency 1954-57 in New York specializing in Otolaryngology (Ear, nose, throat). Dr. Pavelic published 28 scientific articles in the field of otolaryngology. His son Radovan is a NYC lawyer.


Joseph Hitrec, a writer from Croatia. He came to America after years of wandering, mainly in India. In 1946, he published “Ruler’s Morning and Other Stories,” tales set in India. He has also published “Son of the Moon” (1948) and “Angel of Gaiety” (1951). He taught creative writing at the State University College in Buffalo, New York.  Hitrec reviews were published in the New York Times Book Review and the Saturday Review. He translated into English the writings of Ivo Andric, the winner of 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature. 


Julije Klovic or Giulio Clovio (1498-1578) as a painter, Klovic was the greatest European miniaturist of his time. He painted for the Roman Pope and for the Medici family in Florence. His portrait by El Greco was exhibited in 2003 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 84 St & Fifth Avenue. Klovic art can be seen at the Towneley Public Library and Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, which is in possession of “Officium Virginis.” Consisting of 228 pages, it’s his most famous and the best masterpiece, containing 30 valuable miniatures by his hand. His grave is situated near Michelangelo’s Moses in the church of Saint Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, and bears an inscription “Pictor de Croatia”. 


George Martin Skurla, (1921-2001) an engineer who graduated from University of Michigan, CEO of Grumman Aerospace on Long Island, directed assembly and pre-launch operations for NASA’s lunar modules, the first manned vehicles to reach the moon. His parents were Croatian. He was described as capable, charismatic and hard working. “He was demanding, yet caring,” says his son. “He was tough, but fair, strict, but forgiving.” 


Sanja Ivekovic (1949), born in Zagreb. Artist, painter exhibited internationally. Her art appears in the Museum of Modern Art at 53 St. off Fifth Avenue. Sanja also worked on her art project titled “Searching For My Mother’s Number”, a unique story of her mother, an Auschwitz survivor, where she spend the period from 1942-1945 with number 81969. “Letters to Auschwitz”, “Archive Findings”


Raymond Harding was born Branko?, in Zagreb. He was the former head of the Liberal Party in New York City.


Louis Zorich (1924), born in Chicago to Dalmatian parents. He is a character actor, who appeared in the “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971 and many other films.  With his wife, actress Olympia Dukakis, Zorich co-founded the “Whole Theater” in Montclair, New Jersey in 1972, maintaining it for 18 years before they close it and moved to California.


From the island of Manhattan, you can take a free ferry at the Staten Island Ferry at South Ferry Terminal. Commuters and tourists share some of the best views of the Southern tip of Manhattan while viewing the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Verrazano Bridge. Some people speculate whether Verrazano is Vranjican and along with Marco Polo of Croatian origin? Marco Polo (1254-1324) according to rumors was born on Korcula Island and moved on to become Venetian adventurer and explorer, meritorious for his explorations of China.


Every year Croatian runners participate in the New York City Marathon, a 27-mile run, making their way from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Tavern on the Green in Central Park. The most famous park in New York City provides 843 acres of greensward in the center of Manhattan. In 2003 there were 34,729 runners, 12,000 volunteers and thousands of city employees assisting. Runners were cheered on by more than 2 million spectators lining the streets of New York City’s five boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan.  The event is televised globally, all celebrating friendship, sport, and human potential.


Ellis Island Immigration Museum holds the Croatian folk and peasant outfits as well as computerized history of some Croatian families arriving in New York.   


Mate Angelich (1902-1999), born in Medici near Sinj, Croatia. Mate came to the US in the 1920’s. He along with other Croatians was part of construction crew building theGeorge Washington Bridge.  Mate strung the suspension cables 600 feet above the Hudson River. At age 97, he was probably the last surviving member of the bridge’s construction crew. He learned auto mechanics and become the owner of auto dealership and service stations. At age 65 Mate started new business, a nursery where he raised thousands of beautiful azaleas, and made his own wine. He also took a strong interest in cow breeding at the family farm in New Hampshire. He was an active member of the Croatian New York Club and assisted with the annual beach picnic. He was married for 60 years to Keti.


Anthony Jovic, (1962-9/11/2001) died at the World Trade Center, firefighter of Engine Co. 279 for 12 years in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A son of Croatian longshoreman who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. Jovic met his wife Cynthia when he was working at a butcher shop on Ninth Avenue and she, also a Croatian immigrant and longshoremen daughter, was working at a deli nearby. Anthony’s burned and mangled shield turned up in the south tower, but no remains have been


Dr. Maria Kolak (1932) born in Brooklyn to Croatian parents. She is a Pediatrician in private practice in Forest Hills. She received her education in Zagreb and New York. Dr. Kolak is an employee for the City of New York, Health Department. Dr. Kolak was among the first doctors on the scene at the World Trade Center after 9/11/2001. She alerted the rescuers to wear the masks, gloves and overall protection during their rescue mission. 


