Croatian Guidebooks

My family’s immigration object is a stack of Croatia travel books and DVDs that my parents keep on the large bookcase in our living room. With cheesy titles like “Magical Croatia” and “Hrvatska 101,” the guides present you with snapshots of the “must-see” destinations. Though these books are made for tourists, for many years, this was the only view I had of my parents’ home country. My mother and father emigrated from Croatia, what was then socialist Yugoslavia, in 1991, in the midst of escalating nationalist tensions. My parents found safety in Queens and visited Croatia occasionally, but after my brother and I were born, they could no longer afford the airfare. They resigned to showing my us pictures from guidebooks instead. This created a sense of distance from our heritage. Our family doesn't have traditions, holidays were low-key, and we only spoke my parents’ language with family. We finally went to Croatia in the summer of 2009, where we experienced culture shock. We saw the differences between our own lives and those of our cousins. We were exposed to unfamiliar traditions, and learned that we didn't know the language as well as we thought we did. It was very moving for us to meet the people whose voices had become so familiar, and to see in person what we had previously only know through pictures. Now, when I look through those guidebooks, I don’t just see images of the beautiful Adriatic coastline and grand churches, I see my family and its history.

Year: 1991

– Ana

Relationship:  unknown unknown