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(E) Croations in Palm Beach County maintain ties to homeland
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  10/11/2002 | Media Watch | Unrated
(E) Croations in Palm Beach County maintain ties to homeland


Croations in Palm Beach County maintain ties to homeland



Someone please let them learn how to spell, with a gratitude of the publishedarticle,


Croations in Palm Beach County maintain ties to homeland
By Christine Davis 
Special Correspondent 
Posted September 6 2002 

When Maryann Matesic, 48, of Boca Raton left her small village of Labin, Croatia, she was only 16, hadn't finished high school and had no prospects for a bright future.

"My parents were poor. We lived on a farm. We had six cows and 50 chickens," Matesic said. "We worked, my father and I, from 5 to 7 in the morning. Then I cleaned up to go to school. When I came home, I made dinner. I had been doing that from the time I was 9."

But Matesic had "a bigger picture" for her life, as she put it.

Without telling her parents, Joseph and Angela Skopac, Matesic contacted her uncle Mario Zuppicc in Astoria, N.Y., and asked for a ticket to the United States.

Now, years later, Maryann, 48, and her husband, Sam, 55, are the owners of MaryAnn's Wallpaper and Window Boutique in Delray Beach.

Maryann runs the store, Sam paints and hangs wallpaper.

They've made a good life for themselves here, but they miss their families and friends and the country of their birth, one of five republics in the former Yugoslavia.

For the past eight years, the Matesics have gone back to visit a new Croatia, independent since 1991 but still recovering from fierce ethnic fighting with neighboring Serbians. A United Nations member since 1992, in May, the country applied to become a member of NATO.

The Matesics spent July in Croatia, celebrating two major family occasions -- Maryann's father turned 80 and her parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

"I thought I'd give my parents a second wedding party,'' Matesic said. "I never thought I'd see them married for 50 years."

She wanted a family reunion and called her mother's sister to help arrange the party. "I hadn't seen my aunts, uncles and cousins for years," she said.

More than 50 guests attended a big dinner at a local restaurant.

Matesic cries when she thinks of home.

"I find it peaceful there. People are struggling, but they are working," she said.

"They watch what they buy and they are doing beautifully.

"Maybe their goals aren't as big. They don't have to have a house like the Joneses next door. They wear the same dress for a couple of years. It's not torn or dirty. You do what you have to do."

Croatia has seen its share of hard times, but it's better now, Matesic said.

"People aren't anxious to leave. Today, it's a happy world. You see Serbian [license] plates. They are coming back slowly and people are trying to get along."

Matesic met her husband at a Croatian social club when she was 18. They married, settled in Long Island, N.Y., and had two sons. Dean is 29 and Dennis is 22. The Matesic family moved to Boca Raton 12 years ago.

Sam's family is from Diklo, near Zadar, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. He was 21 when he left home. "At that time, I wanted a better life,'' Sam said.
He wound up in a Rome immigration camp waiting for his papers before finally making it to America. He had one friend in Astoria. "For a while, I wanted to go home, but I decided to stay," he said.

Going back to her native country gives Maryann "goose bumps."

"When I walk through the streets, I think I'm part of history. Every day I am amazed," she said. "I will see an old house, an old lady in the vegetable market selling her goods just to make a couple of dollars to pay for her medicine."

She likes to spend her days in Croatia sightseeing, window shopping, and visiting old churches.

"One day, I would like to go back to planting vegetables because you can't get it out of your head what you did when you were young."

The Matesics are active in the American-Croatian Club in Hallandale. "I want my kids to understand our culture," she said.

They are thankful to their adopted homeland, but their roots are in Croatia. Someday, they hope to spend part of each year in Zadar. They both call it a magical town.

"I want to go back and fish all day," Sam said.

"Life gives you courage," Maryann said. "You just have to know how to use it." 

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel 

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