Croatia – The Low Down Adventure
The STMT X Croatia sourcing trip has been crazy awesome – but not in any way I expected. Jessica and I talked about making a joint trip to Croatia happen about a year ago. She wanted to visit her motherland, and Croatia has been on our list of countries to visit for the last three years (even before Game of Thrones made it a popular vacation spot!).
When we got down to it and started planning the trip, Jessica mentioned she’d like to visit the village where her father was born. He moved to America when he was seven and has never been back. We didn’t know where we were going to stay – we didn’t know how we were gonna get to the village. Jessica didn’t even know the name of the village! But her uncle had been to Croatia twenty years earlier and gave her addresses of relatives he had visited. Once we purchased our tickets, Jessica snail-mailed letters to a few relatives, informing them that we would be visiting soon. A few days before we flew out, she received a reply from her father’s cousin, Dragan!
What we thought would be a quick two-day tour of a village of 1,600 people turned out to be a journey that took us deep into her family roots, discovering a culture that was familiar to her yet totally new. Two nights ended up being five. Jessica met family that had only existed in her grandmother’s stories – she met relatives from her father’s childhood, and she even discovered photos of herself that her grandma had snail-mailed back to the relatives. Can you imagine her face when she turned a page in a photo album and discovered her baby photos!
We went from house to house, from village to village, so Jessica could meet more relatives. They hosted us for lunch, dinner, tea… they fed us. OMG – so many pastries and shots of rakija and slivovitz (no matter what time of day!). The very first visit with her family began with a shot of slivovitz at 10 am!!
Dragan’s daughter, Dragana (hello, family of dragons!!), made a family tree back when she was in middle school. The family tree was massive, and some entries were missing names and birthdays. When they greeted us at the airport, Dragana had it rolled up, in her hands. Every time we visited a home, Dragana broke out the family tree. Together with the relatives, they filled in names, birthdays, new additions to the family. They searched for photos, giving faces to names. And with each photo came more stories about the person. We watched this family tree – a big sheet of paper – transform into something living and breathing.
And all of this because of snail mail – they were able to map their family because Jessica sent off a letter to distant relatives unknown to her. The Croatia Kit is heavy on writing instruments and envelopes because every day, I’m reminded of how important snail mail has always been – how important it still is. It’s kept people connected, it’s a record of history, and I’ve watched how snail mail has connected and reunited a family. Time’s may change, but nothin’ can take the place of lo-fi goods.