Jesenka Blandford, a local, was our guide yesterday. She gave us a tour of the Diocletian Palace and a quick history of Europe, narrating the development of the palace from its construction up to today.
A central figure in all these was the Bishop of Nin, Grigur Ninsky where he was persistent in insisting the use of the Croatian language for mass to the consternation of Rome. He was also responsible for burning the faith into the heart and soul of the Croatians who, in later years, stood up to fight the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire to protect the Catholic faith.
As a result, the Turks were stopped at the Mosor mountains, just above Split and the other cities in Croatia. Of course, it was also to the interest of the Austrians and Italians that the Moors were stopped as far as possible from Europe. The Croatians got the support from all these countries. All historians, however, seem to agree that the spread of the Ottoman Empire was stopped effectively with the Battle of Sisak in 1593.
With this as a background, I then realized how brave the Croats were then, and how passionate they were in their faith. So it was not surprising then that the Croats fought fiercely in the Croatian War for Independence in the 1990s. Although I am sure this was not their obvious intention, this historical perspective thrown in by Jesenka exemplified a nation who put God above country, and country above self.
Certainly, this was an awakening for me.
I spoke with some locals during my trip. And they said that all that history and the character that helped build Croatia seem to be slipping away. Modernity and politics are to be blamed according to my Croatian friends.
“Primitive” is how our guide in Dubrovnik describes the character of the politicians. With the monthly minimum wage at €500 and taxation at 40%, life in Croatia today is difficult. Our guide said it’s a country to visit, but not to live in. Close to 17,000 Croatians leave every month.
With birth rates precipitously falling, the family is no longer a refuge to support the social security system. At €200 monthly pension, this is hardly a life for old people. And with modernity undermining the family, the social fabric that should be supporting retired people is no longer there. Modernity, and by extension, the rise of relativism of morality have contributed to this breakdown.
People are not optimistic that this trend will reverse in the near future. Tourism is probably the only industry left to the Croatians. Almost everything else has been sold to foreigners, including agricultural land.
This new awakening of the nation should jolt people to action and call for political reforms. Being a Roman Catholic country, there is a chance that together with Church, reforms can be pushed with the government and civil society.
Just like in my country, however, people have grown tired of calling for reforms and have instead decided to leave the country. This summer, one Croatian may be coming to our shores to see if he can try out his luck. A musician and an artist, he might have just had his chance at retiring with more than €200 per month for the rest of his life.
It seems we have a chance in our country to at least attempt to reverse this troubling trend. Let’s not waste this opportunity. This awakening is really for our beloved Philippines.