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 »  Home  »  History  »  Croatian Woman celebrating 80 years of existence in Chicago 2009
Croatian Woman celebrating 80 years of existence in Chicago 2009
By Prof.Dr. Darko Zubrinic | Published  02/26/2009 | History | Unrated
A History of Croatian Woman Branch # 1 in Chicago 1929-2009



 
Hrvatska žena, Ogranak 1 u Chicagu osnovan je 27. siječnja 1929. Ostalih 18 ogranaka osnovano je diljem Sjedinjenih Država podupirući crkve, škole, karitativne i kulturne programe, kao i američku vojsku tijekom Drugoga svjetskog rata. Među
utemeljiteljima su Agate Đurak, Klara Škvorc, Vilma Strunjak, Barbara Balija, Rozalija (Kovačević) Kirin, Rozalija (Sedar) Vuksanović, Frances Frkonja, Mary Karačić, Borislav Absac, Ruža Cesar i Magdalena Guldenpfeng.

 
Hrvatska Žena (Croatian Woman), Branch 1 of Chicago founded on January 27, 1929. Another 18 branches were founded throughout the United
States supporting churches, schools, charities and cultural programs as well as the American military during World War II. Among the founders were Agate Đurak, Klara Škvorc, Vilma Strunjak, Barbara Balija, Rozalija (Kovačević) Kirin, Rozalija (Sedar) Vuksanović, Frances Frkonja, Mary Karačić, Borislav Absac, Ruža Cesar and Magdalena Guldenpfeng.





 
Naslovnica hrvatskog dvomjesečnika Hrvatica
osnovanog u Chicagu u 1977. Pokretačke snage u osnivanju bile su Nada Hintermajer. Editi i podupiratelji bili su Zlata Ivezić, Danica Glavaš, Ljiljana Zakarija, Lucija Jukić, Ikica Rosandić-Čuvalo, Mercedes Škegro, Zdravka Bušić, Ivanka Kuzmanović, Marijana Jelača, Vinka Pović, Lilian Simons, Marija Sopta, Olga Ladika-Dizdar i druge.

 
The cover of the Croatian bimonthly magazine Hrvatica (Croatian Woman) founded in Chicago in 1977. The moving force in its founding was Nada Hintermajer. Editors and contributors were Zlata Ivezić, Danica Glavaš, Ljiljana Zakarija, Lucija Jukić, Ikica Rosandić-Čuvalo, Mercedes Škegro, Zdravka Bušić, Ivanka Kuzmanović, Marijana Jelača, Vinka Pović, Lilian Simons, Marija Sopta, Olga Ladika-Dizdar and others.

Source: Vladimir Novak


Its Origin in the Homeland

"Croatian Woman" was founded in 1921, in Zagreb, with a simple mission: Help Croatians who are in need and less fortunate. Its roots are directly tied to a movement that began in the Middle Ages but strengthened in the 19th Century, a movement toward goodwill and Christian charity. Croatia, much like the rest of the Western World, had a multitude of brotherhoods, fraternities, and Roman Catholic organizations focused on philanthropy and altruism spread throughout the country. After the First World War and the creation of Yugoslavia, many of the existing and newly founded organizations began to take on Croatian-nation-oriented agendas in a direct response to the installment of the pro Serbian government and its attempt to erase the national identity of the Croatian people. Similarly, women involved in Stjepan Radic's political party founded "Croatian Heart" with the same goals in mind: Helping Croatians who were less fortunate while also preserving Croatian Catholic culture. In fact, "Croatian Heart" was the predecessor to the organization "Croatian Woman," which was founded by Maria Kumicic. The first president to be chosen was Zora pl. Trnski, and her vice presidents were Ivka barunica Ozegovic and Maria Kumicic. Being the wives of famous writers and political figures in Croatia, these women's distinguished last names already displayed the legitimacy of the organization and its ability to influence the community. Another display of the organization's legitimacy was its instant proliferation throughout the country: Petrinje (July 1921), Osijek (July 1921), Pozega (July 1921), Karlovac (September 1921), followed in 1922 by Jastrebarsko, Sisak, Daruvar, Gospic, Vukovar, and many other cities.



