Unije, Unije, mali otočiću
U sredini mora
Unije, Unije, little island
In the middle of the sea
Sitting like a swan
This verse is part of a song my grandmother used to sing to me when I was a small child. Although I have never been to Unije, I feel I know it well. Unije, a very small island off the coast of Croatia with an all-year population of about eighty people, has been a central part of my upbringing.
If I had one day to do anything I wanted, I would start my day in Unije with my wonderful, story-telling grandmother. Her stories of Unije when she was a little girl always incorporate the sheer beauty of the island.
To begin our journey, we take a long boat ride from Mali Losinj to reach the island. There is only one landing strip for private chartered airplanes so it would be easier to simply take a boat. We arrive early in the morning to see the fisherman trying to catch that day’s dinner. As the boat is pulling into the harbor, I see my grandmother’s stone house right on the water. After we exit the boat, we walk to the house because there are no cars in Unije. The island is small enough (16.77 square kilometers) to be able to walk everywhere.
Upon arrival at the house, my grandmother brings alive the setting I had imagined in her stories. She introduces me to the chicken coop where her mother had cut off the heads of chickens that continue their frantic scurrying, headless. She shows me the haunted room where the family ghost resided. And finally, she brings me to her rom, the room she shared with her sisters as a little girl. After the grand tour, my grandmother begins cooking breakfast (for she is always cooking) and tells me to explore the island and to see where my young eyes can take me.
I take a stroll along the beautiful Adriatic Sea and then walk on the main street where the majority of the stores and people reside. There is only one supermarket on the entire island because of the stores and people reside. There is no hoslital and only one doctore on the island (I hope I do not get sick). Everyone generally knows each other, so I probably get some stares from the native islanders. I say “hello” in broken Slavish and tell them I am Catherine Karcich’s grandson. Upon tellingthem this they most likely invite me to their houses for some breakfast.
At this point my grandmother has finished cooking breakfast. I return to the house detecting an unusual aroma coming from the small kitchen. “We are eating octopus”, my grandmother says. It is a strange meal indeed, but not for typical Croatian on the island of Unije.
After breakfast we spend the day on the beach, my grandmother chatting in Croatian, hoping my responses will ready me for greeting people in their own language. She introduces me to her friends and to all the young people she knows. She also tell me more interesting stories about her live in Unije (for there are always stories to tell about Unije).
After spending the day on the beach, we go home to have red snapper for dinner. The islanders eat a lot of fish. After eating a big meal, my grandmother has saved the best for last: dessert. She has whipped up her famous doughy cookies called “buzije”. Buzije has long been my favorite dessert. After a long day we head bac to the mainland via boat.
It would be a great day to finally see the island my grandmother is always talking about. I have awlays wanted to see where I am originally from and if I have one day t go anywhere I choose, without hesitation I would follow my grandmother to the land that claims her heart, Unije.
(at the age of 17)