Untold Stories

Remarkable Women of Zagreb

History is full of inspiring women even though their stories aren’t always visible at first glance. Once we start discovering them, we usually just can’t get enough.

Zagreb is proud to be a city which you can’t fully experience without hearing a story or two about - a woman. The most popular historical personality that has ever lived here was a woman - iconic Marija Jurić Zagorka. I dare you to try a little trick when you come to Zagreb: ask a random person if they have heard about Zagorka. A sudden smile and sense of pride on their faces will tell you just how much we appreciate her.

I could talk about her for hours and there are people who could talk about her for days. Croatia’s bestselling writer, the first Croatian female journalist, one of the first female political reporters in Europe, an activist, an empowerer.... she stood for everything that needed a fight, including women’s status and rights. I can’t even understand how did she fit everything she had been through and everything she wrote in a single lifetime. If you’d like to learn more about Zagorka, a visit to her memorial apartment (http://zagorka.net/) at Dolac market is a great starting point.

View at the Dolac market from the Memorial Apartment of Marija Jurić Zagorka

However, Zagorka was not the only inspiring woman who spent a part of her life in Zagreb. When I pass by the city hall, I often think about a big memorial plaque on the building. It remembers all the great events from the history of the place. Yet, they forgot to include one - the first teachers’ assembly of 1871. I like to imagine everyone’s faces as the young Marija Jambrišak, in her twenties, stepped in front of the whole room and said the following words: “Same work, same pay, same rights for all.” This is considered to be the first gender equality speech in Croatia.

Every corner of Zagreb hides interesting stories about women: about female artists, scientists, inventors, the first ones, the triers, the achievers, the national icons, the locally recognized and the world-known... For example, did you know that one of the greatest sportsmen in Croatia’s history happens to be - a sportswoman? The four-time Olympic gold medalist, alpine skier Janica Kostelić, was already a huge success when recreational skiers were still able to literary bump into her training sessions on mount Medvednica.

I should know because my first attempt in skiing was right there above the city, and I wasn’t a kid anymore. I fell, skis downwards, and just kept going faster and faster in a sitting position without any ability to take control of where I was heading. In a few seconds, I slid full speed into Janica’s training zone! I will always remember almost getting ran over by Janica (and bumping into a poor camera-guy who was filming her training, but I’m trying to forget that part). I will also remember how, in that crazy moment, she managed to find some encouraging words for me that helped me not to die of embarrassment and she actually inspired me to keep trying. See, she’s such a sports legend that there are people out there who will brag about how they accidentally crashed her training!

It’s always a good time to talk about amazing women, and this is especially true in Women’s History Month of March. If you can’t visit Zagreb right now to hear all the stories about Croatian women first hand, I have another suggestion. Wherever you are, you could treat yourself with an empowering Croatian product about the world’s most inspiring women - a social card game called Fierce Women.

This short post is just a little sneak-peek into what Croatian girls are made of. When you walk around Zagreb, you could find traces of herstory with each step, all you have to do is look carefully. As Zagorka used to say: “all it takes is to look around you, and you will see an army of unknown heroines on every path of life”.

Courageous Baković sisters rather died in their twenties than exposed other members of the
anti-fascist movement in WWII.

Image credit: Iva Silla                                                                                                           

   Author: Iva Silla