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South African Settlers - Croatian

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Early Croatian Settlers in South Africa

There are about 7000-8000 Croatians in South Africa.

From the review of the book by Tvrtko Andrija Mursalo] Hrvati na jugu Afrike (1757-1997) / Croatians in the South of Africa

Portrait with Keys is a poetic work by Ivan Vladislavić dedicated to Johannesburg, written in English and published in the Republic of South Africa in 2007. It’s author, well-known South African writer, born 1957 in Pretoria, who has received many awards (Olive Schreiner Prize, the CNA Award and Sunday Times Fiction Prize)1 is often asked about his name as it is not a name normally associated with South Africa. He explains as follows: “The name is Croatian. My grandparents on my father’s side were Croatian immigrants. My father was born in South Africa and on my mother’s side my background is Irish and English, with a dash of German. I am second generation South African, on both sides.” 2

Timeline of Croatian migration waves - feel free to shorten or edit

  • arrivals of the Dutch in the middle of the 17th century. The first individual Croatian immigrants, mainly sailors from Dalmatia, arrived in the Cape only a hundred years later, in the middle of the 18th century, serving as foreign mercenaries for the Dutch VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie – Dutch East India Company). This was because by this time the VOC no longer took religion or nationality into account when hiring people.
  • beginning of the 19th century. Croatian immigrants settled in the Cape colony, encouraged by the colonial politics of the British. The main immigration wave took place in the 1860s with the discovery of diamonds in the vicinity of the Orange River and later in Kimberley, where most of the Croatians settled in the years between 1872 and 1890. The Croatian immigrants arrived from Italy and the territories ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy, as there was no independent Croatian state in the 19th century. In 1875, according to the census register, 85 men and 15 women of Croatian origin arrived in Cape Town. The most persistent and determined, like Marko Baleta, made the journey from Cape Town to Kimberley, an expedition of almost thousand kilometres, by foot. In 1886, Croatians in South Africa numbered more than 200, a number which increased over the next ten years. A very interesting document illustrating the settlement of that period is a diary written in plain Croatian by Pavle Midas.
  • At the turn of the 19th century Croatian migration was related to the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). About 30 Croatians fought on the Boers’ side in the war, many served as police officers or guards for the Boers. After the British victory, about 65 Croatians who had sympathized with the Boers were deported to Croatia.
  • first years of the 20th century, had a restriction on Croatian immigrants. The Croatians who had failed to obtain a residence permit for South Africa left and settled in Mozambique or Rhodesia. From the census of 1911, 1504 people from the Austro-Hungarian territories were living in the Union of SA, many of them Croatians. Most lived in Johannesburg, but also all over the country (Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Stellenbosch, Simonstown, Pretoria, Pilgrim’s Rest, Namaqualand).
  • The Croatian immigrants experienced difficult times during the WWI as they were originally from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy that fought against the Union of South Africa in the war. They were treated as potential enemies and, in the period 1915-1919, more than 300 of them were sent to Fort Napier in Natal and to Standerton near Johannesburg as prisoners of war.
  • After the 1920s more educated Croatians came to SA. with 349 Croatians settling between 1923 and 1933. The first honorary consul of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Danilo Štrekelj, was inaugurated in 1930. George Anton Sinovich (Sinović), fulfilled this function in the years 1937-1945. In 1929, the Croatian Cultural Club called “Stjepan Radić” was founded in Johannesburg.
  • The period of the WWII was politically complicated time. In the years 1939-1950 263 Yugoslavs came, among which were many Croatians. Statistics, from 1961-1978, show that another 1671 Yugoslavs, half of them Croatians, went to SA.
  • In the 1980s, there was a small immigration wave of Croatians from Bosnia. The collapse of the Yugoslavia after the Balkan war led to this last immigration wave to South Africa consisting mainly of educated young professionals.