Igor Kordey, comic book artist. He is a Croatian who immigrated to Canada. He witnessed the war and terrorism in former Yugoslavia during the 1990’s. He draws Cable, a Marvel comic about a hero who fights terrorists in Peru and intervenes in wars in former Y. After Sept. 11, 2001 Kordey persuaded the Marvel editors not to delete a Cable scene in which terrorists drive a truck bomb into a building in Lima.  “You are not supposed to pretend they don’t exist,” said Kordey.


Slavenka Drakulic (1949), an award-winning writer born in Croatia. “S. –A Novel About the Balkans”, “Café Europa-Life after Communism”, “How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed”, “Balkan Express: Fragments From the Other Side of War”, “Deadly Sins of Feminism”, fiction “Holograms of Fear”, “Marble Skin”, “The Taste of a Man.” Her books have been published in 13 countries and translated into twelve languages. Visited New York many times to receive a Fulbright Fellowship for writers, attend conferences, give presentations, sign up with the New York publisher and do book signing. “Slavenka is a journalist and writer whose voice belongs to the world.” –Gloria Steinem. “Slavenka is a writer of great sensitivity, intelligence, and grace.” –Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winner.


Dr. Ivo Banac (1947) born in Dubrovnik. Immigrated to USA in 1957 with his mother where they joined Banac’s father, a ship captain, who had emigrated from Yugoslavia 11 years earlier. An excellent student, Banac completed graduate studies at Stanford University in 1971. Four years later, he successfully defended a doctoral thesis entitled “National problem at the time of the formation of Yugoslavia”. Since 1977 he has been teaching history at Yale University in New Heaven, Connecticut. Banac has been tenured professor since 1988, and from 1988-1995 he was the dean of the Pearson College at Yale. Banac has written several well-received books. In 2003, Banac was appointed Minister of the Environment in Croatia. 


The earliest known sporting event in Croatia is from the 18th century (1764).  Since then Croatians have excelled in sports.


Many Croatian tennis players have participated at the US Open tennis tournaments in New York. First was Nikola Pilic (1939) born in Split - 1970 US Open Men’s Doubles Champion. After spending years working in Germany, Pilic now serves as the Captain of the Croatian Davis Cup. Pilic’s success was followed by Iva Majoli (1977) born in Zagreb, 1997 French Open Champion , Goran Ivanisevic (1971), born in Split, was the 2001 Wimbledon , Silvija Talaja, Goran Prpic, Jelena Kostanic, Mario Ancic, Sanja Ancic, Ivan Ljubicic, Mirjana Lucic-1998 Australian Doubles Tournament Champion, Ivo Karlovic, Nada Pavic, Roko Karanusic and others who played successfully at the US Open tennis tournaments for many years.Zeljko Franulovic (1947) born in Split, was famous player in ‘70s and later became the vice-president of the ATP and tournament director in Europe.


Madison Square Garden hosted Croatians including basketball players such as Toni Kukoc (1968), from Split, Europe’s biggest name in the NBA, selected by the Chicago Bulls in 1990, member of silver-medal winning Croatia Olympic Team in 1992. Dino Radja played forward, height 6’11”, NBA from ‘94-97 for Boston Celtics, a member of the Croatian Olympic team. Kresimir Cosic (1948-1995), was a professional basketball player. He was the first foreign player to earn All-American honors by United Press International in 1972 and 1973. He played for Brigham Young University from ’71-73. Cosic took part in four Olympic Games in 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980. Sandra Bezic, her family is originally from Solta near Split. They immigrated to Canada. Bezic is a world-renowned choreographer, commentator, ice skating coach, competitor, TV announcer and author of the book “The Passion to Skate: An Intimate View of Figure Skating”.


Drazen Petrovic (1964–1993), born in Sibenik and grew up in Split. “Petro” played with Nets until his tragic death in a car accident. Petrovic was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002. In his honor, every year a Croatian student receives a scholarship paid by  A memorial for Petrovic drew hundreds, including MikeCelizic who writes regularly for and is a freelance writer based in New York. He wrote the “Courage: True Stories of American Sports Heroes”, “The Biggest Game of Them All: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the Fall of ‘66”, “Moments of Truth.” 


Among the most popular sports is soccer. The first international soccer match was held in 1907. The soccer clubHajduk from Split who has visited New York and played in a friendly game against local amateur group “Croatia New York”. Outside of Croatia, in Europe, Americas and Australia, there are over 100 soccer clubs bearing the name Croatia.


