2022 Marija Mataja
The recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Croatian Person of the Year is Marija Mataja. Marija’s heritage goes back to the community of Mrkopalj in the Gorski Kotar region of Croatia. Prior to the family emigrating in 1964 her father, Lovre Mataja, came to America, found work and purchased a house for his family. Just imagine, Marija, a small child of eight years coming to America with her mother, Barica Crnić, two sisters and two brothers in 1964 whose memory of travel is an airport full of people, none of whom she knew. It was all very big and very exciting.
The family first settled in Burien then eventually in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. She was enrolled in the Croatian Fraternal Union(CFU) Seattle Lodge 439 and soon became active in the Seattle Croatian community. The Seattle Junior Tamburitzans (SJTs) became her passion when her nieces and nephews joined the group. She vigorously supported them with help in fundraising for their trips, constructing new costumes with seamstress, Kathy Tarabochia, assisting with their performances both locally and at Croatian Fraternal Union Junior Federation Festivals in Toronto and Zagreb. She was with them for 2 decades and was their Manager for three years. Her favorite trip was to Croatia where the group traveled to the beautiful Dalmatian coast. The highlight ...
2019 Zvonimir Aničić
It is with great pride and pleasure that this year’s Outstanding Croatian is being awarded to someone who has given selflessly of himself to the Croatian community of Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Each year CroatiaFest recognizes an individual who has made contributions to the growth of our community by volunteering their time and resources to preserve Croatian identity, culture and heritage. This year’s recipient is an example of such dedication.
Through his work as a teacher, performer, community organizer and representative, he has left an indelible mark on the growth of the community, engaging youth and building bridges between the Croatian communities in Canada, The United States and Croatia. His efforts are most deserving of recognition.
Zvonimir Aničić was born in Vancouver as the third child of Croatian emigrants. As many Croatian children, he got involved with the “Hrvatski Vitezovi” / Croatian Knights in Vancouver at an early age. At just five years old, he became an alter server at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Croatian Catholic parish, where he served with joy and seriousness until he was 16 years old. Over the last few years, he has taken on the singing of the Passion of Christ (following the style from his parents’ home town of Sumartin on the Island of Brač), maintaining a tradition that has been nurtured in the Vancouver community since the beginning of the parish.
As his musical interest grew, in 1984, Zvonimir joined the folklore ensemble “Tamburica Orchestra Kardinal Stepinac” (TOKS), where he is still active today, 34 years later, performing the duty of the President and Music Director.
After graduating from high school, Zvonimir went on to attend and completed the Management Information System program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He started his career in 1996 ...
2018 George Jovanovich
George, one of the four sons of John and Joanne Jovanovich, traces his Croatian roots to his grandparents, Fred and Mary (Mataya) Jovanovich, who emigrated from Mrkopalj in the Gorski Kotar region of Croatia. For nearly 50 years he has been involved in Croatian activities and has contributed greatly to the enhancement of Croatian culture and identity in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
George was enrolled in the Croatian Fraternal Union (CFU) at an early age. This exposure led to him becoming a charter member of the newly formed Seattle Jr. Tamburitzans in 1970. He learned to play the bugarija, the counter-beat instrument that he still plays today. But playing was just one of the several ways that he served the Seattle Jr. Tamburitzans. He was group treasurer in the early 1980's and later, with his children, Nick, Paul and Katie, in the group, he served as assistant manager, then manager for 10 years. During his ...
2017: John A. Morovich
The life of this year’s CroatiaFest honoree, John Morovich, demonstrates remarkable dedication to the preservation and sharing of the Croatian culture and traditions. John’s passion for Croatian music has brought Croatian traditions and heritage to life in settings across the U.S., Canada and Europe. When one looks at his impressive list of accomplishments it is clear that he fills his days with exploring ways to share the music of his ancestors and bring that music to the modern stage.
John was born in 1965 to John and Cathryn Morovich of Seattle. At age seven, he began studying piano accordion with Professor Joseph Spano. He learned to play tamburitza from music legend Thomas Krmpotich Jr., then the music director of the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans (SJT). As a teen he played tamburitza, and later bass guitar with Steirmark Quartet, a band with which his mother, Cathryn, was a vocalist. In 1977 John became a member of the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans and in 1994 John answered the call to leadership and was selected as its artistic director. This 50 member youth ensemble, has toured Croatia seven times and appeared at two Worlds Fairs. In 2005 he was selected as Guest Conductor for the Croatian Fraternal Union of America Junior Cultural Federation Festival held in ...