From the start "Croatian Woman," as an organization, was strongly built with a foundation based on clearly set goals in the cultural and humanitarian fields. Their goodwill was deeply imbedded, far-reaching, and felt by many throughout the world wherever Croatians live and people are in need. Their work is best exemplified and stated in the beginning of the organization's bylaws, which were written by Slava Furst and Julka Patriarch, and which were chartered on May 21, 1921. The bylaws state: "The goal of the organization is to cultivate a social standard among Croatian women, which is conducive to the promotion of social, public, economic, moral and humanitarian health in both national and feminist fields." In order to achieve this, the women divided the goals into separate categories and designated four separate branches: cultural, feminist, humanitarian, and social. Josipa Glembay wrote this song to illustrate their goals in Osijek in 1922.

Live work and suffer for your country

For Croatian unity is our only hope

The day is near when we will rejoice

Sing proudly in one voice:

"Condemn evil, cherish freedom -

This is the motto of Croatian women."

Their unconditional love for their people led them into many fields which brought them into conflict with the authorities. In the early 1920s, during the Serbian monarchy, the organization was banned because of "nationalistic and separatist activities." Because of their participation in the celebration of the famous Croatian activists Dr. Ante Starcevic and Stjepan Radic, where over one thousand people gathered, the state prohibited the existence of "Croatian Woman" on June 12, 1922. In nearly the same week "Croatian Woman" in the city of Karlovac suffered the same fate. The prohibitions, however, were short lived. Even though the organization was punished and prohibited because of their love for their people and their country, they continued their work with a strong determination. Despite all of their hard work, the N.D.H. shut down all existing offices of "Croatian Woman" on May 5, 1943. Twenty two years of humanitarian, cultural, and patriotic work, which began on Patacickinova Street, would cease to exist.

"Croatian Woman" in America

Only a few years after the foundation of "Croatian Woman" in Zagreb, its first branch would open in Chicago. It was the original idea of Agata Durak and her daughter Vilma Strunjak to start a woman's organization in Chicago's Croatian community. She brought this idea to the attention of Dominican Father Innocent Bojanic at Holy Trinity Croatian Parish in Chicago. With his support, "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1 - Chicago" was founded on January 27, 1929. Soon the first meeting was called to order, with the following women present: Klara Skvorc (first president), Barbara Balija, Rosalija Kovacevic Kirin, Rosalija Sedar Vuksanovic, Frances Frkonja, Mary Karacic, Borislava Absac, Ruza Cesar and Magdalena Guldenpfening. From the beginning, the women decided that their main goals would be to help people on both the cultural and humanitarian levels while also displaying Croatian culture to the American people. Immediately, the group was active in creating exhibits throughout the greater Chicagoland area. The state of Illinois recognized the importance of the organization and granted them a legal charter within the year. Almost instantly twenty six other branches registered throughout the country.



During the Thirties and Forties, when war engulfed the entire world, "Croatian Woman" did all they could to help. In America and abroad, they worked with the Red Cross and local hospitals, sending packages to soldiers and medical aid to the wounded. They donated time and money to help their homeland, Croatia, and everyone who was suffering and in pain. After the war, when Croatian refugees were scattered all over Europe and South America, "Croatian Woman" did their best to accommodate their needs.

After the misfortunes of the war subsided, the organization returned to one of their original goals - promoting Croatian culture in America. In the Midwest, the organization showed great support for Duquesne University, one of the first universities to offer the Croatian language, Croatian folklore and Croatian music as part of their curriculum. Through this, "Croatian Woman" was able to help educate a new generation of Croatians born in America, who needed to combine the knowledge of two cultures. It was their goal to teach their children to be proud both of the United States of America and their Croatian heritage.

Even in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, when the homeland was isolated by the Iron Curtain of Communism, "Croatian Woman" found ways to send food, medicine and financial aid to the countless victims of flooding and earthquakes. Meanwhile, Croatian Catholic missionaries worked hard, combating misery and poverty, to spread the Christian Faith and love. "Croatian Woman" does all it can to support these missionaries and churches.

