Croatian Diaspora Spotlight Series - Suzana Fantov

Croatian Diaspora Spotlight Series - Suzana Fantov

August 20, 2019

In our third interview with the Croatian Diaspora, we interview Suzana Fantov from Melbourne, Australia! We first met the talented and creative Suzana at one of Mladi Hrvati's (a Folkore Group in Melbourne) Annual Zabava. We were instant friends and it has always been a pleasure catching up with Suzana whenever we are down in Melbourne! You may already know her through her work in the Croatian community in Melbourne and her work at the Hrvatski Vjesnik Croatian Herald. 

She is full of life which really shines through in this interview! Enjoy!

Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

Photo: Suzana and Me (Meagan) at the Uppermoda Stall at the Croatian Food and Wine Festival at Footscray, Melbourne.


Interview with Suzana Fantov

Big thanks to Meagan and Michael and best wishes to Uppermoda, our beautiful Croatian-fashion-ambassadors!

 Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

Photo: Suzana at the Uppermoda Stall at the Croatian Food and Wine Festival at Footscray, Melbourne. Visiting dear Meagan and beautiful Uppermoda stall. 

Now let's talk about me. 😄  My name is Suzana Fantov, born in Croatia (Opatija) and now living in Melbourne for the last 15 years (almost). Every second year I travel to my homeland and usually stay for 3 months. Most of my friends keep telling me that I haven’t emigrated because I still behave like a tourist.

I’m a journalist and because my art is an expression of my inner self, my perception of the outer world, as long I will create, I don’t need to be titled as an artist. If art is defined as the process, then everyone who is doing the creating is by definition an artist. This is what my mum will tell you if you ask her what my job is.

For me, it’s always weird to be interviewed.

Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

Photo: It's all about having fun!

1. Firstly, tell us a little about yourself! What part of Croatia are you from, when did you move to Australia and what do you do for a living?

     

    It seems like it's been many years since I came to Melbourne from my hometown of Opatija, Croatia because every day has brought so much. However,  many will say that my 15 years versus their 30, 40… is just the beginning. For me, each year was equally long and important.

    I am the proud mother of a 22-year-old girl, my beautiful Stefania. She was almost 8 years old when we came here and today, she is finishing her law and economics studies. Getting married here in Melbourne, I also got my new big family, a great Croatian husband and his 2 lovely kids.

    Back in Croatia, I studied arts and journalism and easily found my place in Melbourne, continuing my love and passion for art in any form. What could best describe my personality is creativity. Creativity allows me to stretch my mind, to do new and exciting things, and engage me in a way that takes me one step closer to reaching my full potential.

    I do have a great deal of energy, both physical and mental.  I can spend hours working on a single thing that holds my attention and remain enthusiastic all the while. This doesn't mean that I’m hyperactive or manic. 😄 Most of the time I spend a great deal of my time at rest, thinking and reflecting on the things that hold my interest. This is how I combined journalism and a few of my other passions. 

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda Photo: ART

    Rone – Empire – Photographing the largest and most ambitious project yet: EMPIRE; was set amongst the decaying glory of a once-magnificent manor Burnham Beeches, in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges. (2019)

     

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Suzana on a ferry boat with the ‘Croatian Network Riders’, YASHI rally 

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: ComiCon

    If there’s something I love about Star Wars (besides the story, the special effects, and a long list of other things that have made this movie franchise into one of the most important ones in the entertainment industry), it’s the role given to women.



    2. We understand that you work at the Hrvatski Vjesnik Croatian Herald, can you tell us a little about how it started and how you became involved with the Croatian Herald?

    It can be said that I was lucky. At the beginning of my arrival in Australia, I knocked on the door of the editorial board of the Croatian Herald in Clifton Hill. Tomislav Starcevic, more than warmly accepted me in the newsroom which marked the continuation of my life here in Australia. Unfortunately, he passed away to early…

    Being a journalist has great importance just like the importance of true journalism.

    Nowadays, so many people consider every published text to be journalistic, but in reality, it is not. The Internet has provided everyone with an equal opportunity of public expression, whether by commenting or by posting their own text on a blog or page. However, it is important to know that not all published texts are actually journalistic. For me, journalism is a profession with established principles and written rules and by working in one of the oldest, ‘still alive’ newspapers written in the Croatian language in Australia. It is a great honour but also a responsibility and obligation that I share with my editorial staff.

     Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Billich art - Croatian Herald
    Charles Billich original canvas – History of the Croatian Herald – People who marked the pages of one of the oldest, still publishing, Croatian newspaper in Australia.
    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda
    Photo: Suzana's articles made in a cool way to save them

     3. What has been your career highlight so far with the Hrvatski Vjesnik?

    It may seem to someone that a journalistic career  consists of  interviews with celebrities, festive parties, strong comments and reviews that will provoke spectacular  reactions ...The main goal for both the Croatian Herald and myself is to remain objective. . Now I need to answer your question  in the same way, so I’ll be objective.

