Zagreb | 2020


City  Zagreb
Age  40
Profession — In between jobs
Love life  Boyfriend, 3 children
Years living in Zagreb  19
Location  Kresimirac Park


T H E  Z A G R E B  S T O R I E S





  • What makes you happy?
    “Feeling content and calm. Usually in the evening, when I have put the kids to bed and pour myself a glass of wine and watch something on Netflix. In this phase of my life, that’s like the pinnacle of happiness, because it’s quiet, I don’t have to put my noise-cancelling headphones. I never planned to have three kids, but we did IVF and we went from 1 child to 3 children. I cried when I heard I was having twins. I was like, ‘How do I do that, I can’t freaking imagine it!’ I love my kids, but I don’t really like kids per se. Some of them are lovely and sweet, but some are monsters. But still, I always wanted them. In my former life, before having kids, going to a beach and drinking a cocktail with friends would have made me really happy. I get all my energy from other people, I like to hear their stories and problems. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as I’m with someone who can make me learn something new, pushes my limits or moves my boundaries. I like passionate and outgoing people who tell me what’s on their mind, because I suck at reading between the lines.”
  • What is your best personality trait?
    “A lot of people in Zagreb are very opinionated when someone is different, but I accept mostly everyone as they are. I don’t mind if someone wants to take drugs or is gay or whatever. As long as that person is not making anyone else miserable, then I’m OK with it. Slowly people in Zagreb are becoming more accepting, although they’re still more closed to other cultures than I would like. I don’t care where people come from or what they do for a living, as long as you live with passion. If you’re cleaning stairs and you love it, good for you. But if you’re doing it because you don’t want to learn anything else, I probably wouldn’t like you.”
  • What makes you different than other people?
    “I talk a lot and I make friends more easily than other people, because I’m literally capable of talking to anybody as if we’ve met a hundred times before. It’s both good and bad. I don’t mind sharing intimate things with someone I just met if it feels right, but some people will think you’re crazy. Or some people will take advantage of it. Like the time a new babysitter claimed that I had stolen her 400 Kuna’s. That’s not even 50 euros, why would I do that? I think she wanted money out of me, but I don’t play those games. Two days later two people from Child Protections Services showed up at my door. They told me that had received an anonymous tip about me not cooking, but feeding my children chips and that I was harassing the dog. Of course, when they saw my children, they knew that they were OK.”
  • What is your biggest life lesson?
    “Kids are a life lesson, because I never would have thought that I’d have to be so responsible. But my biggest life lesson is that whatever you want, is possible. You just have to set your mind to a way where everything works. For instance, I’m in a successful relationship living between three countries, but it isn’t the type of relationship where we leave in the morning, go to work and come back in the evening and cook a meal. Right now I’m with the kids in Zagreb, and when I’m away he is with the kids, and we meet in either London, Frankfurt or on the seaside of Croatia. Everybody is telling me I’m crazy for living this way, but I like that it’s not boring. Imagine waking up, going to work, coming back and the next day and the next and the next are the same. Why would you choose that? Although in the end, I do have some kind of cycle in my life as well.”