Tvrtko A. Mursalo’s book is an attempt to document the modest but longlasting participation of Croatians in building the history of South Africa. In writing about the history of Croatians on the African continent, Mursalo gives very little information about the black population of those regions. Above all, his starting point is the history of the white conquerors and colonizers, beginning with the Dutch, followed by the Boers and British. The culture of the Croatian diaspora at the periphery and the European colonial powers at the centre. On the one had they were the colonized (after all they were refugees or immigrants from the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy, they did not have their own Croatian state, and also in Africa they were perceived by the British as the “worse whites”). Reading this book from a postcolonial perspective reveals the ambiguity of the Croatian diaspora: the Croatians as colonizers as well as the colonized. Although this aspect was not intentional, this important way of reading should not be neglected.

Listing of migrants from Island of Brac (sorted by village of origin, surname, name, DOB, yeat left to SA), including Vladislavic's grandfather

Donji Humac, Nerezisca to Rhodesia

  • Jadrijevic Dusan 1908 1938
  • Jadrijevic Rozalija 1914 1944
  • Jadrijevic Toncica 1937 1944
  • Balarin Dinko 1905 1920
  • Balarin Zorka 1918 1938

Bobovisca, Donji Humac, Lozisca, Mirca, Nerezisca, Sutivan to South Africa

  • Lebedina Katica 1889 1912
  • Marangunic Margarita 1880 1915
  • Jadrijevic Frane 1947 1968
  • Jadrijevic Josip 1904 1930
  • Jadrijevic Katica 1914 1934
  • Jadrijevic Ljubo 1901 1925
  • Anticevic Ante 1887 1905
  • Anticevic Ivan 1860 1886
  • Anticevic Marija 1861 1919
  • Anticevic Stjepan 1890 1912
  • Franjola Mate 1872 1908
  • Jurin Stjepan 1891 1908
  • Rakela Jerko 1892 1910
  • Rakela Luka 1882 1908
  • Rakela Petar 1884 1906
  • Kirigin Katerina 1897 unknown
  • Kirigin Nata 1903 1924
  • Sinovcic Ante 1919 1932
  • Sinovcic Josip 1866 1937
  • Sinovcic Juraj 1901 unknown
  • Sinovcic Juraj 1868 unknown
  • Sinovcic Roko 1909 unknown
  • Sinovcic Tade 1896 unknown
  • Stipinovic Andel 1883 unknown
  • Stipinovic Ivan 1906 unknown
  • Stipinovic Nikola 1880 unknown
  • Stipinovic Stefanija 1888 unknown
  • Vladislavic Ivan 1895 unknown
  • Vladislavic Josip 1892 unknown
  • Vladislavic Petar 1905 unknown
  • Jadrijevic Anka 1907 1936
  • Didak Ante 1869 1888
  • Grubsic Antica 1898 1923
  • Grubsic Ivan 1862 1881
  • Grubsic Ivanka 1885 1908
  • Grubsic Ivanka 1892 1911
  • Grubsic Kate 1890 1910
  • Grubsic Marga 1894 1921
  • Grubsic Marko 1888 1907
  • Ljubetic Jerko 1849 1867
  • Ljubetic Juraj 1866 1898
  • Luksic Antun 1897 1921
  • Luksic Dinka 1866 1898
  • Luksic Mate 1862 1889
  • Vladislavic Niko 1847 1865
  • Vladislavic Petar 1849 1867


According to this publication -

"The Croatian Republic of Dubrovnik was known in the Middle Ages as the Republic of Ragusa and it was well respected for its merchants, shipbuilders and sailors. Together with Venice they commanded the largest merchant fleets in the Mediterranean. Using the able diplomats and unsurpassed skills of its mariners and merchants Ragusa managed to spread trade interests far away from the Mediterranean.

The book by Eterovich has South Africa's map, dated 1508, with two place names: Cape of Good Hope and Cape of Sao Bras (Saint Vlaho)! "Sao Bras or Mossel Bay is located 60 leagues beyond the Cape of Good Hope. Bartholomew Dias stopped there and named it Bahia dos Vaqueiros. Vasco da Gama had remained there for thirteen days on his voyage to India, securing beef and water from the natives. It was here that he broke up his store-ship. Cabral would probably have stopped at Mossel Bay (Sao Bras) for supplies and water had it not been for the storm which he encountered in the South Atlantic" On the early 19th century maps (1805) there is still distinctively marked, Cape of St. Blaise, situated between Mossel Bay and adjacent Fish Bay".