Mario Preskar, (1984) boxer from Zagreb. 19 years old was 7-time Croatian amateur boxing Champion and second in Europe as an amateur Heavyweight at the age of 17. His fight in Atlantic City during 2003 was cancelled.


Irena Peharda, West Point Cadet graduate who also completed the Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia. As a paratrooper she received a pin, which is a parachute with wings. Twenty-year old Irena decided on her own to go through arduous airborne training, the same that the elite U.S. commandos known as the Green Berets also receive.


Dario Solman (1973), an artist. He was the first Croatian participant of the P.S.1.’s International Studio Program in Queens. Prior to his residency at P.S.1, Solman has completed graduate studies in arts at the Ohio State University. He has exhibited widely and has taught at the Arts Academy in Split. Solman received support from Mercy Bona Pavelic and many others. His web site  


Among most successful business people during the present time is chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. Lidia was born in 1947 in the village near Pula, Istria. She learned how to cook from her mother and grandmother and took her Istrian skills all the way to America. Lidia is now restaurant owner of Felidia on East 58 Street, cookbook author of four books and fantastically popular 52 part public television series PBS-TV chef. She prefers to market her business as Italian and considers her family ethnic Italian, but also speaks fluent Croatian. Lidia is a long time member of the “Istrian Club,” a not-for-profit group in New York who assist Istrians in Croatia. From her childhood in Istria, Lidia recalls trips to the market, harvesting olives for olive oil, collecting mussels and clams at the seashore and sleeping under the stars on a mattress filled with dry cornhusks on summer nights. Lidia remembers going with her grandmother to the communal mill to grind the wheat into flour for pasta and bread. This “from the earth” understanding and respect for food has given her a definite style as a cook. 

Nada Brnic, owner of the restaurant Terrace in the Sky at 400 West 119 St. Born on Rab, Nada along with her husband Nereo Valencic bought and renovated several hotels on the island

Ivanac family from Brela, are owners of Villa Berulia, 107 East 34 St, and Trio Restaurants, 167 E 33 St.  Ivanac family, who have owned and operated Villa Berulia since 1981, import home-grown products, culled from their private estate on the Dalmatian coast, including grappas, extra virgin oil, cured meats and cheeses. They also serve Croatian wine such as Dingac from Peljesac, Frankovka Grasevina Riesling and Vrbnicka Zlahtina from Slavonia, Katunar Zlahtina from Krk.www.triorestaurant

Among Croatians writers, writing mostly in English is award-winning author Josip Novakovich. As in his previous books, Novakovich continues to write universal stories about growing up in Croatia. “When I am in Croatia, I feel American. Of course, in America I feel Croatian. I am hyphenated between two cultures, and I will never integrate the two, but will suffer always from multicultural schizophrenia, or rather, bicultural psychosis.” After his first visit to America, he writes, “You can leave another country to go to the States, but once you get into the States, the States get into you, and there’s hardly any way of leaving. Even if you do, you carry America with you!” His publications include three collections of stories, “Apricots from Chernobyl” (1955), “Yolk” (1995), and “Salvation and Other Disasters” (1998). He has also written two books on the art of writing and co-edited “Stories in the Stepmother Tongue” (2000), a book of stories written in English by immigrant writers in the United States.

Tomislav Novakovic, a filmmaker and screenwriter, a graduate from Columbia University,  who produced “Are They Still Shooting” in New York using many Croatians as main actors.

Igor Sunara, (1945) born in Varazdin. He is a filmmaker, visual arts designer and photographer. Produced music videos and completed television and documentary work. He teaches cinematography. In 1996 organized a movie festival of ten well-known classic features from Croatia and fifteen famous cartoons from the Zagreb School of Animation. 

Arsen Ostojic, film director and producer of short film “The Bird Lover” and “The Model” shot in New York. Has production company Cronus Films, Inc. 

Boris Mardesic (193?), a painter born on Vis. He had numerous solo exhibits in Europe and in NYC with a long time studio in Astoria. Returned to Croatia since and lives in Pula. 

Ivo Skoric (1964), born in Bonn, Germany. A freelance journalist, he wrote his own unpublished story. Skoric produced numerous articles and interviews including one with Krist Novoselic, a musician. As a student activist, Ivo worked on Radio 101 in Zagreb as a commentator. Moved to US in 1990 where he worked on Hrvatski Monitor radio program and supported himself as a lifeguard, licensed personal trainer, snowboard instructor and Webmaster. Along with his wife Indira Kajosevic, Ivo is a co-director of Raccoon a not-for-profit organization assisting people from former Yugoslavia. Raccoon’s financial donor is The New York Foundation, among others.  

Denis Licul (1959), born in Labin, Istria. She was educated in Zagreb and Rijeka. Artist specializing in ceramics, exhibited in Italy, Egypt, US and Croatia. Licul works in Croatian Consulate in New York.

