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Martin Kotarski Croatian pupil winner of prestigious humanitarian award in Japan
By Prof.Dr. Darko Zubrinic | Published  12/20/2008 | People , Ideas , Education , Croatian Cuisine , Charity | Unrated
Award by the Goi Peace Foundation in Japan, part 1

Martin Kotarski with his new friends in Japan.

Martin Kotarski (age 13, Croatia), winner of the Goi Peace Foundation prize in the children category, with Valeria Cortez Vaca Díez (on the right, age 17, Bolivia) winner in the youth category.


Ksaver Šandor Gjalski Primary School bears name after a famous Croatian writer. The school has a 170 years old tradition. Its beginning goes all the way back, to the year of 1838 and a small room in the rectory. Since then, it has grown into a school counting 798 students in 37 classes, over 60 teachers, four counsels and 20 members of the staff with Mr. Tomislav Polanović as the Principal.

Our students have participated in various projects over the years. They study hard and compete in the areas of the Croatian, English and German language respectively, Maths, Biology and numerous team sport tournamets. They are excellent performers in terms of acting, singing, playing musical instruments and dancing. Their skills have been essential for all the environmental and humanitarian projects.

Our school is an Eco-school which means that we entered an international programme for environmental education for sustainability. We have tried to raise consciousness about recycling and reusing as the means of respecting and rejuvinating natural resources.

Our humanitarian projects included:

Charity concerts Give Me a Hand and Seventh Heaven  organized so that all the four graders and seven graders can benefit from their field trips. The performers were children themselves, Adam Končić, famous Croatian actor and Nautilus, local rock group, who helped us achieve our financial goals.

Autumn fair called The Golden Autumn of Zabok is held every year.

Our students make cards, pictures,  jewellry and other pieces of art and sell them so that they can visit attractive tourist destinations in Croatia they learn about in History or Geography. Most children spend some time with their mothers and grandmothers preparing traditional food, honey, vinegar, jams and so on for the fair.

In May our students bring and sell daffodils to participate in the perpetual struggle against cancer. We try to raise some money for cancer ward in our local hospital.

Our young "journalists"  are part of releasing school newspapers The Breeze (Lahor) which contains poems, short stories, articles, projects etc. edited by Nevenka Miškulin and Branka Vrbanec. The whole school  is engaged in selling the newspapers.

For three years in the row, unprivileged children spent some time at the Adriatic sea due to the help of Red Cross and Town Hall under supervision of our school counsel, Ružica Kotarski [Martin's mother; D.Ž.].
Two years ago, class 6th D and I made an exhibition out of a 1,000 paper cranes flying above the school library door in order to stress the importance of friendship and zero tolerance towards violence. We wanted to make it clear that we have to pace our daily rhythm full of anxiety and fear and realise that the possibility of change lies within each and every one of us.

The highlight of our humanitary work is, of course, project known as Cookbook from Zabok. Martin Kotarski, a student of the 7th grade, had come up  with an idea of publishing a cookbook with the traditional dishes of Zabok and Hrvatsko zagorje. He proposed that the amount collected by sale should be used for the poor and elderly people of Zabok. His idea reached the requirements of the competition issued by the  National Foundation for Civil Society Development. They gave the school 10,000 kuna to realize the project.

So the students did field work collecting the recipes, teachers prepared and photographed the dishes, Mrs. Kotarski, Mrs. Vrbanec and Mrs. Miškulin edited texts making sure that they will preserve the local dialect. With the help of town publishing company it was released on May 30 and presented to the public. Town Hall bought 300 copies out of 758 sold cookbooks in total. We raised 13,740  kuna. Red Cross made a survey and used the whole amount to help 22 families and lonesome elderly people in need.

As you can see, our students and the whole teaching staff  have been very active over the years in terms of passing on the prayer of peace. We may be half way there, but we are on the right track.

By Natalija Jurišić, Zabok, Croatia

Martin with Natalija Jurišić, his prof., in Japan.

Sightseeing tour in Tokyo.

Things to be remembered from Japan.

And Martin with Bill Gates. Or Bill Gates with Martin? His Excellency dr. Drago Štambuk, Croatian ambassador in Japan, modestly behind both of them.

Let's have a closer look. Yes, the gift for Bill Gates is from Croatia.


I was born on  September 3, 1994 in Zagreb. I live in Zabok with my mother Ružica, father Stjepan and two younger brothers Vinko and Vid. I am a student of  the 8th grade of  Ksaver Šandor Gjalski Primary School in Zabok and I finished Primary Music School in class Piano. Now, I am learning to play "tamburica", a Croatian traditional folk music instrument.

In the 1st class  I joined the  Puppetry group led by  Anica Ladišić and Ljiljana Mokrovčak and I participated in three district competitions with puppet-shows Winter is Coming, Fortunately, unfortunately and My Bike. In the 4th grade I took part in the district competition of Maths. In  the 5th and 6th grade I engaged in the State Festival of Puppetry Groups in Slatina. 

Under the tutorial of Nevenka Miškulin I performed a monologue: Joined by Cookbook. He didn't scold me about our local writer Ksaver Šandor Gjalski. I wrote many poems and a poem A Stream  was recommended for the State Festival. I participated in  Novigrad Spring, the school for
talented children three years in a row. 

As a  student of  Music School  I regularly played at productions, school and town manifestations.

I am the member of the Children City Hall where we discuss problems of children. Now I am playing in a local soccer club and since the 5th grade as a member of my school. Last year, my idea about humanity work finally took shape in the form of  a school project "Cookbook from Zabok".

I am interested in  many things and I love to be involved in many activities. I am specialy interested in scene expression. I like many types of media, especially the Internet. I am a big fan of  football club Dinamo Zagreb and football is one of my biggest loves. I love to spend my time on the computer, with my friends, riding a bike, playing computer games, listening to music and so on. After all, I'm only a 14-years old teenager.

By Martin Kotarski, Zabok, Croatia

And yet another detail to be remembered. Martin's name available also in Japanese.

Please, go to the next page below.


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