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The following list of people has been supplied by Jadranka Sunde and there are more to come! It would be good to link some of these people to profiles on Geni.

Not much is known of the activities of the first arrivals more than 220 years ago.

  • Franciscus Drago and Josip Ciganba settled well in Cape Town. Their Last Wills and Testaments show that they were in possession of some property and had more than fair financial means at their disposal, Having received burghership rights, it seems they became respected citizens, enjoying the fruits of their work and their earlier service with the Dutch East India Company.
  • Jeronim Marinkovic came more than 70 years later chose He, as is known, became a farmer However, after marrying, with hard work he established his farm "Vrolykheid", which is still very much in existence. Already in 1865 he was writing to the Colonial Secretary to inquire about the acquisition of another farm, for which he paid £31.2.8 as surveying expenses. He and his family prospered and their present status in this country is very much due to the pioneering work of Gerolamo Marinkovic, their great-grandfather, who arrived in Cape Town in 1829.
  • Sailors - Captain Vicenzo Zibilich, Captain Gabriel Francisco Madenic, boatman Paul Mattowich
  • Nicholaas Mattowich, who in the early 1860s became a dealer in liquors in Cape Town, was the first Croat to have owned an inn (the Blue Anchor Inn) in South Africa.
  • Nearly 100 years ago in 1882, Tripo Vucinovic ended his life in an accident in one of the shafts belonging to the famous French Company.
  • Perhaps the most prominent of the known early miners was Andrew Lizerevic. He must have come to South Africa well before 1867, as when he died in 1877 in Pilgrims Rest the Imperial Austrian Consulate informed the executors of his Will that Stefano Marco Lizerevic, the deceased's father, had died back home in 1867. His mother had passed on in 1872
  • At the age of 37, Ivan Moporic died on March 20th 1891. The place of death was recorded as Komati Spoorweg (Komati Railway).
  • Croatian miners, who were working in the Rand mines, Some of them even came from the United States, like Nikola Primic who, with eight other Croats, was sent to sink mine shafts in South Africa. They were there with the Beits, Wernhers, Rhodeses, Robinsons and Barnatos.
  • By 1904 some had already become small traders, like Miho and Julius Kuculo from Peljesac who owned a store in Pilgrims Rest. When the latter died in the 1920s his death certificate described him as a "store and gold mine owner".
  • Angelo Stipinovich gave work guarantees to the immigration authorities in Durban for Josip Vladislavic, who came from Brac.
  • Krsto Glavovic who worked for A. Lasic from Peljesac.
  • Most of those who owned and ran the so-called "Kaffir eating-houses" had a few employees working for them. just before the First World War these were: F. Knezovic, M. Baleta, S. Vrdoljak, M. Spaleta, J. Knezovic, A. Mestrovic and so on. Then there was G. Miholovic, who had a dairy and employed others, L, Opotic a contractor, A. Vrnjas a farmer and Mato Vitkovic, reputed to be the first Croatian butcher on the Rand.
  • Just at the end of the Boer War, having been refused an entry into South Africa, Filip Dicca, native of Mostar, landed at Lourenco Marques. This hard-working and clever man became one of the richest people in Mozambique. Some years after his arrival in Lourenco Marques he counted among his assets a brewery, leather tanning factory, plants making sparkling mineral water and non-alcoholic drinks, an import/ export company, two cinemas and a paper factory. After his death in 1949, he was succeeded by his brother Petar,. The Diccas were major cheese manufacturers in Mozambique and at one time supplied about 12% of all milk in that country. They were also substantial landowners, major importers of wine from Portugal and held a franchise for the importing of Remy Martin (French) cognac. From the business proceeds the Dicca Trust was formed, from which a number of students benefited as recipients
  • In Rhodesia, Frank Juretic from Grobnik near Rijeka. He first came to the Transvaal in 1897. Throughout the Boer War he served as a policeman on the Boer side. He went back home in 1901 but a few years later returned to Southern Africa. In 1912 he arrived in what used to be Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He was a carpenter by trade but apart from working in his profession be became the owner of two gold mining claims, one in Sinoia and another in Shamwa. For Frank Juretic the future looked reasonably rosy, but unfortunately at the start of the First World War he was interned as an Austrian subject, As a result he could not perform even a minimum amount of work on his mining claims and, according to law, he lost them. He still survived and having gone through three wars in Southern Africa he died in 1946 in Ndola, Zambia. He left a son, also Frank, who became a well-known personality in Copper Belt mining circles .