Activism Over the Last Fifteen Years

Over the last fifteen years "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1" has been highly active in Chicago's Croatian community. This not-for-profit organization's social, humanitarian, cultural and educational services to this community are magnificent to say the least. It would be impossible to list everything that they have done for Croatia and its Chicago community, so we will attempt to share only a small portion with you.

In 1988, "Croatian Woman" helped Croatian writers and activists in Croatia and all over the world. Their aid toward humanitarian groups and their leaders is only a continuation of their traditional work since their foundation in 1921. Even when Communism's grasp of the country was the strongest, the organization helped countless independent film producers and artists spread the truth about the Croatian tragedy in Yugoslavia. During this time they also helped Croatian prisoners in America and elsewhere with letters, petitions, and legal counsel.

In 1989, the organization celebrated its 60th anniversary and was honored to receive Dr. Ruzica Cavar from Croatia as the keynote speaker at their annual banquet. Dr. Cavar was a human rights activist with a background in medicine. Her speech directly challenged the women of Chicago to get more involved in the democratic process here and abroad. As a result, the organization expanded from one hundred to over two hundred members in the Chicagoland area. The year 1989 also marked the beginning of Croatia's decision to secede from Yugoslavia. "Croatian Woman" was actively involved in materializing the age-old dream of a free Croatia. From the beginning, the organization raised funds to help Franjo Tudjman, the future president of Croatia, and other political activists despite knowledge that these figures were blacklisted by the Yugoslav government, which made any association life threatening.

In 1990, the organization strengthened its ties to the Croatian government and its Catholic Church on the road to freedom, independence, and a brighter future. While doing so, "Croatian Woman" never forgot about its obligations to the poor and sick. An example of this was when the organization gathered funds to help a group of blind children who needed expensive surgeries to see again. That summer the president of "Croatian Woman" in Chicago, Zlata Ivezic; secretary Milica Trutin; and treasurer Nevenka Jurkovic traveled to Zagreb to help set up the revival of "Croatian Woman" in its homeland. After forty-three years of absence due to its prohibition in 1943, the organization made its triumphant return to Zagreb with the establishment of its startup committee.

In the fall of that same year "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1 - Chicago" hosted its first annual fashion show. The proceeds were immediately sent to Croatia. In October the president, Zlata Ivezic, traveled to Croatia to attend the first ever Assembly of Croatian Women in Zagreb. The trip was made special when Zlata Ivezic donated $2,000.00 in the name of "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1 - Chicago" and returned the original flag and coat of arms, two historical artifacts which had been guarded in Chicago for over sixty years.

In the same year, the organization sent financial help to coal miners in Tuzla, and the Catholic charity Karitas in Zagreb. This is also the year when the board, together with all of its members, gathered to revise and create a new set of goals to take "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1 - Chicago" into the future. This is a simplified version of their vision:

• Gathering of humanitarian aid and preparing containers (40×10 feet) to be sent to Croatia.

• Creating pamphlets, petitions, literature etc. for promotion of Croatian causes.

• Organizing prayer services and vigils in the name of world peace.

• Collecting donations.

• Creating fund-raisers.

• Organizing an annual fashion show.

• Organizing bake sales.

• Selling olive branches as a sign of peace.

In the spring of 1991, when Croatia was in the midst of the political, economic and regional crisis, the organization sent their first shipment of humanitarian aid, which would one day amount to over one hundred containers equaling more than $10 million in value.

During the same year, when everyone donated to the Croatian National Fund, "Croatian Woman" led the way by donating $15,000.00. They also sent $5,000.00 for medicinal needs and $10,000.00 to wounded soldiers in the escalating war.

As stated before, their activities were not only humanitarian. "Croatian Woman" also participated in, and organized many rallies and demonstrations in attempts to help win the battle for Croatia's recognition. It is also important to acknowledge the local parishes and churches for their help and public approval and support during this time.