Karlo Mirth (1917), born in Otocac, Lika. A librarian and publisher, he received a Master’s degree in engineering in 1942 in Zagreb. In May 1945 he managed to reach Italy with thousands of other refugees. He studied journalism in Rome until 1947 where he started to publish Croatia Press. He moved to Madrid, Spain until 1951. In 1962 he obtained his M.S. in Library Science at Columbia University. Mirth is active in Croatian Academy of America, Inc. Its Journal published since 1960 is a scholarly publication dedicated to the Croatian history &

Karina Longin (1982), a professional model from Zadar. She carried her first collection at 13. Karina’s second home is in New York City.

Nenad Bach, a recording artist, composer and performer. Born in Zagreb, Nenad arrived in US in 1984.  An activist in Croatian community, founder of   

The Croatian community of New York has hosted many Croatian artists such as Tereza Kesovija  Mate Miso Kovac, Doris Dragovic, Thompson Marko Perkovic, Vera Svoboda, Kico Krunoslav Slabinac, Ivanka Luetic, Oliver Dragojevic, Josipa Lisac, Vice Vukov, Arsen Dedic, Marko Novosel, Matko Jelavic, Vinko Coce, Zdravko Skender, Zlatko Pejakovic, Duka Caic, Tomislav Ivcic, Dani Marsan, Drazen Zanko, Zlatni Dukati, Milo Hrnic, “Dubrovacki Trubadori” the group “Prljavo Kazaliste,” “Magazin”, Zeljko Bebek (the ex-frontman of Bijelo Dugme), group “Zabranjeno Pusenje”; Folklore group “Lado”, girls choir “Zvjezdice”  and many others.

The chief at the Croatian National Tourist Office is Nena Komarica. The office is located in the Empire State Building at 350 Fifth Avenue located on 40th floor overlooking the magnificent Manhattan

Croatians in New York continue to thrive in every field imaginable. Several are owners of restaurants, most of them marketing as Italian. A section of Queens, called Astoria is still the place where Croatians are able to find affordable housing and good homemade cooking in clubs such as Rudar Soccer Club and Istrian Sports Club. There are several café’s, bars, travel agencies, construction companies, butcher shop selling Croatian products and a church Most Precious Blood serving approximately 1,000 Croats and teaching Croatian language to the new generation. Media is covered by  , three weekly radio stations, and a newspaper The Croatian in English & Croatian “novine za Americke Hrvate” run by Vjekoslav Krsnik from Split. There are church newsletters including “Korijen”, brand new Croatian Chronicle and “Sutra Croatian Magazine” by Josip Remenar. The Croatian-American Chamber of Commerce can be reached at tel. (718) 937-4040; there are have numerous not-for-profit groups operating, as well as a cultural group Croatian Association Napredak (718) 353-0069 and “Klapa Astorija,” a Capella singing group performing since 1993 consisting of 11 members. Thanks to the efforts of Sanja Crnkovic, the Public Library has Croatian Pages , go to “WorldLinQ” and than click “Croatian”.

On the other side of Manhattan, across the Hudson River, Croatians are scattered all over New Jersey. In Fairview, Father Giordano Belanich serves Croatians as part of the St. John the Baptist’s Church. With tremendous storage space available, Father Belanich has for many years collected and shipped items to Croatia to assist most 

Croatian Land at Boonton, New Jersey belongs to the Sts. Cyril & Methodius from Manhattan. More then 100 acres of land is available to the parishioners to celebrate summer mass in the open, play soccer and enjoy picnics. Barbecue of lamb and popular music with dances draws large crowds.  

Lucic  Download basic Croatian Language for travelers or see Croatian Cuisine and  download Croatian  Property in

Info about  Photos of

Thanks to authors Adam Eterovich, George Prpic “Croatia and the Croatians,” Professor Edward Ifkovic, for his contribution in researching the history of Croatians in America. Also to Darko  , Dr. Branko Franolic, Anthony W. Rasporich, , Matica , Marija Barbieri, and many others.

Submitted by: Katarina Tepesh

Updated 1/26/2004

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Damir)

    How did Ivo Skoric make this list?
  • Comment #2 (Posted by Rosemarie Rubinic Turner)

    I had stumbled upon this "tour" which is really a Hall of Fame of Croatian Americans. I am proud to know of their existence & their accomplishments. Our progeny should be enlightened of our achievements. I have only now at 51 years of age become aware of these distinguihed,fellow Croatain Americans and I am glad to be in their company,from writers,engineers,musicans,artists,to longshoreman and firefighters. Here I am an Croatian-American Architect. Thank you again for making me proud to be amongst you.
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