  • The First World War stopped Nikola Brajevic from buying a farm in Pretoria, pulled away Nikola Tus from his quarry business in Umtata (now Transkei) and cost some 300 Croatian miners on the Reef their jobs.

  • When the war ended they started again. Throughout the 1920s they opened a number of butcher shops on the Reef.
  • Stipan Lebedina, prospected for emeralds and found them, He died in 1944 in Barberton Hospital, leaving in his estate seven base metal claims all around Pietersburg in the Transvaal.
  • In the same district Ivan Groselj, blacksmith by profession, a Slovene by nationality, married to a Croatian girl, also owned mining claims.
  • Mato Karlovic, He was born of Croatian parents in Rosario, Argentina. As a child he went to Croatia and eventually in 1910 arrived in this country. He started his career in South Africa as a woodworker. Sometime later he entered the building trade and prospered as a builder. Apart from a number of private houses, he also built a tobacco factory, a brewery in Mocambique for Filip Dicca, two factories for non-alcoholic drinks and a plant for the manufacture of ice.
  • Klement Malinaric, an architect/builder, who built St. Patrick's Cathedral in Kokstad. Described as a lovely church, it was opened and blessed in 1924 and his name was engraved on the foundation stone.
  • In the 1920s Jercinovic, Klaric, Crnkovic, Karlic, Balas and others helped to build the Bloemfontein Supreme Court. At about the same time the brothers Mavric made their contribution by joining those who built the Bloemfontein Hospital.
  • A. Kabalin, in 1932, 1933 and 1934 played rugby against South Africa as a member of the Northern Rhodesian team.
  • But of all the early Croatian Copper Belt miners perhaps the most successful was Baron Tasilo Rukavina. This titled and very well educated man worked initially as a shift boss in the Copper Belt mines and from there moved to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). There in 1935 he pegged the Kamtchatka Mine, selling it at the end of that year. This mine was in the vicinity of Bulawayo in the Fort Rixon area and it produced gold until 1939. Then in 1937 he pegged a lead mine, again near Bulawayo, but it never reached production stage. Baron Tasilo Rukavina went on pegging another gold mine before the Second World War and chromite mines after it. His final and what appeared to be the major operation was in an area near Salisbury, There he became involved in the exploitation of manganese ore. He was exploring the main areas of his manganese ore exposures, the Marocco and Sheffield, when he died in a motor accident in 1961.
  • Still in connection with mining, a man called Paskijevic from Zagreb appears to have been involved in the exploitation of antimony ore near Beira in Mocambique.
  • In the 1930s S. Balic bought a piece of land in Bramfontein. He could not have known at the time that years later the new Johannesburg Civic Centre would be built on it.
  • the most prominent South African of Croatian descent in was George Anton Sinovich. From what started as a small farming business inherited from his father, he developed with shrewdness, skill, foresight and hard work, substantial food and alcoholic drinks manufacturing enterprises. He was the owner of National Wineries and Distilleries Ltd., Sinovich Canning Company (Pty.) Ltd. and Les Marais, Pretoria North and Pyramids Farms. Today a part of the northern suburbs of Pretoria is called Sinoville and streets with names like Brac, Marija, Anton and Mirka are found in it. For his contributions to the civic life of Pretoria, a street in Daspoort also bears his family name.George Anton Sinovich was also known for his collection of spirits and collection of minature liqueur bottles. These were considered to be the biggest in South Africa.
  • Away from the Transvaal, this time in Fynnland on the Bluff near Durban, there is a street named after one of the early Croatian settlers to South Africa and is called Tomic Drive.
  • Just before the Second World War one of the most popular small businessmen was Drago Loncar. Born in Zagreb he came to South Africa in 1928, not because he was hard up - his family had a successful business in Zagreb - but because he developed an "appetite" for travel, He settled on the Rand, owned a bakery in Boksburg, the Marathon Tearoom in Johannesburg and, in 1941 the Horshoe Beer Hall and Restaurant in Harrison Street. Finally, after selling his business in Harrison Street, he bought the New Market Beer Hall, which he ran successfully for a number of years.
