Nobody, absolutely nobody is more surprised than me, believe me. Twenty-three years of experience of living here, countless meetings with high-end politicians, an infinite number of news articles and tentacles in every part of life in Croatia (yes, hence the nickname octopus) had all formed a mind-set on the ways things happen (or indeed don’t happen) in Croatia. And then come coronavirus and all my assumptions are flushed down the toilet.
“We’ve spent all our careers trying to pick holes in the government and authorities and then they manage to surprise us all and get organised as if they were all sons and daughters of Merkel,” joked one hard-core journalist to me. To say I’m impressed with the way the country has dealt with the spread of the virus would be an understatement. Swift and strict.
Whilst other countries have dithered and waited before introducing strict quarantine measures, Croatia acted immediately and resolutely. This can, to a certain extent, be confirmed by the figures and data. However, when you bear in mind that the main epicentre in Europe for weeks was northern Italy, and are aware of that regions geographical closeness to Croatia, then the job of closing down the country and halting the spread is even more impressive. “I have to admit I feel much safer here in Zagreb than I would in the UK at the moment.
The authorities have done an excellent job and have closed down the country early,” commented a British ex-pat to me. He added that “When I saw people drinking in pubs and public transport running I was screaming at the TV just close them down. I was speaking to a friend in London who told me that as the pubs were closing at midnight he was going out with a large group of friends to get drunk and celebrate the last night of pubs being open. That approach kind of defeats the object,” added the Zagreb ex-pat.
This system of the politicians getting out of the way and allowing the experts to do their jobs is functioning perfectly. Politicians in the country basically lifted their hands and said we will leave it to the experts, whatever they advise is the law. Can you imagine Trump doing that? No mixed messages, no campaign rallying, just a clear and unified message from people whose job it is to do this.
And whilst you always have morons who think the rules don’t apply to them and they can go about their lives as normal, these are luckily the 1 percent. The 1 percent whose shoe size is a larger number than their IQ. It seems I had underestimated the resolve of Croatians when the shit hits the fan. There is an organised, almost military like functioning of society that I hadn’t expected, I’ll admit it.
“It took my father ten years to finish the family house. It was burnt down in the war a year after it was finished. I rebuilt it again with my son,” recently commented a neighbour. I hadn’t connected this personal determination with the determination and tenacity of a nation to react when things aren’t going according to plan.
All I can say is bravo! The actions that have been taken are bearing fruit, and as the great Winston Churchill once said “I never ‘worry’ about action, but only about inaction.”