The association for the promotion storytelling and creative arts Vilinput (Fairytrail) was founded in 2014. Its founders are Irena Vukoja, Erika Katačić Kožić and Sandra Vukoja. On 12th December 2019, I was asked to take part in a storytelling event as part of their project ‘Fairy Tales and Stories for the Golden Age’ and I gladly accepted.

The association established the Croatian Storytelling Festival with which it wants to give storytelling the importance it deserves and to promote storytelling as a profession, and the festival has been running since 2015. So far the festival has featured famous storytellers such as Jasna Held, Margarete Peršić and Perry Ground. Jasna Held from Dubrovnik the first professional Croatian storyteller is an honorary member of the association. The association’s most significant activities are:

– the narration of fairy tales and stories in children’s nurseries, schools, libraries and at various events

– the conceiving and conducting of various educational workshops for children and adults

– The most important projects alongside the storytelling festival are also ‘Fairy Tales for the Golden Age – storytelling programmes and creative workshops for pensioners and those 65+’, ‘Fairies realise wishes’, ‘Fairy’s tea party with Sandra the fairy tale-teller’, ‘Drinks and stories evenings’, the cycling tour ‘Cycling down the Fairytrail’, ‘Children to children – the right to clean air.’ They have also established a number of collaborations with similar associations: the Vestigium association in Zagreb, the Didgiland association in Zagreb, the Lima marketing association in Slavonski Brod, the Knjiguljica bookshop in Karlovac, with the first not-for-profit radio station in Europe Radio 92FM+, the Oblačić association, etc.

Sandra and Irena Vukoja greeted me when I arrived in Slavonski Brod. The storytelling was held in the Art Gallery in Slavonski Brod, in which there is the also the Memorial House of Dragutin Tadijanović.

The programme began at 6pm with an introductory greeting from the Sandra the organiser and continued with a presentation by ReKo Uključi – a project presented by Ivana Kljaić on behalf of the OK URID-Association for Early Childhood Intervention which is leading the project in collaboration with the Loco-Moto association of people with disabilities. The aim is to actively include the marginalised group of people in the cultural and public life of the community. So through this project, the characters of Kosjenka (Curlylocks) and Reygoch teach us that both big and small, strong and weak – we all have a purpose in existing and that is to help one another, just as those two do and so, therefore, save the village from ruin.

A cheerful performance followed by the ‘Vesela djeca’ (Happy Children) dance group from the Ivan Meštrović Primary School – Vrpolje – the Čajkovci regional school, which was prepared by their teacher Dubravka Matić. I then told the story of Reygoch as well as one folk fairy tale. We ended the evening with a pleasant get-together and some tasty homemade cakes and juices.

The next day, Sandra and Irena took on the role of tour guides and showed me a few of the town’s attractions. We walked to the River Sava, visited the Dragutin Tadijanović Memorial House with his great-nephew Miroslav Bjelobrk, as well as saw the house where Ivana Brlić Mažuranić lived and wrote.

I was particularly impressed by the house in which Ivana lived from 1892, it was here that she wrote Croatian Tales of Long Ago and other great works. In the town’s central square which is named after Ivana Brlić Mažuranić is a statue of her, the work of the academic sculptor Marija Ujević. There are several other monuments dedicated to Ivana’s work, via characters from her fairy tales such as Potjeh, grandfather Neumijka etc.

Apart from Ivana, the town is profoundly and proudly marked by one more great name of Croatian literature. In the village of Rastušje, seven kilometres from Slavonski Brod, Dragutin Tadijanović was born way back in 1905. It is difficult to say anything brief about the work and character of this great man. Dragutin left all of his works, art collection and personal things to his town, and his birth house, due to the efforts of his family, particularly Miroslav Bjelobrk, is still alive and open to visitors.

Miroslav is also the custodian of Dragutin Tadijanović’s legacy, via an exhibition which he runs smoothly, with lots of information and interesting features from the poet’s life. With its conceptual design, the Memorial House attempts to evoke the ambient values of each room of the poet’s Zagreb apartment in Gajeva street. The rooms are decorated with interesting fittings of authentic furniture, memorabilia, a rich archive, manuscripts, sculptures, photographs, letters, a large number of books and art, which in a way mediate between us and the time in which the poet lived.

As a gift I received Dragutin Tadijanović’s book Pjesme brodske i rastuške (Poems of Brod and Rastušje), the first edition was published on the poet’s 101st birthday on 4th November 2006. The book covers his poems and writing from 1920-1932 in Brod and Rastušje, after which he went to Zagreb.

Thank you for the wonderful tour, and I hope to return next year to Rastušje! Thank you to Slavonski Broad and the people there who with their hospitality and magic made me feel at home.

Translated by Martin Mayhew

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