In 1992, Nevenka Jurkovic became president of "Croatian Woman, Branch No. 1 - Chicago." Obligations and activities would also multiply due to the ever growing need for assistance in wartime Croatia. The organization helped Prof. P. Cohen published his book about the tragedies that had befallen the Jews in Serbia. They also purchased medical equipment and donated money to wounded soldiers and other victims of the war. Because of the growing need for financial aid, "Croatian Woman" found itself organizing at least one fund raiser/banquet per month. In March of 1992, proceeds went to Croatian war invalids. In April, proceeds went to Croatian orphanages throughout the country. Later, recognizing the hardships caused by the Serbian military in eastern Slavonia, the organization sent $4,500.00 to the besieged city of Osijek. At the end of the year, "Croatian Woman" co organized an event hosting as an honored guest the esteemed U.S. Senator Al D'Amato, at the Croatian Cultural Center in Chicago.

In 1993, information was released that the first Croatian embassy would open on American soil and the organization did their part to help fund it. In March, after receiving the horrendous news of massive destruction in the area of Karlovac, "Croatian Woman" donated $10,000 to its hospital. In June, a banquet for rape victims of war was organized with Jadranka Cigelj, herself a victim of the Serbian-run concentration camps. She was the main guest speaker. In the same month, president Nevenka Jurkovic and vice president Marica Tomacic traveled to Zagreb to attend the first "Croatian Congress of Croatian Woman" in Zagreb, while members at home conducted a simultaneous prayer vigil. This would prove to be the definitive moment in the revival of "Croatian Woman" as an international organization with its roots finally replanted in Croatian soil.

In a time when history seems to be written and choreographed by the media, members of "Croatian Woman", knowing the importance of information, sent letters, factual documents, and financial donations to the Croatian Information Center in Zagreb.

In November they organized the arrival of the Croatian National Theatre, famous for their theatrical performances all over Europe. The organization also invited and brought to Chicago Kata Soljic, a mother who lost four sons to the war, as a guest speaker.

1994 would prove to be a very special year. Beginning with its anniversary on February 5, "Croatian Woman, Br. No. 1 Chicago" celebrated an astounding 65 years of existence. This special day began at the Croatian Ethnic Institute at 4851 S. Drexel Blvd., followed by Holy Mass at St. Jerome's Church in Bridgeport. The celebration ended at St. Jerome's banquet hall, where everyone was honored by the presence of these highly esteemed guests:

Dragica Pandek, President, "Croatian Woman, Zagreb"

Mario Nobilo, Croatian Ambassador, United Nations, N.Y.

Gordana Turic, Croatian Parliament representative, Zagreb

Anthony Petrusic, President, Croatian Catholic Union for the U.S. and Canada

Anthony Beric, President, Amcro, New York

Snjezana Franetovic "Croatian Woman, Branch #32 - Detroit"

Pola Maydak "Croatian Woman Branch #3 - Milwaukee"

Jasminka Corluka "Croatian Woman - Montreal"

Brother Regis and Sister Dora of the Salvatorian Mission House, New Holstein, Wisconsin

At this same event, "Croatian Woman, Br. #1 - Chicago" published and released its 65th Anniversary edition, which contained local advertisements and a brief but concise history of the organization. Also worthy of mention, are the publications for the Chicago branch's 45th, 50th, 55th, and 60th years of existence.

At this time "Croatian Woman" joined the Croatian World Congress in meetings held in both Cleveland and Zagreb, and also the Croatian American Congress in Chicago. Together with the Croatian Catholic Union and the Croatian parishes of Chicago, they helped organize the "Action for Life" annual banquet and which sponsored orphaned children from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also organized the Croatian Art Exhibit in the Chicago State Building which became a yearly event.

In 1995, special guest Damir Plavsic, president of HVIDRA (students wounded in war), was present at the banquet held at the Croatian Cultural Center which raised $25,000.00 for the wounded Croatian students. In October, "Croatian Woman" had its yearly Fashion Show which was special this year due to the fact that models displayed Croatian ethnic costumes. The organization also raised $5,000.00 for the Franciscan monastery in Konavle, near Dubrovnik. They also donated $8,000.00 to the "Croatian American Association," whose main function is to lobby for Croatian causes in Washington.

