Stories of Expats & Australian Croatians in Croatia



Today I shared a couple of hours over coffee (and a Badel Pelinkovac) with an  extraordinary young woman, with an even MORE extraordinary tale to tell… a story of nostalgic love for her Homeland, that proved far too strong, even with all that Australia has to offer, it was not enough to dissuade her from returning to the land of her birth and deciding to settle where she feels she belongs.

On the 25th October 1994, the Franićević family from Sumpetar near Omiš in Dalmatia, immigrated to Australia’s Gold Coast. The reason for the move was in search of a better and more profitable life. Neither  Stanislav (Trpe) and his wife Anna were shy of hard work in their own country. Trpe worked  long hours in the Cetina sand factory which was having financial difficulties and finally closed down . He was also trained as an electrician,while Anna owned a busy hair salon in Sumpetar , taking care of a large local clientele…and  their daughters  Luciana 14,Petra 11,and Sanja 6 years old were enjoying  school  and were not happy about making the move to a far away land  where a new language had to be learned, and new friends had to be made!

The Franićević family arrived and lived with relatives  Jasna and Tony Pivac for a period of time. Father Trpe easily found work together with  brother -in -law Tony in the building industry, while mother Anna worked in various domestic  positions.

Petra described her days at the local Gold Coast Robina Primary School as being a really horrible experience. She and Sanja  could hardly wait for play-lunch and lunch breaks so they could sit together and talk comfortably in their own language, but the teachers  on duty would insist upon breaking them up, seperating them , forcing them to mix with other English speaking children. It was a frightening experience of assimmilation for young girls newly arrived in a faraway land.  Following Primary School they attended Benowa State High School.

As a growing girl Petra always had a ‘knowing’ deep inside that she would return one day to Dalmatia. Hearing Oliver, that famous and much loved Dalmatian, singing about galebi (seagulls) and various klapa groups harmonising  the old Dalmatian songs sent her into a spin of deep nostalgia and longing.

The day came in 2001 when the family came home to Sumpetar for a visit. Petra revelled in reconnecting with her childhood friends, seeing familiar faces, relatives, cousins, and especially a  childhood friend Krešimir Nazor..but now, 7 years later, he was all grown up, and Petra, now aged 18 saw Krešo through different eyes, and their friendship took on a whole new meaning. How could she convince her parents to allow her to stay ? Her father was adamant she must return to Australia and complete her education and so Petra dutifully obeyed , leaving Krešo behind, wondering if he would wait for her return sometime in the future.

The years passed by, her education was completed , and Petra never gave up hope, her thoughts constantly were focused on a future in Croatia and in2005,together with her Mum  she returned once again on holiday, and wondered would that childhood sweetheart still be waiting for her? Would he feel  as she did after all the time apart?

Kresimir owned a very special boat. A beautiful old timber boat called OTAC DUJE, complete with sails , built in 1953. The chance that Krešimir would be at home was very slim..more likely he would be sailing somewhere around the Dalmatian Islands between Split and Dubrovnik..but to Petra’s delight he was at home during the week of her arrival! From that moment their love for each other blossomed and she decided then and there not to return to Australia with her Mother, instead she remained at home in Sumpetar and married Krešimir in 2006. In 2008 their baby daughter Domenika was born, but sadly, by this time Petra was suffering  emotionally within her marriage. The  hardship of  feeling abandoned by her sea-faring husband,  sadly led the couple towards divorce.

Today, they remain good friends and share the resposibility of their daughter’s upbringing, and who knows what the future holds regarding a possible reunion.It’s certainly something they are considering.

Petra has a passion for producing high quality olive oil…She arrived on The Split Riva today, with a bottle of her own produce nicely gift wrapped for me! She has a dream have a little stone house in the family olive grove, up in the village of Zeljovice above Sumpetar, the original village of her father Trpe. She described her feelings of being high in that olive grove, with stunning views out to sea, the clean air, pruning the ancient trees, harvesting the olives, and being in touch with a natural environment..this is her passion!

Her older sister Luciana completed her studies and graduated as a phsycologist, today  living and working on the Gold Coast. According to Petra her sister’s lifestyle is a very busy one juggling work and social pleasures. According to Petra, her younger sister Sanja is also a ‘clever cookie’, creating a health food product called GO RAW, an organic pudding and distributing to Health Food stores around Australia.