     

    All these years, my work have been marked primarily by the Croatian community. I do my reports from Croatian communities as I live in a Croatian community and I’m actively participating in the Croatian Community. This is the only way to do proper work. Who can write or tell a story about your community better than the people whose hearts are beating the same?

     

    Communities are made by the people, and people are an endless source of information.  Their works, their successes, their efforts to preserve everything that is labeled 'Croatian'.

     

    I really appreciate every encounter I had with so many great members of our Croatian community.  Croatian musicians who have visited us  (e.g. Graso, Oliver, 2Cellos, Vuco, Zapresic Boys, Opca opasnost, Miroslav Skoro, Thompson, Dusko Lokin…).  A few other highlights include the special interview with the President of the Republic of Croatia, beautiful gala-dinners, folklore festivals and amazing food festivals. Each of them are important for me and are a great inspiration.

    This is how any story about a Croatian emigrant is being created.

    My job is to write down as much as I can, because there’s an old expression that says – “If It’s Not Written, It Didn’t Happen”

     

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: A special moment with Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, President of the Republic of Croatia.

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Siniša Vuco

    Vuco – Croatian singer during his Australian Tour 2017

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Suzana with film producer Gary Hegedus 

     Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: We (Uppermoda) were lucky enough to be interviewed by Suzana for the Croatian Herald.

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Suzana with Gazde on their Australian Tour

     

    4. You are highly active in the Croatian community in Melbourne, was being involved in the community always a prominent part of your life from when you moved from Croatia?

    The fact that I work as a journalist inevitably involves me in so many activities and events within the community. Which is a great thing because you are always well informed about the majority of activities in communities and in the same time, you are aware of community needs and the ways how you or someone else can contribute.

    By promoting all spheres of Croatian tradition, culture and heritage, we are achieving a ‘great deal’. The texts published in the Croatian Herald & news from the Croatian community in Australia are also shared by numerous Croatian portals.

    Well, there’s always good news and there’s also the bad news. ‘Bad news sells. If it bleeds, it leads. No news is good news, and the good news is no news.’ Those are the classic rules for the evening broadcasts and the morning papers. Today, when the information is being spread and monitored in different ways, new ‘rules’ are discovered. I think it is better if we think this way. Good news positively influences our readers.

    Readers also tend to share articles that are exciting or funny, or that inspired negative emotions like anger or anxiety, but not articles that left them merely sad. You can not run away from the problems in society or avoid negative emotions but you need to find the right way to present them.

    So here’s my point: try to solve your problem before it's going viral. 😄 It doesn’t matter how big or small it is; what it is about (country, nation, politics, community, religion…).  Media manipulation isn't new, don't believe everything you read on the Internet. 

    I might be specially connected with the Croatian Catholic Community of Sv. Nikola Tavelic in Clifton Hill, because this is the parish to which I belong, and I gladly assist whenever is necessary. With so many ideas running through my brain, I think I could help a lot. Some of my ideas were successfully realized and with the help of others, we certainly made a nice contribution.

    At the end of the day, a sense of belonging is what fills you.

     Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: CROktober Fest
    Combine litres of beer, homemade food, music and Croatian and you will get another Oktoberfest but this time CROktober Fest in Melbourne.

    5. We can see from your Facebook posts that you share a lot of information & knowledge about Croatian traditions. How do you learn about these topics and why do you feel it is necessary to pass on this knowledge? 

    First of all, the most important thing is to preserve your language (mother tongue).  

    There are many reasons why language(s) die. The reasons are often political, economic or cultural in nature. Migration also plays a large role in language change. It is the same with the Croatian language. We can not lose a part of who we are. This is why I like to do everything in the Croatian language. Even this interview was planned to be in Croatian. Hopefully, my English is not that bad and you will get the point.

    Furthermore, most people believe knowledge is power and success depends on how much a person knows. If you ask me, knowledge is power but knowledge without action can be useless. That’s why it is a good thing to use all social networks and media for these purposes. And this is how I’m happy to share everything I learned about Croatia’s rich heritage.

    I am a very curious person, thirsty for knowledge and I’m using all available sources to find out as much as possible about our history, traditions, customs, folklore ... Through the literature, but also through numerous conversations with our people, especially from our elders. I write down everything that I think should be written down and passed on.

    All those topics together in some way are making a promotion not only of our heritage but of our beautiful country too.

     

    6. What are some traditions that you ensure you continue even though you are no longer in Croatia?

    In our family, we speak our home language, Croatian. All the customs we cherished at home in Opatija, are absolutely preserved and we continue them here in Melbourne. Whether it be Christian customs (eg Christmas, Easter, big holidays) or preparing Croatian traditional dishes.

    One has to adapt to a new country, new people and customs, but never give up its roots. This is what you brought with you, so you need to keep it and carry on. 

