My family is from a small town called Gospic in Croatia which is located roughly two hours south of Zagreb. My grandmother (my dads mum) who still remains in contact with all of our relatives overseas had already advised literally everyone in my family that we were in Europe and we were coming to visit, being her only grand daughter she was proud as punch that I was heading over to visit.
Arriving at the bus station in Gospic I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my throat. Although he never showed it, I knew he was a little nervous too. He remained as supportive as ever and encouraged my excitement to meet everyone. We met my dads cousin there and he took us back to his home where we’d stay. We settled in quite quickly and met a few family members. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and I couldn’t believe where I was! I couldn’t wait to meet everyone else, there were so many people who also wanted to meet me too. I remember emailing my mum and dad and asking them to send me a family tree of who was who and how we were all related. It was a lot to take in.
We stayed on the same property where my grandfather grew up and lived before he moved to Australia. We were treated like absolute Kings and Queens. My dads cousin had built a barn out the back of the property and one day showed us around, he took me over to the doorway where my grandfather had carved his name into a panel of wood. I remember this indescribable feeling, my eyes welling up with tears as I brushed my hands over it. He did this, he was here, he touched this piece of wood I remember thinking over and over again. There was also another panel that had been framed, “Svatko je lopov tko ne radi posteno” he had carved into it, translated “Everyone is a thief who doesn’t work honestly”. I got quite attached to this because I believe in hard work, and I believe hard work pays off. I knew he was a very hard worker, and my dad is also one of the most hard working people I know and my brothers are also starting to follow in their footsteps.
Whilst Gospic was our main location, we visited and stayed with other family members in other parts of the country. We went to visit another one of my dads cousins who owns a bungalow retreat which has its very own beach on the coast. I was officially in love. This place was everything I pictured in my head when I thought of a ‘European Summer’ it was absolutely stunning. We were only there for a few days and once we left I couldn’t wait to go back.
We headed to Dubrovnik to stay with more family for a couple of weeks. My cousin and her boyfriend took us under their wings and showed us the best it had to offer. It was hot, very hot!Every day without fail, we would have soup for lunch. Soup! In 40 degree weather! He hated the heat, and every day I would have a little giggle to myself watching him try and be so polite about the food, but struggle at the same time. My cousins dad organised for us to go out on his friends boat one day, we visited three little islands and swam in the most crystal clear water. The day was everything I had dreamed of, it was amazing and I was so happy to be there sharing it with him.
I was so glad to see that he got along with every single member of my family. They loved him just as much as I did. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet any of my grandfathers bothers or sister as they had all past away in recent years. I think everyone felt a connection to me, or they felt they just couldn’t wait to meet me and get to know me because they lost their uncle so early on. Everyone loved hearing stories of my childhood and my brothers and especially my parents as they had visited and stayed in many of the same houses (and rooms) that I was staying in 30 years prior. Funny, hey?! I too LOVED hearing stories of my grandfather, they had so many to tell, not just about my grandfather, but also about my dad. His first visit back to Croatia was when he was 16 and well, we all know what 16 year old boys are like.
We had something to see and do nearly every day and on the days that we didn’t, we were treated to traditional lunches and dinners, I felt so at home. One thing I would recommend for everyone to go and see in Croatia is Plitvice Lake, this is the most amazing natural wonder I have ever seen in my life! The crystal clear water and stunning waterfalls. It was a magical day.
Later that night when we went downstairs for dinner, I started to get this really sharp pain in my chest, something I have never experienced before. I went upstairs to lay down for a little bit and not long after he came to check up on me, with fear in my eyes I said I needed to go to hospital.
As we approached Emergency I saw a number of doctors and nurses outside ‘chilling’ and enjoying a cigarette (being a country town I don’t think they get many emergencies) so I was lucky enough to have probably 90% of the emergency staff working on me.
As soon as we got there, they got me straight into a bed, hooked me up to the heart monitor and breathing machines. Everything was happening so fast and there were so many people.
I didn’t know what was happening to me…