Many people need to be thanked for the success of "Croatian Woman": From the countless volunteers like Milica Trutin and Nina Perovic who individually helped pack the containers, to the organizations like the Croatian Catholic Union and the Salvatorian Mission House in Wisconsin, and all of the Croatian Parishes in Chicago who actively participated in this project. In all one hundred containers filled with over $10 million worth of aid was sent to various cities in Croatia. These cities all confirmed arrival and expressed their appreciation: Zagreb, Rijeka, Mostar, Zadar, Sibenik, Vrlika, Ljubuski, Klostar Ivanic, Sinj, Osijek, Djakovo, Imotski, Karlovac, Vinkovci, Poljica kod Omisa, Sestanovci Katuni, Posusje, Split, Siroki Brijeg, Makarska, Dubrovnik, Slavonski Brod, Vrgorac, Tomislav Grad, Gabela Polje Metkovic, and Capljina, including different groups in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina.

"Croatian Woman" also gave a helping hand to social groups here in Chicago area, such as Mercy Home, Children's Memorial Hospital, and Misercordia etc.



In 1996, "Croatian Woman" held their 67th anniversary banquet at the Croatian Cultural Center in Chicago, raising money for political prisoners and their families in the U.S. In May, they organized an emotionally touching exhibit at DePaul University which displayed the art work of children who had witnessed and survived the atrocities of the war against Croatia. That same year in October, their fashion show raised $25,000.00 for the Dubrava Center in Zagreb for handicapped children and young adults. They also raised $4,000.00 for the Croatian Cultural Center in Vukovar to help rebuild the devastated city.

In 1997, the annual banquet brought to Chicago special guests Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the archbishop of Sarajevo; Mrs. Ljilja Vokic, the Minister of Education and Sports in Croatia; and her assistant, Mrs. Vlasta Sabljak. In June, "Croatian Woman" helped to organize an art exhibit featuring the works of the famous naive artist Ivan Lackovic which were displayed in the halls of the Croatian Ethnic Institute in Chicago. They also gave another $1,000.00 to the Croatian American Association.

1998 proved to be another noteworthy year. Of the many actions taken, the most notable was the donation of $30,000.00 to the University of Mostar. They also co organized an exhibit honoring Cardinal Alojzija Stepinac on the 100th anniversary of his birth. They also helped sponsor a book by Dr. Ante Cuvalo titled The Historical Dictionary of Bosnia and Hecegovina, which was sent to the libraries of all major universities and many government officials. In January, "Croatian Woman" joined several other organizations in their support for "Friends of Vukovar" and donated $3,000.00 to help rebuild their center for handicapped children. In June, they organized the book signing of "Healing the Heart of Croatia." Present at the Croatian Cultural Center were the authors - Fr. Joseph Kerrigan and world-renown pediatric heart surgeon Dr. William M. Novick. Dr. Novick is a professor at the University of Tennessee and also the medical director of the "International Children's Heart Foundation." Together with Fr. Kerrigan, a Catholic Priest at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tennessee, the two traveled to Zagreb and saved the lives of countless children from certain death.

On February 6, 1999 the 70th anniversary celebration of this organization was held at the Croatian Cultural center. Among the many guests present at this event was the president of Croatian Woman in Zagreb, Mrs. Dragica Pandek, vice president Zlata Horvatic, and Croatian parliament representative Gordana Turic. The presence of Dr. William Novick, the well-known children's heart surgeon from the University of Tennessee in Memphis was especially significant for this event. The profit from this anniversary celebration was sent to Rebro hospital in Zagreb to help children with heart defects and to purchase heart monitors. On Palm Sunday of the same year, the members sold olive branches in front of our Croatian churches to help raise funds for upcoming events. In the fall of the same year another successful fashion show was held at William Tell hotel. Funds raised from this event were used to purchase incubators for the children's hospital in Split. Aside from humanitarian work, the organization supported cultural events, such as bringing two actors from Croatia, Helen Buljan and Dubravka Miletic, who put on a comedy at St. Jerome's parish hall.

In 1999, Croatian Woman also helped the Combaj family by being Godparent to the family's 11th child.