Sadly, 4 years ago, Petra’s dad passed away suddenly with a heart attack while on his way to work. There were no goodbyes, only shock and disbelief with the passing of their family rock, the ‘glue’ that kept the family togetherness alive. Petra misses him, remembering his continual love for his Dalmatian heritage. A man who also had a longing to return to his homeland one day, the same as his eldest daughter. Anna and the girls brought Trpe home for his burial in Sumpetar, and it was a heart-wrenching sight to see an entire village in mourning, all gathered at the local church. Many came from other areas to pay their respect. Trpe was well loved  by many. I was there myself on that day, and witnessed an outpouring of love and respect for this man of high morals, and love of family.

Petra feels her mother on the other hand , remaining in Australia, has now assimilated well into the Australian way of life, with no real desire to return to Croatia, other than returning from time to time to savour all things Dalmatian!

I asked Petra  about her thoughts on financial matters here in Croatia. Fortunately she has the use of her family home in Sumpetar , a short distance from Split, which includes a number of apartments rented during the summer tourist season, providing her with a substantial income. She has the opportunity to work in various positions within the tourism industry, and is contemplating assisting Krešimir on his boat OTAC DUJE during this coming summer season, taking their daughter with’s just a possibility at the moment, but one that has a lot of merit and needs careful consideration.

Meanwhile for anyone who might like to enjoy 7 days sailing the Dalmatian Coast on OTAC DUJE please feel  free to contact Petra or Krešimir



CROATIAN AUSTRALIAN HELENA (JELENA) MAMIC was born in Canberra, Australia in 1984. This beautiful and elegant young woman has achieved an outstanding amount in her life so far. Passion and determination are her most valuable assets. I met Helena last night at ‘Bajamonti’ in Split…
Helena has graduated in Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Split and graduated as Master of Music in Classical singing, Opera module and Chamber Music specialising in New Music.
Today she combines her talents, working as a General Practitioner of Medicine, and taking part in operatic ventures far and wide.
Helena’s Story…
After 20 years living and working in Australia, Helena’s parents decided to return to their homeland. Helena was aged five at the time, and by the age of seven, she performed in her first concert at the Gallery of Arts in Split and soon after started to learn the piano. During her teenage years in secondary school she was a member of the Sveti Duje (St. Dominus) Cathedral Choir as the soloist soprano and gained an enormous amount of experience in sacred music and oratorios. In 2001 she commenced her formal vocal training in the class of soloists of Split Opera Theatre, with Marija Bogaverdeš and Sanja Madunić at the School of Music in Split.
In the same year she performed in the Baroque Festival in Varazdin, and in 2002 travelled to Rome with the Cathedral Choir to sing for Pope John Paul.11..a truley amazing experience!
The list of her achievements in her short life is amazing, driven by passion for both of her chosen careers, Medicine and Music, Helena is an inspiration to all who have come to know her. She comes from a hard working family, and has shown a strong sense of commitment, proving against all odds that success comes through determination and dedication.
Her ambition to perform and compete in Rome this coming November will be her next challenge. We wish her well and support her all the way…
See more on Helena’s website…
written by Robyn Vulinovic-Sisaric



