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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday September 17, 2014

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Croatia’s Forgotten WW1 Family Stories

Croatia's Ministry of Culture and Europeana have today launched a unique European WW1 project to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the war, at a press conference at the National State Archive in Zagreb.

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Europeana's Executive Director Jill Cousins and Croatian Minister of Culture Andrea Zlatar Violić announced that they are working together to collect and share Croatian family stories from 1914-1918 online.
Each personal story that perhaps hasn't been told outside the family is important for the complete understanding of this period, both on the battlefield and the home front. Due to the political and social environment in the decades following WW1, the stories of many Croatian soldiers have remained untold and unremembered. Now they will have a chance to be heard.
These valuable stories will be collected and digitised during collection days, which will take place in October and December in five different cities in Croatia. These stories will then be shared via Europeana ,the most important online resource of original WW1 source material featuring contributions from institutions across the globe and families across Europe. 
Croatian citizens are urged to bring photographs, letters, diaries, film or audio recordings, together with the stories of whom they belonged to the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb on 3rd and 4th October. Additional events will be organised on October 10th and 11th by State Archive in Osijek and Library ‘Fran Galović' in Koprivnica. Additional collection days will be held on 12th and 13th December at the public reading room of the city library in Rijeka and on 19th and 20th December at the state archive in Dubrovnik and the archive collection centre on the island of Korčula. 
During these collection days, historians will be on hand to talk about the significance of finds, while experts from the state archives will professionally digitise the objects, which will be uploaded to the dedicated Europeana1914-1918 website. 
Europeana 1914-1918 presents all sides of the conflict and all perspectives, and gives a deeper understanding of this important period of Croatian history. Through this archive, stories from countries across Europe are shared online, can be accessed by others worldwide and saved for future generations. 
The Ministry of Culture is participating in Europeana's project as part of its comprehensive national programme to mark the centenary of the First World War, in cooperation with the Croatian Government Coordination Committee for the WW1 commemoration. 
Dr. Sc. Andrea Zlatar Violić, Minister of Culture of The Republic of Croatia, said: 
‘We are very pleased with this partnership with Europeana as part of our national programme marking the centenary of the First World War. It is a war where consequences and victims are still not entirely known in Croatia. Besides honouring the victims, this project also gives us an opportunity to broaden scientific research of the first global conflict that caused material damage and a number of victims, on a scale never seen before. We hope that citizens will also recognise the opportunity to share with us their untold family stories to jointly enhance discussion and understanding of this painful historical event.
I'm sure many people have items connected with members of their families participating in the WW1. Each photo, postcard or any other story can enrich Croatian research on the period of WW1, both on the battlefield and the home front. Historical materials concerning events hundred years ago in Croatia unfortunately are still not thoroughly archived and Europeana's project can help in identifying Croatia's geo-political and historical circumstances. It will be available not only to Croatian experts and enthusiasts but to academics and other professionals across the world'.
Europeana has held over 150 family history roadshows in 15 countries across Europe since 2011, and five more will take place by the end of 2014. Europeana 1914-1918 includes 400,000 rare documents digitised by 10 state libraries, 660 hours of unique film material digitised by audio-visual archives and over 100,000 personal papers and memorabilia of some 10,000 people involved in the war, held by their families and digitised at special events across Europe. 
Jill Cousins, Europeana's Executive Director, said: 
‘With Europeana 1914-1918, we are piecing together a unique pan-European perspective of the Great War. Alongside the official records, stories, photographs and memorabilia from institutions such as museums, archives and galleries, we are asking the citizens of Europe to share their family stories and memories.
‘Europeana is delighted to collaborate with the Ministry of Culture on the WW1 Collection days in Croatia. Through our family history roadshows, the grandchildren, other family members and friends who inherited these memorabilia have the opportunity to share pieces of history that might otherwise just be collecting dust in their attics. And through digitisation, they can preserve them for future generations as records of a defining time in European history'. 
Mirjana Paušak, senior curator- head of the Museum Valpovština, travelled from Osijek to tell her grandfather's story and contribute his related items to Europeana.
During the war, Antun Širo, Mirjana's grandfather, worked as a skilled master machinist in the military workshop in Vienna, and was drafted in Osijek and sent to the front line of the area that today makes up northern Romania and western Ukraine.; There he served as a machinist  and in his spare time, Mirjana's grandfather made rings for his family members, which they kept. These wartime rings are not the only special items that the family has to share - Mirjana also brought along iron rings that they were given in exchange for providing gold for the war effort. 
Mirjana Paušak, senior curator- head of the Museum Valpovština, said: 
´After the war, the family returned to Osijek, along with numerous memorabilia from the battlefields and the Viennese daily life. My grandma saved the postcards that Antun has sent her and my family kept numerous photos with Antun's soldier friends, from the military workshops and family life in Vienna. They also participated in the national humanitarian campaign 'I gave gold for iron', and kept the rings that they got in return. 
As my grandfather was very skilled, in his spare time in the workshop in Vienna he made some rings for my grandmother and mother, with their initials engraved on it.  Grandma has kept those memories with special care for years and I remember the stories that she told us. We can´t let these stories get lost and forgotten in our family heritage; our children and history deserve more. With the WW1 centenary and exhibition in Valpovo, I remembered that I also have WW1 material that I'm more than happy to digitise and share´. 
During the collection days, there will also be a range of WW1 themed activities, including lectures by State Archives representatives, film projections and an exhibition on ‘Zadar in WW1', which will be organised by the Croatian State Archives. 
If people aren't able to get to the collection day events, Europeana 1914-1918 website gives advice on how you can scan, photograph and upload memorabilia and the stories that go with them.

Collection days:
ZAGREB, 3 and 4 October 
Croatian State Archives, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Marulićev trg 21, Zagreb
+385 1 4801 999

OSIJEK, 10 and 11 October 
State Archive Osijek, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Museum of Slavonia - Osijek, Trg Sv. Trojstva 2, Osijek 
+385 31 207 240

KOPRIVNICA, 10 and 11 October 
Public Library ‘Fran Galovic' Koprivnica, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (10 October) and 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (11 October)
Zrinski trg 6, Koprivnica
+385 48 622 363

RIJEKA, 12 and 13 December
Rijeka City Library, Public Reading Room, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Korzo 24, Rijeka
+385 51 335 107

DUBROVNIK and KORČULA, 19 and 20 December
State Archive Dubrovnik, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.<
Sv. Dominika 1, Dubrovnik
+385 20 321 031

Archive collection centre Korčula-Lastovo, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Kampuš (Mratinje), Žrnovo, Otok Korčula
+385 20 721 520

For further information or images, please contact Ružica Ilak Filipović at Maksima komunikacije (+ 385 91 1186 186),

Notes for editors

Europeana and Europeana 1914-1918: Europeana is Europe's most important pan European online resource for cultural heritage, which collects and provides access to digitised material from libraries, archives, audio-visual collections and museums. 

The Europeana 1914-1918 project is the most important online resource of original WW1 source material. It was launched in Germany in 2011 to collect memorabilia and family stories from the front line and the home front. Since then, family history roadshows have been held in 15 countries across Europe, in the lead up to the WW1 commemoration and so far have recorded nearly 100,000 digital images. Throughout 2014, the year of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the project continues to collect memorabilia in digital form and aims to save people's family memories and make them accessible to the world. This could be photographs, letters, diaries, short films, audio recordings, objects and their stories that will be digitised professionally and added to the online archive, along with corresponding descriptions. Independent of the roadshows that take place across Europe, everyone can contribute their digitised images and information to the website The site now also includes 400,000 items digitised by national libraries across Europe and 660 hours of film digitised by EFG14.