Croatian Revival

The beginning of the nineties resulted in changes to our adult group. Some members of Lado wished to embark on a path that was more independent from the CNH while others wished to be more integrated into the organization. Lado decided to carve an independent path and a new group, Hrvatsko Srce, was established to serve the needs of the adults of the CNH. Led by Michelle Vuksan and now Joe Vlašić and Dan Boich, Hrvatsko Srce has toured across North America and Croatia and proudly continues to represent the CNH in all its endeavours.

 

In 1990, the CNH senior group toured Croatia for the second time. This was a historic period as the senior group arrived in Croatia barely six weeks after the non-communist government was sworn into office on May 30th. The senior group witnessed history as the Croatian flag was freely hoisted for the first time in decades. As Croatians were finally free to fully celebrate their culture, the CNH was enthusiastically received across the country. The group toured many places, including Zagreb, Đakovo, Osijek, Beketinci, Sarajevo, Mostar, Međugorje, Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, Plitvice and Žakanje. The most memorable moment of the trip was the CNH performance in front of thousands of jubliant spectators at the Smotra Folklora in Jelačić Square. The CNH struck a positive chord with its rendition of Oliver Dragojević's "Žuto Lišće Ljubavi". The headlines in the newspaper the next day quoted the lyrics sung by our tamburaši: "Gdje mi duša spava…"

 

Later that year, the CNH senior group was honoured to perform in Norval in front of a crowd of 25,000 during the visit of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

 

On November 17, 1990, the CNH celebrated its 60th anniversary. A special tamburitza Mass was held at Holy Cross Church. Later that evening, guests and local dignitaries enjoyed a dinner catered by Ivanka Čerić. The Bećar Tamburitzans and Plavi Dim entertained the crowd. Father Franjo Šprajc and Father Josip Vavrik provided blessings and prayers for the occasion.

 

In March 1991, the CNH held its third graduation night for its graduates. Dorothy Lukšić, John Starešinić and Joe Vlašić were the valedictorians for this event. Included in this graduation group were the last members to have joined the group at the old Beach Road location.

 

While Croatia and Croatians around the world were in a mood of celebration, events turned sour as Croatia was invaded. These events greatly affected the membership and the CNH sprang into action. The CNH participated in numerous demonstrations designed to attract the attention of the Canadian government to the plight of the Croatian people. As war waged, the CNH utilised its resources in other ways and raised over $24,000 in donations for humanitarian relief. In addition, the children in our folklore group gave up their annual CNH Christmas gifts in order to devote the money to refugee children in Croatia. The CNH also provided direct relief to Beketinci, a village which had warmly welcomed our senior group in 1990. Several CNH families unselfishly opened their doors, their families and most importantly their hearts to a number of high school students from the war-torn area of Vukovar. From Christmas until June, these students became "Canadians" and were able to finish their high school education for that year at Cardinal Newman High School.

 

Unfortunately, the war was brought home to the CNH in other ways. Our building was repeatedly the target of vandals as were Croatian churches and other social clubs across Canada. Nevertheless our organization persevered and refused to let these evil acts steer it from its focus, which has always been and remains, the preservation of our rich cultural heritage.

 

To that end, the group continued to perform in interesting places such as Ottawa, Montreal, New York, Nashville and Pittsburgh. During this period we were proud hosts to groups from New York, Cleveland and Winnipeg.

 

In 1993, a group of CNH members established the CNH Mens' Golf Association which meets weekly to enjoy a round of golf and Croatian-style home cooking at the Dom. Later that same year the CNH honoured all members with 25 or more years of membership. Among the honourees were two members, Josip Skolan and Ann Matijaševic, who were original members of the CNH. Both have since passed away, with Ann Matijaševic having passed away in 2003 at age 103 with the distinction of being our longest serving member.

 

By the mid nineties, membership in the folklore group topped 120 members and new costumes were required. The most significant acquisitions were the purchase of a set of Bratina costumes in 1991 and a set of Šestine costumes in 1994. Both sets of costumes were purchased at a cost of $40,000 each.

 

In 1994, the CNH donated over $10,000 towards the establishment of the Croatian embassy in Ottawa. That same year, a decision was made to purchase 2.5 acres of land on Barton Street near Fruitland Road with the express purpose of building a new facility.

 

The year 1995 proved to be a very memorable year as the CNH hosted the Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festival in honour of its 65th anniversary. Groups from across western and eastern Canada performed at this festival. This was the second time that the CNH hosted the event and by all accounts, this festival was one of the most successful in the history of the event.

 

One year later, the senior group had the honour of playing the national anthems and providing half-time entertainment during an international basketball game between Canada and Croatia. The game was part of the pre-Atlanta Challenge which took place at Copps Coliseum prior to the 1996 Olympics. The game and the tamburaši were filmed live on television.

 

In keeping with established guidelines for Graduations, the fourth Graduation Night took place in June 1996. The valedictorian was Linda Klemenčić.

 

A third trip to Croatia, delayed due to the war, occurred in 1997. The senior group performed at both the CFU and the Canadian-Croatian Folklore festivals in Zagreb. The group also visited Đakovo, Osijek, Bizovac, Hlebine, Varaždin, Krašić, Žakanje, Biograd Na Moru, Slapovi Krke, Tučepi, Dubrovnik, Međugorje, Knin and Plitvice. The CNH also played during Mass at Croatia's national shrine in Marija Bistrica. Perhaps the most touching moment of the trip came as the group performed in front of a group of disabled war veterans at Varaždinske Toplice.

 

In the late 1990s, the CNH performed at CFU festivals in Washington, D.C., and Dearborn, Michigan. On the other side of the border, our tamburaši performed in Montreal and Sault Ste. Marie as well as Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festivals in Windsor, London, Oakville and Mississauga.

 

 

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