We arrived at the port in Split, Croatia around 8:00 am. We have arranged a car and driver to take us by ferry to the small island of Brac (pronounced "bra-ch") and the tiny village of Splitska. This is where my mother's father and mother were born. It is also where several of her older brothers and sisters were born before the family immigrated to Sinclair Island in Washington state. One of her brothers, John, was born on Sinclair and mother was born in Anacortes.
We arrived in the Split dock about 8:00 am. After breakfast we left to find our driver. Evon is in his early 40's and a good looking slightly built man who speaks fluent English plus being well informed. We first went inside the walls of Split and walked the old area of the city. There is a large outdoor market selling everything including vegetables and bright flowers. This is a very old and interesting part of Split, but our goal was the island of Brac so we didn't spend a lot of time there.
We caught the 11:00 am ferry to the island for the fifty minute ride. Brac is 24 miles long and 8.5 miles long. It is one of the largest of the Dalmation islands and has a year long population of some 13,800 people.The best known area on the island is Bol which is a 40 minute ride from where the ferry gets in across the island, This is a resort area where people come to enjoy the beaches.
Located only 3.5 miles from where the ferry comes in is the small village of Splitska. Here about 400 people live relying largely on vineyards and oil groves. There is no hotel, but there is a small church. My mothers parents lived here and had a small vineyard with olive trees for olive oil. It was from here that her parents and some siblings made the long journey across the ocean and the United States to the small town of Anacortes.
It is a beautiful island with clear turquoise water and small bays. It looks very much like one of the San Juan islands. What is immediately striking are the stones, flat gray stones. They are everywhere along the fields above shore line all the way up the hills for miles. They cover the ground and are found in piles where people have tossed them over many years to clear an area to plant vines or trees. They are neatly stacked as high rock fences which go for miles. They are stacked to create walls of houses and they are even stacked as roofs over the rock houses. There are miles of carefully stacked flat, gray rocks and tossed piles of the rock. You look at this land and you wonder how anything could grow in this shale rock place and you then think about the generations of people who lived here who must have daily gathered these rocks for one purpose or another. It all represents the very hardest of back breaking work.
The village is around a small, beautiful bay. There are several outdoor cafes and a small store, but little else. We drove on to the cemetery as I was interested in looking for my mother's family name. There were many "Vulic" which was my grandmother's maiden name and "Babarovic" which is my grandfather Peter's name in Croatian – Babarovich. We drove up the hillside to the village which is even smaller then Splitska where there is a stone church and another cemetery overlooking a valley below. An old woman and old man sat on a bench outside their house. He smiled with his only tooth in front. I'd like a photograph of him, but it's not possible. We drove back to the harbor and had lunch outside along the water.The lunch was a salad and a black risotto – made with the ink of the squid.
After lunch I walked the stairs to the church which was locked, but I was able to get a photograph of me in front of the church. This was, after all, the church my grandparents and all the children who were born here were baptized in and where they went to Mass every Sunday. I thought about the generations on my mother's side who had lived, labored and worshiped in this tiny village. I thought about how grateful I was they had the courage and determination to immigrate to the United States allowing me to have the life I have been privileged to enjoy. I was very moved at having hadthis opportunity to visit here with Lita.
After a relaxing lunch we drove back to the ferry and took it to Split. Fortunately, the ship is next to the ferry landing. We changed and relaxed. That night we ate outside on the stern of the ship and watched the ferry for Italy being loaded with cars, trucks and people for its evening sailing. It was a wonderful day and this was a great way to end it.