I belong to a very rich heritage, my husband is from Croatian and I am a Serb. I must say it has not been easy for me trying to fit into the two groups but then the journey I have taken to participate in social activities of the two groups has been fulfilling as that makes me happy. One of the groups where I belong is the a Croatian Kolo group where for the last fifteen years I have been part of the social and cultural activities. I have always taken my children there to participate in those activities from where they get to learn about their Croatian roots and heritage. It was not easy at first because the group did not welcome me fully because I was an outsider. I was from a different country and, therefore did not share a background with them but so far the members have learned to accommodate me and also to allow me take part in the social and cultural activities of the group.
The group is made up of forty members and all of them are married women who have children. Women who do not have children are not allowed to be part of the group. Every two days of the week, all of us take our children to learn how to sing and dance to our traditional music in a traditional way. Whatever the kids learn all the year is put on display during the Christmas festivities and other holidays where they are expected to sing and perform traditional dances. Children get to learn a lot in the group and this is one of the ways through which they will get to relate to their culture because they live far from home where our culture is practiced. There is no other better way of doing his other hand taking part in our Croatian Kolo group.
In our Croatian group, we partake of the Kolo dance where we are expected to put on special clothes and dance in a circle while going round and round. We dance while following each other and it is just that simple. All of us love it because it is the most entertaining and richest dance because it has difficult steps to master but after one has known them, it becomes simple and very lively. The music that accompanies the dance is also as lively and entertaining. With a fusion of both song and dance, Kolo becomes as exciting as it is equally interesting. When our children master the dance, all the members of the group become happy and excited because then we feel that we have accomplished in transferring our traditions to them and we are assured that future generations will also get a taste of traditional Croatian practices, even in the diaspora.
In our group of Croatian women, we engage in various activities. Whenever we are having festivities, women help in a variety of activities that are aimed at making the festivities successful. For instance, we bake traditional cookies once every week so that we can sell them at the gathering after church. We do that in shifts and a few selected women bake and sell every week and interchange, giving room to others to do so in subsequent weeks. It is a routine that we have managed to keep for the longest time now. The money that we get from the sale of our traditional cookies goes to a special fund that is meant to finance trips and summer camps for our children.
In our Croatian Kolo group, we have an arrangement where we elect our leaders who are supposed to occupy some positions for one year, until another group is elected. The elective positions in the group are those of the president, treasurer and secretary. Those who get the most votes in the positions they are elected in are the ones who are become leaders. The president is supposed to be in charge of hiring dancing and language teachers for our children. The treasurer on the other hand is supposed to keep the money that we make from the sale of our traditional cookies and the secretary’s role is that of keeping our schedule and informing us when we are supposed to meet, and also tell members of their turns when they are expected to bake their cookies.
Our group is very lively and all members are encouraged to be part of the programs. Even when I received a lot of backlash from them because I am not Croatian, I must admit that it is one the best places to be. I always look forward to our meetings and it gives me joy to see that our children are happy while taking part in their group activities with other children. We always want to help out when we can, especially when any one of us has a problem that is beyond them. We like sharing about our lives and aspirations. It is a homely place to be and it makes us feel part of our past and traditional heritage.