Maria is a beautiful young woman, born and bred in Brisbane, Queensland. Her Dad is from the Trogir Kastela area of Dalmatia and her Mum was born in Australia of Slavonian parents who migrated to Australia from their town close to Vukovar. She has a very pleasant and warm personality. She gives a person the feeling that you’d really like her to be your friend.
In 2004 Maria completed a University degree in Business Marketing and Human Resource Management in Brisbane…it was a good choice of subject that would hold her in good stead in the years soon to follow.
With Uni completed, it was time for an overseas holiday, and where better than Dalmatia?
The young Maria had grown up listening to her Dalmatian Dad painting his picture about his homeland…the sea, the sun, Oliver Dragojovic, seagulls and the most beautiful place in the world…Dalmatia… a far away magical place where life is a dream.
Within a week of arriving in Split, Maria’s cousin insisted she come up to the village of Studenci. There was going to be a festival on the weekend, and there would be other young people there including a young German Croatian man who could speak English. Maria decided to go.
Her Croatian language skills were passable but needed a lot of improvement, so it would be great to meet an English-speaking person. His name was Josip Vukovic, born and educated in Germany, and it was an instant BANG! CRASH! ‘love at first sight’ meeting as these two young people were introduced.
Her father’s description of summer in Dalmatia left little to the imagination, and so as Maria and Josip romanced their way through the days of their holiday they fell head over heels in love and became inseparable during those months. However the time came to depart, Josip back home to Freiburg, Germany, and Maria to Brisbane, Australia.
Maria’s connecting flight took her to Frankfurt, and as she touched down feeling totally miserable, she called him and he replied, “I’ll be there as quickly as possible”. It took him 2 hours driving at unmentionable speed, he arrived at Frankfurt airport, frantically searching for the love of his life, and as the call was being made to board the flight…they hugged, kissing a passionate kiss goodbye…and then she was gone, crying all the way to Singapore!
In Brisbane Maria soon found an excellent position and her career and future were assured, however her loving thoughts of Josip caused her to soon resign and she made a decision to return to Croatia. After all, she told herself, if it didn’t work out, she’d continue on to London, as most young Aussies do!
A year later 2005, she was back…travelling again to Split where Josip soon joined her.
It was time for the two of them to find employment. Not an easy task at that particular time however both were very positive and fortunately both were successful. Josip was employed at Hotel Meridian Lav and today he holds the position of Head Concierge, while Maria was ‘snapped up’ by the ‘Limoni’ Cosmetic Company in Split. Her pleasant attitude and willingness to assist customers won many hearts, and customers. Working for a monthly wage of 3000 kuna didn’t deter her…she was happy to have a job, and it helped her to improve her language skills, and through her work she branched out into other directions, meeting people and all the while being pleasant, serving with a smile and making a difference within her environment.
Maria enjoyed her work in the cosmetic and fragrance field, she blossomed as a cosmetic make-up artist and soon branched out on her own. She found lessons available on the art of face-painting on U TUBE, and soon turned this into a lucrative small business, attending children’s parties and entertaining the children with her creative work. Maria found this to be a very rewarding occupation, with so many children being delighted with magical fairytale faces. Following face –painting, came another of Maria’s great business ideas…spray-tanning, as we know it in Australia. This was the very first introduction of this treatment in Split. Please check out Maria’s Face Book page Sienna X Spray Tanning
On Australia Day 2006 Josip planned a special romantic dinner for two in a restaurant closed to the public. The scene was set, coming as a total surprise when Josip proposed to Maria, she responded, and the fireworks began!!
They were married on 7/7/2007 and now have 2 adorable sons, Marin 7, and Marko 2.
Ten years have passed and Maria and Josip have established themselves extremely well here in Split. Their marriage has flourished and Maria feels as though she won lotto on the day she met Josip.
Being a mum of two boys keeps her busy, and yet she is forever ‘thinking outside the box’, creating and developing new ideas and pursuing new interests and business opportunities. Maria’s positive approach and outlook on life has brought many rewards, making many friends and customers along the way. Her bright and gorgeous smile won me on the very first day in 2012 when we were introduced.
This young woman certainly stands out in the crowd as a beacon of positivity and light.
During our conversation over coffee today, Maria explained to me her way of living life is by the law of attraction; “by giving and sharing love, then you will receive in return; visualizing and trusting in your dreams and goals brings definite success. If you want to make it happen, It’s all up to YOU”

Written by Robyn Vulinovic-Sisaric


In 1995 Ingrid completed a degree as a teacher of Art and English in Perth…as a gift for her graduation, her parents gave her a choice, a new car or a trip to Europe. Ingrid chose the trip to Europe. After-all, she could always buy a car later on. This was to be the key to her destiny….
Her Mum was born in Donji Humac island Brac., the daughter of the famous Brac stonemason, Lovre Jaksic and sister of the present day most well-known stonemason of Brac.. Drazen Jaksic.

Later in 1995 young Ingrid traveled to Europe and made her base in Donji Humac with Uncle Drazen…within the first week of her arrival, she met a young man in the village…there was instant magic between them…a ‘knowing’ of things to come. They became best friends. While Ingrid flitted around Europe, visiting London and Paris (as young Australians tend to do) her thoughts were of the young man, her friend, Jaksa Marinkovic back on the Island of Brac. Jaksa was studying electrical engineering at the time. She arrived back to Brac, their friendship flourished and when Ingrid mentioned to Jaksa that she was soon returning home to Australia…an explosion of emotion was an instant reaction!
Jaksa declared his inner most feelings for Ingrid, and she was overwhelmed with absolute happiness…she felt exactly the same…and so a permanent relationship was born in that instance. Ingrid returned to Australia and worked very hard to save money for a ONE-WAY return ticket. She was 22 years old, very much in love, and had made her decision to return to Brac and to her Jaksa. There were no instant emails or facebook Inboxes in those days…Ingrid and Jaksa wrote letters to each other… a year seemingly passed slowly, but one year later she arrived in Donji Humac, and she knew she had made the right decision!

For 2 years Ingrid worked as a teacher of English on Brac and marriage followed.
it was then soon decided to move to Australia; to Perth, and after a period of time, even though they were financially very stable, with a beautiful new home, and all they required, Jaksa declared that he felt uncomfortable in his new country. He felt as though he didn’t fit in, an outsider, and so the decision was made and they returned to Croatia, to Donji Humac, the village where he belonged, where his father and ancestors are buried.

