Allen and I wondered what we might find when we revisited the village in Croatia from where his Stojkovic grandparents immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1900. We had visited Croatia in 1978 and were amazed at the changes we saw after 40 years.
The visit to the region in Croatia where Allen’s grandparents lived followed a tour lead by “Heart of Croatia” Director, Melissa Obenauf of Columbus. We finished the tour of several cities in Croatia and a six-day cruise on the Adriatic, then set off to find out whether the Stojkovic home was the same as we remembered.
Allen still had the church records his father had obtained from the priest at the church in Ribnik, Croatia, near the grandparents village of Novaki. The Internet provided maps on Google from the nearby city of Karlovac to Ribnik. He knew we would need to rent a car for a couple days since the villages were well off the beaten path of any trains or buses.
We headed out of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, in a rental car and drove to Karlovac, which is about 15 miles from Ribnik and Novaki, following the Google maps.
We first found that there were many abandoned homes and farms in the area. That area experienced several years of occupation during the civil war in Croatia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia. A few abandoned buildings still showed the signs of shelling and bombs.
When we were in the area in 1978 a taxi driver had taken us right to the old Stojkovic farm. We were glad to be renting a car where we took a couple detours until we found the steep lane that took us to the Stojkovic farm where a cousin, Mijo came out to greet us.
He said that Ljuba who we met in 1978 had passed away and directed us to the farm across the valley where Allen’s grandmother, Kata Dolinar lived before coming to the United States.
The Dolinar farm was well maintained, but seemed to be kept more as a summer home. No one was there, so we took a few photos and went back to Ribnik where Allen wanted to get a closer look at the fortress.
Near the fortress was a sign “Pekara Mus.” Pekara is “bakery” in Croatian and Allen recalled that one of the names on the family church records was Bara Mus.
We stopped in at the bakery where we were greeted by the owners, Mika and Sonja Mus. Mika looked at the church record of the Stojkovic family dating back to 1822 when Allen’s great grandfather, Mato Stojkovic, was born.
Mika’s great-grandmother, Bara Mus was also there in the church family records with Stojkovics’. There was the family connection. They agreed they were cousins, even though they weren’t certain of the exact relationship.
I told Mika that Allen was a retired dentist and he said his brother, Ivan was a dentist in Hamilton, Ontario. It was one more interesting connection to talk about with them. Sonja brought us a box full of cookies to take on our return trip. Cookies or Kolacki is one of her specialties at their bakery along with cake decorating.
We had a lot to think about as we returned to our bed and breakfast near Karlovac that evening. We not only returned to the farms of two Stojkovic grandparents, but also met a cousin we didn’t know existed.
“We had the opportunity to go to our grandparents’ homeland,” said Allen. “But we appreciate our own country and the sacrifice they made to get here even more as we return to our home and family in Mount Gilead.”
Pekara Mus, (Mus Bakery) Ribnik, Croatia, has a Facebook page with photos of the cakes Sonja decorated.