Na Mladima Svijet Ostaje… These words have been etched into my mind ever since I first came to Mladi Hrvati back in 1991.
My journey with Croatian folkloric dancing first began when I was seven years old, with the dance group ‘Ljerica-Footscray’ back in 1988. When this group disbanded I moved around to other dance groups within Melbourne until I finally found my home with Folklorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati in Clifton Hill.
I was taught by Mladi Hrvati founders, Mr Alex and Mrs Gizela Kechenovich, and progressed through the ranks of the Junior Group, the Intermediate Group and then finally to the Big Group, as it was then named. I began to assist Mr and Mrs Kechenovich in teaching the Junior Group for a period of time. Not long after this, they announced their plan to retire from dancing after 20 years of dedicated work, and in 1998, I took over as the primary dance teacher for all three groups for some time.
During this time, I was fortunate enough to attend two seasons of professional Croatian dance instruction in Croatia under the guidance of Dr. Ivan Ivancan, and his professional counterparts under the umbrella of ‘Hrvatska Matica Iseljenika’ (Croatian Heritage Foundation).
As a teacher there is nothing more I love to see than the enjoyment and satisfaction from students and their parents straight after a great performance. The kids are on such a high and are so proud of themselves and what they are capable of when they work together. This is all I need to validate why I choose to keep the tradition of folklore going and it definitely makes all of the hard work and long hours worthwhile.
What also inspires me is the many people in the background that go to extraordinary efforts to make things happen for our group. This is especially apparent when you see the group prospering like never before. That is why there is such a strong sense of family within the Mladi Hrvati community – we know that we can all count on one another.
More recently, I have taken up tamburica playing and am now a part of the Mladi Hrvati Tamburica Orchestra, and I must say, as much as I love to teach, it comes as a great change to be able to take a step back and sit in the ‘student’ chair again.
I can only hope that my contributions to Mladi Hrvati play a part in ensuring that our heritage, custom, culture and language can be passed on to future generations of Australian-Croatians through Croatian folklore.
And those same words come to mind again.. Na Mladima Svijet Ostaje!