The new millennium began with a concert whose performer was Drazen Zanko, a well-known Croatian singer. His concert was held on January 29th at St. Jerome's parish hall and funds raised from the concert were sent once again to the children's hospital in Split. The traditional fashion show was different in 2000 because the fashions presented were by Gordana Radic, a well-known Croatian designer who came from Croatia to introduce her wonderful clothing line. The event was held on October 22nd at the Holiday Inn hotel and was quite successful. The proceeds from this event were sent to Mostar (to purchase gastroscopes).

2001 began with another cultural event. The organization assisted in promoting the book by Julianne Busic, "Lovers and Madmen," which tells the life story of Julianne and Zvonko Busic and their fight for a free Croatia. On April 4th of the same year, the traditional Palm Sunday luncheon was held. Proceeds were sent to Croatian families in Knin through St. Anthony's charity. On October 21st of the same year, the annual fashion show was held and it was especially successful. It was held at the Croatian Cultual Center for the first time and all proceeds were sent to help the families of the victims of the September 11 tragedy in New York. The donation was sent through the Catholic charities.

In 2002 two very big events took place, the first was the Palm Sunday luncheon on March 24th. Proceeds from this event were sent to assist the city of Vukovar. The honored guest for this event was Maja Freundlich from Zagreb, who is a well-known writer. The other big event to take place was the annual fashion show on October 20th, which was held at Royalty West Hotel.

In 2003, the Palm Sunday luncheon and very successful fashion show were held at the Croatian Cultural Center. Proceeds from these events were sent to Croatia. Over 450 guests attended the fashion show, that being the biggest and most successful show.

The year 2004 was busy with several activities. The Palm Sunday luncheon gathered Chicago Croatians who once again showed their generosity to those in need. And on September 12th, the organization held a banquet to assist Ante Ljubas, who was released from prison after 23 years. The banquet was held at St. Jerome's parish hall and many guests were present. The fall fashion show was held at the Croatian Cultural Center on October 24th and the proceeds were sent to Kiseljak to assist in building a day-care center, run by Franciscan sisters. Neven Jurica, the ambassador from Croatia, came from Washington D.C. to attend this event.

In the five years before it turned 75, "Croatian Women" demonstrated great vitality, as a summary of some of its accomplishments shows: assisting Croatian prisoners, radio clubs, the Croatian American Association, the Croatian parishes in Chicago, organizations for Croatian studies in America, a children's hospital in Chicago, many families in need in Zagreb, Split, Jajce, Vukovar, etc., day-care centers, charities, cultural performances, building of memorials in Croatia, purchasing of medical equipment for hospitals in Zagreb, Split and Mostar, helping poor Croatian students, printing a book about Croatia, supporting a symposium about Vukovar in Washington D.C., purchasing property for Croatian refugees in Knin, helping families of the 9/11 tragedy in New York, and many other projects which are too many to list.

November 27, 2004, a grand celebration of the 75th anniversary of the organization's existence was held in St. Jerome's parish hall, featuring the main guest, Fr. Zlatko Spehar, the Franciscan Superior from Vukovar. All of the proceeds from this event went to help the children of Vukovar. The newly appointed Consul to Chicago of the Republic of Croatia, Ms. Zorica Matkovic, was also a guest. Fr. Marko Puljic, Custos of the Croatian Franciscans, led the prayers. Representatives from all of the Croatian parishes were in attendance. For Christmas of that year, help was sent to families in need: the Domazet family, to build a house (Muc); the Ivan Cuvalo family, for medical help for their child (Ljubuski); the many members of the Drago Radica family (Slavonski Brod). Donations collected in 2004 and sent to the needy were in the amount of $62,780.00.

The year 2005 saw the continuation of the same love and enthusiasm. Early in the year, on March 5, a benefit luncheon was held at St. Jerome Parish for former Croatian prisoner Ranko Primorac. A few weeks later the traditional philanthropic luncheon on Palm Sunday, March 20, took place for the benefit of a Mostar hospital's purchase of an ambulance, as well as for the children's hospital in Rijeka. On May 15, together with all of Chicago's Croatian parishes, the society organized a memorial gathering in observance of the 60th anniversary of Bleiburg and the tragedy of the "Krizni Put" (the way of the cross traveled by Croatians tortured by the Partizans). The fall fashion show was held at the William Tell Hotel, with fashion creators from Croatia, featuring Jadranka Segota, a designer from boutique "Rafaela." The entertainment was provided by the legendary Kico Slabinac and Trio Rio. Revenue from this event went to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, and to the hospital in Hvar for the purchase of medical equipment. The total amount raised by the society in 2005 and given to charitable causes was $52,000.00.