2016: John Petrinovich
The recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Croation Person of the Year, John Petrinovich, is a gentleman whose roots are founded on the island of Vis, a small island on the Dalmatian coastline of Croatia. In 1901 John’s father, Anton, immigrated from Vis settling in Tacoma and bringing his trade of fishing with him. He was among the many immigrants who left the Austro-Hungarian Empire seeking a new life and bringing with them techniques of purse seine fishing.
In 1922 John’s mother, Manda Pincecic immigrated from Vis to marry Anton. Settling in Old Town Tacoma, Washington many Croatian families sought to find a new life in America. There that John grew up with many of the children of Croatian families who became lifelong friends. John and his family often attended events at the Slavonian Hall. For John the most memorable event was the “Three Kings Dance” to commemorate the January 6th visit of the Three Kings’ to the Christ child. John says he really honed his dancing skills through that annual event!
The Slavonian American Benevolent Society (SABS) was founded in 1901 as a membership organization that held events to bring the Croatian community together in dance, theater, food celebrations, weddings and funerals. In 1906 the members built a hall that became the destination point for all events. The Hall became an anchor for many immigrants offering the opportunity for people of a common culture to gather, help each other get jobs, support each other ...
2015: Alma Franulović Plancich
The tapestry of Alma Franulović Plancich’s life and accomplishments are interwoven with the threads of connectivity and the heartbeats of people living in and building community.
Alma’s earliest recollection was at the age of 2 ½ years remembering her family’s forced evacuation to a little stone house in an olive grove when the Nazis were bombing the harbor of their town, Vela Luka, Korcula, Croatia. Six years later her family arrived in Anacortes after 14 refugee camps, 4 countries and languages, travelling in cattle cars and grateful to the Catholic Church and the nuns for opening their hearts including refuge in the Dominican Republic and Caracas, Venezuela. Her grandmother in Anacortes with the aid of a young attorney, Henry Jackson (later U. S. Senator Jackson) worked tirelessly to complete immigration paperwork. Political asylum was granted. Their story is chronicled in “ABC Notebook – The Children of Ellis Island” (1986).
Plancich speaks lovingly of her grandmother, mother and father for their strength enduring the struggles and sacrifices and for their pride and dignity
Cultural preservation and presentation have been a major part of Alma’s life. “Ethnicity is what you are born with – culture is what you learn through life’s experiences”. Alma looks to the similarities of other cultures instead of the differences and has no problem with communication as she establishes trust, respect and ...
2014: Richard Major
It may surprise some that the recipient of CroatiaFest's 2014 award is not Croatian at all but rather of Slovenian-Irish descent. But Dick grew up in an area of Renton that was populated with many Croatian families who had moved over from the Roslyn coalfields because of the labor strife there. And he could relate to them being that he had immigrant coal miners on both sides of his family.
As a teenager he joined a Croatian kolo club and a few years later, after earning a degree in Fishery Biology from the University of Washington and spending two years military service in Germany, he married a real Croatian, Louise Sutlovich, a fisherman's daughter from Seattle and it was off and running in Croatian activities thereafter.
Dick joined the Croatian Fraternal Union in 1963 and locally has coordinated or participated in most lodge-sponsored picnics, banquets, exhibits, testimonials, fundraisers, etc. over the past 50 years. He has served as a lodge officer for most of these years, currently as secretary/treasurer.
At the CFU National level he has held various offices for 35 years and is currently serving as President of the organization's High Trial (Judicial) Board. He has fulfilled many special assignments at the national level, most noteworthy was his month-long assignment in Zagreb in 1996 which was the first step toward the CFU's expansion into Croatia.
Dick has also been a member of CroatiaFest's planning committee since its inception in 2003. ...
2013: Maria Franulović Petrish
Every day in the life of this year’s CroatiaFest honoree is filled with the physical presence of someone in her community whether it is family, extended family, friends, church or newcomers. Her home is a magnet to all and now the Croatian Cultural Center has become the gathering place.
Maria Franulović Petrish gives credit to her grandmother, Marija Marinović Franulović, who came to visit relatives in Anacortes before World War II. She did not intend to stay but the war forced her to remain in America for a few years. During that period Marinović worked along with Senators Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson to bring her family to Anacortes as political refugees. Even though the family was separated from their father, George Franulović, and were in an Italian refugee camp with their mother, Marija Damjanović Franulović, they were physically together as a family unit. They are forever grateful to the Catholic Church who opened their hearts during this journey including refuge in the Dominican Republic and Caracas, Venezuela.
The ethnic community of Croatians grew between 14th and 17th streets and it was as if the town of Vela Luka, on the island of Korčula, was transplanted in this new community on Fidalgo Island in Anacortes, ...