August Friday 8th – the whole Island is stone which is a blessing and a curse

It was a big day today, but for me one of the most important days of our time on Brac. Today we visited the site where my Grandfather (Dragomir), and his four brothers and five sisters were born. It’s actually just a few steps away from where we are staying. It’s just a bit of gravel now. The three brothers. Dragomir’s father and his two brothers selected sites not far from each other to build. This pic is a house that sat beside theirs, so had been built in the same style at a similar time as Grandpas had been.

We don’t have Grandpa’s family home anymore so it’s nice to see this one. The rocks that make the walls and the roof are usually gathered from the site. The whole island is almost all rock so while it’s a resource they can reuse in the house build, it’s not easy work. The slate like pieces are used on the roof and block pieces broken off to build the walls. The floor is the rock that’s left and they shear it off to make it as smooth as possible. Rock is gathered off the land and stacked up making walls so they can terrace the steep hills into small blocks.

“Watch where you walk” yells Tanja reminding me of the snakes and adds “it’s not such a problem. They are more scared of you than you are of them” I don’t care. I’m not taking any chances and stomp over the grass so they ‘know’ I am coming. We spend a bit of time here and I am imagining ten children being bought up on this small piece of land and just how hard it would have been back then. I’m imagining Grandpa as a child running around making mischief with his brothers. Teasing his sisters and getting told off for not doing his chores.

Rina tells us the story of their leaving as she remembers her Father telling her. It’s different to what I thought and we are eager to hear. Toni was the oldest boy and he was to be the first to venture. Everyone was unsure and sad about his leaving but Luka, the second son talks Toni into letting him go in his place. He knows there will be trouble so he tells the family he will accompany Toni to the port. They leave in the morning amid a tearful farewell for Toni and then the two boys set out, but that evening Toni returns and tells them Luka wanted to go much than he so he has gone in his place with his passport. I guess there would have been a lot of sadness as there is a full expectation that they will not see them back. This is a goodbye for ever. He goes by ship and it takes three months. Luka teaches the other Dalmatians on the ship to write and this gives him a little pocket money which he in turn uses to learn English off someone else. He sends enough money back for his brothers fares, one after the other as he can afford it and they work well as a cooperative group gathering gum as many other Dalmatians do. After some time Luka returns with money from all of them and buys land in all five brothers names but none of the others return. This puzzles me that more don’t return but I get it’s not an easy trip in these times and they have made new lives for themselves.

Rina tells us Luka (her Father) and My Grandfather Dragomir were very close as brothers and I believe this as Grandpa calls his first son after his brother Luka as my Dad is named Louis.
This has been very special and I’m so glad Rina has been here to tell us this story as well.

We also go to the graveyard. We see the graves that hold the different families as Rina points them out to us and it’s very different from NZ. Graves are dug and concrete lined and made ready for six caskets from one family with concrete shelves. A block is laid over the top to seal it.

I find this interesting. Rina tells us when someone dies in the village they are not embalmed and so must be buried within 24 hours. The village bell is rung in a certain way that tells the locals if it’s a male or a female and they know they need to get to there quick.

Talk soon!

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