  • What is your biggest dream or goal?
    “I don’t have dreams, only goals. If I want something, I work towards it and do what needs to be done. If I wanted to be a pilot, I would become a pilot. My goal now is to be flexible, since we live in three different countries. We were living in Germany for years, but my boyfriend’s work has brought him to London. Try to get three toddlers in their push chair and going to a store in the city centre of London… Here in Zagreb we have a great bilingual nursery, so they learn Croatian, English and German. My boyfriend and I both don’t want to feel like we’re missing out on anything in life because we have kids. I hate it when people say they have to be home at 7 PM for the kids. Come on, people, it’s crazy and stupid to live by those rules. If you live like that, nobody is happy. I would never tell someone I’m not coming because of the kids. My kids know how to behave in restaurants just fine. And I don’t have those time-consuming rituals with them in the morning or evening, we all just go with the flow. But my goal is to be flexible in a way where if I want to work a couple of months remotely from a beach in the Bahamas, I won’t have to worry about the sitter, my kids or my job. ”
  • What is your biggest struggle?
    “Right now, parenting. Because honestly, I’m really scared that I will mess up my kids. A lot of things you carry with you in life are inherited from your parents. There is always this emotional legacy and as long as someone doesn’t break that cycle, it will remain the same. My mom is very passive-aggressive and is not aware of it. When my sister and I were kids, she said hurtful things like, ‘You’ve gotten really fat, you should lose some weight’, or, ‘O, you’ve gotten a B, why not an A like your friend?’ It isn’t good for your self-esteem. Recently she told one of my twins—who is really active and lively, while the other is more quiet and cute—‘Why are you behaving so badly all the time, can’t you be like your sister?’ I had to tell my mother that she really couldn’t say that, but she doesn’t understand. It freaks me out when I say things that my mother could have said. Like she is there as a ghost. Sometimes I worry. What if, like her, I assume something is good for the children when I’m actually wrong? I mean, even mass murderers think that they are helping the world by killing people.
    Sometimes I just don’t know what to do. When the kids fight, what am I supposed to do? Yell at them, say, ‘Don’t do that?’ Or just leave it to them, because it’s their conflict? I’m totally overthinking it and I’m aware of that. I’m afraid that my kids will hate me later, and that I’ll end up living alone and be this crazy cat lady. But I’m getting better at parenting. For now the plan is to accept my kids as they are and support them to be whatever they want to be. The key is to ask them the right questions. And I hope that I’ve raised them well enough to guide them in the right direction.”
  • What is your greatest sadness?
    “My father’s passing. When he died after five years of prostate cancer, I thought, what do you mean, he died? I was confused for about a month. It’s very weird to lose a parent, for some reason I thought he would always be there. Like in ancient Greece, when they believed the Gods would always be there. But him suffering so badly was worse than him dying.”
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
    “Learning that I can live in a different way and that I can push my limits. For instance, as a kid I was really introvert and scared of other people. I was unhappy and didn’t feel like myself. At the end of high school, I realized that it didn’t make any sense, I wasn’t introvert at all, I was just scared, and I wanted to turn it around. I started researching and found out that it was called anxiety. I went to a psychologist and then just pushed myself to behave differently.”
  • What is the best advice that anyone ever gave you?
    “If something is too much too soon, then that’s not normal. If someone says ‘I love you’ after a week, they must be a psycho. It happened to me, but I was too young and too stupid back then to realize this. And the other thing is, if something feels wrong, it’s wrong. Just follow your gut. Once I started living by those rules, things became much easier. Whenever I did things that felt wrong but sounded right and logical, they never turned out OK.”
  • What advice would you give other women in Europe?
    “Don’t over-complicate things, everything will work out. And follow whatever you feel like following. There’s often no reason not to do something. We often think we can not do it, but once you try, you see that you can. Just do it.”
  • Is there anything you regret in life?
    “No, it makes you who you are and you can learn from that experience. I’ve made some good and bad decisions. Like when I wanted to drop out of high school to become a hairdresser. My parents told me it was crazy and I needed to finish the gymnasium, but I was so sure about my plan, so I signed myself out and told the school my parents were OK with it. Everyone said I was stupid, but I was determined. But it was stupid, because then suddenly I didn’t have a high school to go to anymore.”
  • What does Zagreb mean to you?
    “It’s an interesting city. Historically it was reigned by several countries, like Hungary and Italy, so you have a mixture of many cultures, which you’ll recognize in the amazing food and architecture. Croatian people will normally tell you that it’s a backward country, because it used to be communist and nobody knows anything. But Zagreb is actually extremely comfortable and very good for families. I like the relaxed vibe here. We have a great, affordable health system and there are so many playgrounds, and places where they take care of your kids if you need to go out. It’s also very lively, because of our coffee culture. The women in Zagreb are good-looking and fashionable and I think they are in charge. You can’t see it at first, because the perception is that we live in a male-dominated society.
    I wouldn’t say Zagreb is the best place in the world to live in. On the one hand, the people are relaxed, knowledgeable and interesting. But on the other hand, they are grumpy, fatalistic and blame everybody else for the way they live. They blame the state when they don’t earn enough. And yes, the salaries are very Eastern European, so you will not make a 6-figure salary here, ever. But honestly, I think it’s the fault of the people themselves. They’re not aware of the concept of life-long learning and think an undergraduate degree is enough. Probably because our parents and grandparents grew up in this socialist, communist environment in former Yugoslavia. They learned that you go to school, go to university, get a job, retire, and die. Too many people here still have this mindset, but you need to put in some effort, go out there, see the world, gain experience, learn something new and become an expert in your field. Then when you come back, you might be able to change things, and not just moan about how everything is bad and nothing can be achieved.”

Photos by Sanja Koblar


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