While in Australia, their first child was born, MIA, (Made In Australia) 🙂 and since returning to Croatia Mia has been blessed with two siblings.
The blow came in 2008 when Ingrid was diagnosed with MS Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating illness which has taken a mountain of determination in her effort to overcome it. She has opted to take the natural approach, a health producing diet, yoga and Pilates exercise and plenty of natural supplements, rather than taking the usual drugs prescribed by doctors. Thankfully she is doing very well and today in split she looked a picture of health and radiance!

How does she feel about living in the village of Donji Humac compared to her city of Perth?

“The summer months on Brac are paradise. Spending time talking to the many visitors is really great, I love it, life is beautiful but during the cold winter months my thoughts turn to Australia, and I feel a longing for the country of my birth. Fortunately my husband understands me, and he would return to Perth if it was necessary for my happiness, but I realize that this country of Croatia, and particularly the life on the island is very precious and a wonderful place to bring up our children…a peaceful place and where we don’t need to lock our doors…even the car keys are always left in the ignition”

Ingrid has found great comfort and support from her Croatian Australian friends in Split. She enjoys attending the monthly meetings and making new friends with ever increasing new arrivals from Australia…and we love to see her lovely smiling face.
Thank you Ingrid for being part of our group…We love you…


MEET AUSTRALIAN-CROATIAN Dr Irena Zakarija-Grkovic, breastfeeding expert in Croatia speaking about World Breastfeeding Week.

Irena moved to Split from Melbourne in 2004 took up a full time post at the University of Split School of Medicine.

Irena is very active both in her professional and personal life, being active in a range of professional associations and a proud mother of three children.

Read more about Irena and her short article on World Breastfeeding Week:


Australian Croatian, Jade (Jadranka) Adams from Sydney packed her bags and took off for Croatia on her ‘Shirley Valentine’ Trip. It has been 22 years since Jadranka visited her homeland. She has visited her relatives in Osijek, has sailed and cycled the Dalmatian islands, is going to river cruise on the Danube, then spend a week on Island Brac at the popular beach town of BOL before deciding her next step…3 months of bliss…travelling on her own, meeting interesting people, observing, learning and polishing her rusty Croatian language…Bravo Jadranka! — with Jade Jadranka Adams at La Bodega Split.


Ema with baby daughter nika


Ema Barbir is a real inspiration!  A young woman who had the courage to step out of her comfort zone and follow her basic instinct! A vibrant young woman  with the most beautiful  blue eyes shining with enthusiasm for life!

Ema’s  parents are from the coastal town of Ploce in southern Dalmatia and were students in Zagreb when baby Ema arrived. Soon after in 1988,when Ema reached her second birthday , her parents  decided to travel to Australia for a period of one year only. Arriving in Perth, they were welcomed into the home of Teta Branka Musulin  and later they made the move east to Sydney, finally settling in Merrylands, the Dalmatian community hub. Once settled they started working and soon  Ema’s sisters Ellie and Natalie came along, and one thing led to another and needless to say they are still living in Australia, almost 30 years later!

Their dream of returning home to Croatia was always something they continuously talked about, a beautiful homeland in the distance, always never far from their minds. It was something young Ema and her sisters grew up with, listening to their parents emotional descriptions of Croatia until one dayat age 22 Ema made her life changing decision..she would return to the land of her birth!

Up until this point she has studied journalism and was working as a sports commentator at sporting events, mainly at the soccer games of Sydney United. Her command of the English language was excellent and so she decided to apply for a position in Zagreb as an English teacher and was accepted.

In 2008 with very little financial support she packed her bags, no longer able to wait for her parents to make that all important  move, she followed her instincts, knowing and trusting in her intuition. On arrival in Croatia she stayed with relatives in Ploče, connecting with cousins and their friends. It was here that she met Petar Bebić, a student of accountancy,and once she made the move to Zagreb, guess who followed those blue eyes? Peter was prepared to work at any job in Zagreb to be near Ema and so he worked in a computer IT store for the time being while Ema started teaching English.

Her Croatian employer adored her, and I’m sure that I can safely say, she increased the number of students at the school by simply exuding her natural charms,  her warm, caring, expressive  attitude.

Although Ema appreciated her job in Zagreb, she had a strong desire to move down to the sunny Dalmatian coast. The winters were long, cold and grey in Zagreb so without further ado, she suggested to her boss it would be a great idea to open another school in Split!  What a great idea! Her boss agreed only if she would take resposibility as if it were her own. She agreed! The INICIJATIVA School of English was opened in Split. Ema was the only teacher and Peter was her ‘secretary’ taking care of telephone enquiries at the school while Ema worked a 12 hour day getting it established. The school commenced with 10 adult students and today there are hundreds of happy acheivers.