The first half of 2006 was dedicated to helping needy children. Namely, on Palm Sunday, April 6, the annual benefit luncheon held at the Croatian Cultural Center in Chicago, helped two children's centers: "Egipat Children's Home" in Sarajevo, and the pre-school in Kiseljak. In fall of this year a collection was taken to help the Migic family, who returned to Croatia. The annual fashion show was held on October 22, at the Croatian Cultural Center in Chicago, featuring young people from our community as models. The proceeds from this event were sent to a hospital in Split and one in Osijek. Money raised during the year totaled $34,830.00.

The year 2007 began by marking and recalling once again the events at Bleiburg. At the annual Palm Sunday luncheon on April 1, the society organized a collection of donations to establish a sacred space at Bleiburg. The response of the Croatian people of our community was truly fantastic. This was a proud occasion for the Croatian community of our city. The yearly fall fashion show was held at Ashton Place Hotel. For the first time, the society presented fashions from the famous Lord & Taylor store. Proceeds from this event went to help the health center in Slunj. A donation was also sent to the chapel in Vukovar, and to the Tomic family of 11 children in Slavonski Brod. Total funds raised during this year reached the fantastic sum of $68,330.00.

Last year, 2008, the work of the society continued with the same zeal. The traditional Palm Sunday luncheon, held at the Croatian Cultural Center in Chicago, provided help to families in trouble and need by sending the money raised by the event to a special police association in Gospic. In the fall, the annual fashion show took place on October 19, at the Holiday Inn North Shore in Skokie under the title of "Traditional in Contemporary." This one was different from all preceding fashion shows. It was presented by guests from Zagreb lead by Mr. Josip Forjan of the Zagreb shop for renting and making national costumes. The guests were sponsored by the city of Zagreb with the help of the Director of Culture, Pavle Kalinic. All of this, however, would not have been possible without the indispensable help of the Croatian Consul, Zorica Matkovic. Funds raised by this event were sent to St. Joseph the Worker home for the elderly in Ljubuski, an institution run by nuns. The primary purpose of this charitable donation was to install a heating system, something the home has never had. Funds also went to the preschool "Pcelice" in Livno, and to Elizabet Lepinski, a grandmother caring for her orphaned grandchild. Funds raised this year totaled $48,000.00. At the end of this year, on the coldest December Sunday in the history of Chicago, the "Croatian Woman, Branch #1" organization sponsored a special gathering in honor of the release of Croatian prisoner Zvonko Busic. This occasion marked the end of the year and the end of another chapter in the history of this noble organization that so unselfishly came to the aid of a Croatian prisoner.

In the last 4 years alone, this society raised funds and sent help in the amount of $266,000.00 to the needy. Although the members of this group never speak about this accomplishment, it is nonetheless worth mentioning the amount of donations that enabled the organization to make easier the lives of many who suffer.

It is apparent that this exceptionally worthy organization of Croatian women in Chicago bravely wrote their own history through volunteer actions and heart-felt love. Their support for all things related to love, humanity, culture, and the Croatian identity must be recognized and honored. These past times of hardship and years of labor are testament to the fact that through times of Croatian tragedy and persecution, Croatian women and mothers, wherever they might be, will always keep their hearts full of love and their eyes full of hope. Hopefully young women and wives, here in America and in Croatia, will recognize the importance of what their mothers and grandmothers established through blood, sweat and tears over many decades of work, and realize that the 21st Century will only be as beautiful and rewarding through the same volunteer labor and heart-felt love, which is exemplified in the Croatian Woman's motto, "It is good to do good."

Fr. Jozo Grbes

Source: www.cuvalo.net

Many thanks to Dr. Ante Čuvalo, Chicago, for submitting this article.





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