Around eleven years ago Michelle Kojakovic was one of the first people we interviewed for The Dubrovnik Times, time flies. Born and bred in Australia, Michelle had moved to Dubrovnik, or more precisely Zupa. Michelle, or Mikki to her friends, had worked on a cruise ship and that’s exactly where she met her husband, and that love brought her half way across the world to Croatia.
Extremely active with all kinds of humanitarian projects that connect Dubrovnik and Croatia to the world, Mikki has certainly become a valued member of the local community. But a twist of fate has meant that Mikki is again half way around the world, a long way from home and her family, as the COVID-19 pandemic “caught” her on a holiday back in Australia. We spoke to Mikki in Australia to see how she was coping with life in lockdown.
How did you find yourself stuck in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic? Had you travelled on holiday?
I travelled here in February to visit my family in Brisbane as I hadn't seen my brothers for 5 years and went to Perth for a reunion with high school friends some I hadn't seen for 30 years. I was scheduled to return home on the 1st of April.
Mikki and high school friends in Australia - Photo - Facebook
Did you try to get back to Croatia when the pandemic hit? Even though it was probably impossible.
My flight back to Croatia was cancelled with no offer of an alternative flight. Western Australia was about to close its border so my brothers flew me back to Brisbane on the last flight before mandatory quarantine. I contacted the Croatian Embassy and they have been very supportive and agreed I should stay safe with my family rather than risk the flight home through Asia at the moment. They have checked on my well-being twice since.
How is the situation in Australia? Are you in total lockdown? And how have the Australian authorities dealt with the situation?
The situation is slowly becoming better. The states have closed their borders and are following the social distancing rules. Beaches, non-essential businesses, schools, play areas and retirement homes were on total lock down. In Queensland a maximum of two people can visit a family home but must still practice social distancing. On Monday schools will be opened for the children of essential workers only, home school for the rest. I have been at my brother’s home only going to the shops for food, I did also go to a large sewing, crafting and art store for supplies to keep me busy.
Mikki with her brothers in Australia - Photo Facebook
How are you staying in touch with your family back home?
We keep in contact over video chat every day. My husband is taking good care of our two sons. Fortunately, they are both older with one in university and the younger in final year of high school. I worry about their schooling but they are adapting. They are all doing ok I think probably better than me, I miss them terribly this is the longest I have ever been away from my boys.
How are you filling your time in lockdown?
I opened my craft business at the end of December 2019 so have been using this time to make packaging, stamping and eco products for that and also some arts and crafts activities. I have been taking advantage of having the extra time with my brothers and their families. I have loved this special time but I really miss my own family in Dubrovnik.
Mikki and her boys at home in Zupa - Photo - Facebook
Are you following the COVID-19 situation in Croatia?
Yes, and I think that the people have followed recommendations really well.
Do you have any idea when you’ll be able to travel back to Croatia?
No, the situation is still not clear, there is an occasional flight leaving from Sydney to Zagreb. I hope to fly directly into Dubrovnik when it opens and I am also hoping more than 1 airline will be offering international connections soon.