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda
    Photo: Folk

    I’m not dancing folklore but I do have so many friends who are preserving our folklore and they were so nice to me that they literally dressed me up for the celebration of Cardinal Stepinac St. Day at St Patrick's cathedral in Melbourne.

    7. We know you have a range of hobbies from karate to photography, you are a very busy woman. Tell us a bit about your activities outside of your work with the Croatian Herald.

    Although my day is completely fulfilled, most of the time I do not even consider it as 'another workday' because everything I do, I really love and never call it a “job.” They say that people have only one great love, but it seems that I am not among them. 😄

    Besides the writing, photography, fine arts, creative work, I have a big passion for martial arts, karate. After almost ten years of training here in Australia with Go-Kan-Ryu Karate club, I can say that karate is an integral part of my life. I have achieved my personal goals. I am wearing a black belt 1.Dan (Shodan) ready to take on a new challenge; I am a Sensei (trainer) with the completed Karate Judge and Referee exam, but every new training is always a new challenge. It doesn’t matter what grade you are (colour of your belt), you are always learning.

    I am still painting and had some opportunities to set up my exhibitions (photography and paintings), even on the topic of karate. It was a great honour to donate my painting, oil on canvas, painting of Sv. Nikola Tavelic, to my parish. The painting was blessed on the very day of the patron saint's celebration, and it made me especially proud.

    I love to organize themed parties with my best friends and family so all the madness of my creativities come to the forefront. Making props, creating costumes, art and crafts in many forms and shapes; that is how  I relax.

    With all the work, household and family, creative work and sports, there is always time to travel. The restless spirit is hard to settle down in one place. Getting to know new places is good 'therapy' and food for my soul.

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Karate and Arts
    Exhibition: Her paintings were all sold out and all donations were donated to BeyondBlue.

     

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Food at one of Suzana's themed parties

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Food at one of Suzana's themed parties "Hell Food"

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Girl Power - Wonder Women
    Never Underestimate The Power Of Women

     Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

     Photo: Akido and Karate

    Their martial art concepts come from opposite ends of the softness/hardness spectrum; Aikido is considered one of the 'soft' martial arts, while Karate is classified as a 'hard' technique.
    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda
    Photo: Practice with weapons 
    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda
    Photo: Shodan
    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda
    Photo: Photography

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But I wonder, what else do “they” say?

    Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything. See? They say a lot!

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Mystery Island Vanuatu  

    Croatian Diaspora Interview with Suzana Fantov by Uppermoda

    Photo: Transformation: Be your best

    By doing your best, over and over, eventually, you are going to master the art of transformation.

    8. Keeping in mind that we have readers from around the world, what would you recommend for those looking to get more involved with learning about their heritage. What tools or places do you recommend them to? (ie particular Facebook groups, communities, etc.)

    Oooh, that's really hard to pinpoint now. The best answer is 'google  it!' 😄

    Once you start exploring, there is no end. There are so many groups with the prefix 'Cro'; Croatian portals, websites of every Croatian organization, society, online newspapers, books you can subscribe to and archives. Sometimes it's enough to type 'Cro' and if you're interested in something specific, one click can lead to another. Today, at least, that's not a problem.

    9. If people want to stay up-to-date with you and what you do in the Croatian community in Melbourne, how can they follow you or the Croatian groups you are part of?

    Najlakše je putem emaila Hrvatskog vjesnika (za sve one koji žele i imaju što podijeliti, trebaju kakvu informaciju ili pomoć oko oglašavanja croatianherald@netspace.net.au , suzana@vjesnik.com.au ) , zatim na službenoj stranici Facebook Hrvatskog vjesnika.

    Svi oni koji bi možda bili zainteresirani početi se baviti sa karateom (bez obzira na godine, spol, tjelesnu kondiciju) također se mogu javiti porukom na Fb stranici GKR Karate Doncaster East Dojo a sami još dodatno pogledati web stranicu https://www.gkrkarate.com/ 

    10. Now for a bit of fun, tell us your favourite Croatian:

    1. Food: seafood – fish, scampi (prawns), seafood
    2. Drink: coffee, not a ‘grappa’ (rakija) person as much as many will expect from a Croatian 😄
    3. City or Region: only Opatija!
    4. Song: one word, any song: Oliver
    5. Tradition: decorating Christmas tree and making the nativity scene, traditional cooking (from my mum’s cookbook); baking
    6. Hidden gem: Moscenicka Draga – a small fishing village of Mošćenička Draga, 20min away from Opatija; beautiful tourist resort with two main beaches, small marina and walking paths. Plus, just above Mošćenička Draga (5min) is the hilltop old town of Mošćenice.

    __________________

    We hope you enjoyed our third Croatian Diaspora interview in our Spotlight Series! If you would like to be interviewed or would like to recommend someone let us know at meagan@uppermoda.com

    ♡ Meagan & Michael

    Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to hear more about us and to stay up to date with events we will be attending and what new products we are releasing.

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