Regarding work and business, Ema’s motto, ‘If you are going to start something, you have to work!’ There are many Croatians here in Split who have a need within their employment to be able to feel confident with speaking English, particularly in the Tourism industry. Ema’s style of teaching is a little different to most, she prefers to concentrate on conversation rather than studying grammar from too many text books…and it works well. She has great results and is very popular with her students.

Ema and Peter now have a a daughter, baby Nika is 8 months old and while I sat chatting to her mother over coffee she slowly awakened from her morning sleep with a beautiful smile, and checked me out with her big blue eyes.

Ema was speaking about her contentment with her life here in Split compared to her life in Australia.  She loves the lifestyle, being able to walk to the city centre, or to the sea, to visit her friends, mostly other Australian Croatian girls that have made the move to Split is a blessin. They all have much in common, Croatian mums with Australian mentality, working mothers with small children, and they find great support within their group, celebrating birthdays, and various festive events together, or simply a chat over coffee.

Talking about things she dislikes regarding life in Croatia, Ema has found there are a number of people who sadly have very negative attitudes and there are many who arefar too materialistic. She is a person who is very happy to have a little less and live a more stress free lifestyle without continually striving to make a fortune. ‘Life is short, we are here to enjoy it to the best of our ability.’

Regarding cost of living in Croatia compared to Australia, Ema feels it’s all relative, higher wages in Australia and higher cost of living, compared to lower wages and lower cost of living in Croatia…renting is very affordable and she and Petar are now planning on purchasing an apartment within a comfortable price range, arranging a bank loan to suit their needs.

Ema is very happy living here in Split, and with a warm smile she said, ‘It was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life, I would never consider going back (to Australia)When you’re positive, everything works out for you’

THE INICIJATIVA SCHOOL  OF ENGLISH / Škola Stranih Jezika  can be contacted on 021 582435



ABOUT THE AUTHOR…ROBYN VULINOVICH-SISARIC                                          Croatia Tour Consultant ..
After many years as a restaurateur in Queensland, Australia, Robyn has now followed her passion, living in the best of two worlds, visiting family and friends in Australia, and now residing permanently in Split on the Central Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
Robyn’s two sons, Brando and Adrian live on the Gold Coast and together with their families share a love for all things Croatian.

The Dalmatian Coast is a place Robyn loves to be, exploring the villages, a love of old stone houses, arches and walkways. The Adriatic Sea, glittering in the sunlight, villages nestling in the many coves and bays; the islands scattered along the coast, the bluest of azure blue waters. Pine, olive groves and vineyards, healing and welcoming; “The perfumes of the land, lavender,rosemary, sage, bayleaf, camomile, rekindling beautiful memories from my youth.” The language and music, the seafood and traditional cuisine, simple ways of food preparation, yet always so delicious and fresh.

“My present work is simply an extension of my restaurant, making sure that those who place their trust in me have a wonderful and memorable time in a part of the world that is so close to my heart and has become my home.”

“I am always delighted to share my knowledge and passion about Croatia, steeped in centuries of history and traditions, with influences from the Roman and Greek Empires, the Venetian, Turkish and Austro – Hungarian dynasties, not forgetting Napoleon and the French! So much to see and admire, a tapestry of rich cultural heritage, together with glorious foods and quality fine wines of the Mediterranean.”

“Together with local guides and a network of ‘Croatian friends’ we are able to offer unique and authentic travel, cruising, and yachting experiences to suit all budgets and desires.”

It gives me great pleasure to write a little about other women’s experiences , especially about those who have made the move from Australia to Croatia..the majority of the stories are very inspiring, very positive, and interesting comments…
Robyn Vulinovich-Sisaric

Stories of Foreign Entrepreneurs Living and Working in Croatia….. by TOTAL CROATIA 

MEET Stuart Jameson  from the UK…                    

MEET James from London..                                                

Didier from Belgium                                                                     

Robyn Vulinovich-Sisarić from Sydney/Gold Coast, Australia 

Rene from Holland                                                                      

Mirela Rus from Romania                                            

Ronny Haesen From Belgium                                        

Jo Ahearne from the UK

Marija Mustapić and Korana Bučić from Australia                    

Michael Freer From the UK.

Chloe and Yvan from Bora Bora..French Polynesia

Catarina from Kenja an Chiel from Holland           http//

Andrija Colak from Rijeka, Croatia