You’ve seen shows on TV where family trees are traced back and relatives are reunited, but how often does this really happen? When Tony Bloomfield booked an Intrepid trip in Croatia he had one special wish, to find out more about his father…
“Firstly a bit of background to my story. My father came from Korcula (family name Stanisich) to New Zealand in the middle 1930s and later married my mother. Unfortunately he was killed in a work-related accident when I was very young and my mother eventually remarried. In 2005, my mother, older sister and I went to Croatia. We visited Korcula and the village of Pupnat, where my father was from, in hope of meeting family members. We had an interpreter organised, but he failed to show up and sadly we left without making any contact.
In 2011 I decided to go back and take my wife and show her Croatia, with the intent this time to also make contact with any relations in the village. I have travelled with Intrepid before and enjoyed the inclusions and the freedom that the trips provide, so we booked in especially to visit Korcula. When we confirmed the trip we also booked accommodation in Dubrovnik a week ahead of the Intrepid tour, with the intention of organising a guide on the island to help with the language barrier and to search the village with some limited information on my relations.
Once we got the itinerary for the trip and read that the dinner was with the locals at Pupnat we had a change of plan, with the thought of asking our tour leader if they would assist us on our search.
On the first day of the trip we asked Tomas, our group leader, and told him the story. He could not have been more helpful. He contacted the restaurant owner and arranged for us to meet that morning before the dinner. So armed with our photos, we caught the local bus to the village to meet with Marko, the owner of the restaurant. With the photos in his hand we followed him down the road, where he proceeded to call out to a house and talk to another man, who then pointed to a house which he told us was my cousins.
Upon knocking on the door a lady came out and Marko (speaking Croatian, which we don’t understand) told us to come back at 2pm when her husband would be home. But in the interim we could go to the nearby home of my other cousin. Lucky for us his daughter was home and she could speak English. So the next thing we know we are inside being fed and offered drinks, photos are being passed around and we are deep in conversation, albeit a bit fractured. We got the definite impression that they were very excited to meet us and they wanted us to stay for a couple of months. They took us to a local beach and we sat at a bar and had more drinks, before they took us back to the village, as they had to go to work at 5pm.
Eventually the rest of our group arrived for dinner and Tomas asked the question, “Did we find them?” Everyone in our group was excited for us and were thrilled when we said “Yes!”
As dinner rolled on, Tomas called my cousins to tell them we were still in the village. In the afternoon they had been eager for us to get together after they finished work, so thanks to Tomas making the call they turned up to take us to meet their son. It was more drinks, sharing family stories and laughter, then eventually in the early hours of the morning we were dropped off back at our accommodation, armed with names and contact details of other cousins that I never knew lived in New Zealand.
A very big thanks to Tomas for all his help and his encouragement. In fact, after this trip we also travelled to Italy and met up with my tour leader from 2005, Zara, so we had a very special trip with lots of great memories!”
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* photo by Lauren McLean – Intrepid Photography Competition