  • After the War new settlers arrived and among them were professional people such as lawyers, ex-politicians, doctors, traders, sportsmen, etc. Among these were Dr. Zdravko Sutei, now a prominent advocate and a State Counsel, Dr. Milan Martinovic a pre-war politician and a well known member of the Croatian Peasant Party and Dr. G. Spuzevic, an ex judge.
  • The Brothers Kukuljevic of sporting (tennis) fame also settled in this country and one of them, Tomislav Kukuljevic, prospered as a businessman, He currently owns manufacturing and retailing facilities for sports equipment in Johannesburg.
  • F. Puncec, a postwar tennis champion of Yugoslavia, also decided to settle in this country. George Mrkusic, a Vienna-educated chemical engineer, came in the 1950s to work for African Explosives and Chemical Industries. He now holds the position of chairman of a well known enterprise, Federale Kunsmis, and at the same time he is a director of numerous companies.
  • Pero Alfirevic develop a transport business of significant size. One can often see his lorries marked "Alfirevich Transport" ferrying all sorts of materials on the Rand and beyond it.
  • Danilo Dracevac, from the Dalmatian island of Korcula, also owns a transport business on the East Rand.
  • post-war settlers who came to South Africa was Miss Inka Polic, an opera singer of Zagreb, who currently teaches at Pretoria University.
  • Towards the end of 1958 about 90 Croats, destined to work for Anglo American Mines, came to this country. They were young men, aged between 15 and 25, most of them were from Dalmatia,.came to this country on a four year contract. Among them was a Mr. A. Odak, now a well-known locksmith in Johannesburg.
  • Frank Juretic jnr. He held the position of secretary of the Employers Panel of Mining joint Industrial Council in Zambia. He published papers on mine shaft sinking and for one of his papers received a prize in 1952 from the London-based Institution of Mining and Metallurgy.
  • Bernice Vukovich, born Car, daughter of an early settler from Peljesac, was extremely successful in tennis. She won the junior tennis championship of South Africa in 1954 and 1955. Then in 1958 and 1960 she became senior national champion. As a springbok she played many international matches throughout the world, including Wimbledon in England.
  • Tania Glavovic has been noted as a researcher and now producer of documentarie, her parents also originated in Peljesac, Croatia.
  • It is estimated that about 60 butcher shops on the Reef are owned by Croats or their descendants. Among the early butchers Srecko Bijelovic was noted for his contributions to the trade. He was a Commissioner of Oaths, life member of the Red Cross, vice-chairman of the Master Butchers Association and chairman of Brakpan Chamber of Commerce. Following in his father's footsteps, one of his sons, Nikola, was also chairman of Brakpan Chamber of Commerce for three years. Another son, Edo, is the current chairman of the Master Butchers Association for the Witwatersrand.
  • Well known among the builders and building firms are the Giuricich Brothers, architect/builder Igor Kabalin, M. Pavlicevic, G. Soldo, A. Miljak, Z. Fabris and P. and V. Lovrich of Cape Town. Then there are engineering shops, one that belongs to V. Razlog, who is a supplier to the mining industry and another, Croatia Engineering in Rosslyn near Pretoria owned by S. Kraljevic. Among retail jewellery shops perhaps one of the best known is Benic's Watch Centre in Randburg.

Pilgrims Rest seems to have been a place of special attraction for the Croats. In this connection Petar Lopin from Peljesac owned a store there and in the 1950s Josip Stipec from the Croatian Littoral was the proprietor of the famous Pilgrims Rest Royal Hotel.

Further Reading

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See Also Related Geni Project Pages:

Leksikon hrvatskog iseljeništva i manjina | Lexicon of Croatian emigrants and minorities , 2014.- 2015. ( Knjiga / Book)