Print this page
Seyen Surjan – ODonoghue and her father Seyen Surjan – ODonoghue and her father

Letter to the Editor - What has happened to the soul of Dubrovnik?

By  Sep 05, 2017

I would like to tell my story of what Dubrovnik means to me. I treasure Dubrovnik, (well I used to). My name is Seyen Surjan, born in Australia. My grandfather Pero was a fisherman here and a well known local. My uncle Nino was also loved and respected from what locals have told me and is very much missed. My father grew up in the Old City. He escaped in 1957 (under Tito) and rowed in a little boat with three friends to Bari, Italy where he was in camp. In 1959 he went to Australia as he found sponsorship for work. Years later he met and married my mother Katica (from Tucepi). They had three children, me my sister Sonja and my brother Peter. When we were growing up there was a huge picture of Dubrovnik on the wall and the Croatian emblem. We would ask him about this beautiful place. He told us stories all about the history.

Peter, my brother got to come here first in 1979 when he was only 5. When he got back he would tell us about the huge old castle he played in every day. Then my sister Sonja came in 1998 and adored it. In 2000 my father and brother came back and my father decided he wanted to buy a house here, so he did. Then in 2002 I finally got to come. I thought I was in a dream. I walked every inch of the Old City. I was in love. I promised the walls I would return and I did every year after that, bringing friends with me. We told our father that we wanted to be citizens of Croatia. He was a proud man that day, and soon after we were proud citizens. In 2005 my brother passed away and we bought his ashes from Australia to be laid to rest with grandfather, grandmother and uncle. 28 of his friends travelled from Australia, U.S, U.K, Bulgaria. They were all first time visitors. They could not believe their eyes as to the beauty of Dubrovnik. Even though we were there for a sad occasion they ventured everywhere, all saying that they would return.

In 2013 I bought my boyfriend Justin here. He was enchanted and told me that he had never realised there was a place in the world that was a living museum. Then he said that he wanted to marry me here in this ancient city. When we got back to Australia my mother passed away. My father moved back to Dubrovnik. In 2014 we were off to Dubrovnik again to see my father, put my mother’s ashes to rest with my brother and to have a wedding. I was married in the Cathedral on 19th September 2014. Friends from Australia once again came as they had heard of this magical place.

So finally I'm getting to the point of why I treasure Dubrovnik, (well I used to). In the last three years, friends that were here for my brother, my wedding, my mother and friends I've bought here over the past 15 years have returned with, their now, wives, husbands and children. “Seyen” they say, “What has happened to the soul of Dubrovnik?” It’s like the walls can't breathe any more. Dubrovnik has lost its magic, beauty and charm.

Too many Cruise Ships! My friends book accommodation for a week or more only to leave 3 or 4 days later because of the crowds from ships. These people want to spend money here on accommodation, day trips, restaurants and gifts for back home. The people from the ships spend nothing here (maybe an ice-cream). They throw rubbish everywhere, I have seen it. We are here for six months and have friends wanting to come. We have told them to come later in the year because I want them to see the magic of Dubrovnik when the ships aren't here. I don’t want them to be disappointed as previous friends have been. I want them to feel the soul of this ancient city as I once did.

Today in the old town, I see girls in bikinis taking photos in front of St. Blaise. What a disgrace. (This is a church of worship, you can’t do that at a mosque!). As you know there are less people living in the old town, what a shame, you can’t blame them. This is not right or fair. I’ve made many friends here over the years and want to keep coming back. You don’t see locals much anymore in the places that we used to go to catch up with them. Banje Beach has too many sun-chairs. What about the locals? Is it not a local beach anymore? Yes, tourism is great for anywhere but there has to be some consideration for the locals who live here. It is/was their home. Look at Venice, Barcelona and Nice these days. The Pearl of the Adriatic – No more. Stop the Cruise Ships. Not all but 3 to 7 in one day is bloody ridiculous.

As you have read, this place means a lot to me. My roots are here along with my family and friends. I just wanted to share my thoughts with someone who may want to listen.

Many Thanks, 

Seyen Surjan – ODonoghue