2020 Fall Newsletter

Dear Minnesota Croatian Friends,

Well it appears that the Year 2020 is the one that keeps giving. Between the pandemic, economic crises, George Floyd riots, environmental disasters, upcoming Presidential elections, international tensions and deaths of a family members and long time friends, it has been a tough year. I personally and selfishly enjoyed the opportunity to relax at our cabin where my family and I could escape the pressures of the world. I had hopes that the fall would bring more stability to my twin daughters who are starting their senior year of high school.

Sadly, most of our Croatian related events and plans for this year were cancelled. We were fortunate enough to participate in the Balkan Festival, but of course missed out on the Croatian Night at the Timberwolves, the Festival of Nations and the new festival, the Slavic Festival. Our plans to have a summer picnic in Duluth were also cancelled, along with a potential visit from Ambassador Pjer Šimunović.

On a good note, one activity that we were able to hold was a Paint Night in July and it was fun to connect with other Minnesota Croatians. And our Facebook page hit a new milestone with 500 followers!

Speaking of Minnesota Croatians, Max Woxland, one of our members, donated his time and energy to design our new web site for our organization, which can be found at Please check it out, especially our list of Noteworthy Minnesota Croatians. We are very grateful for his knowledge and expertise with undertaking this project for us.

The Croatian Hall will be selling Take-Out Sarma on Saturday October 24th starting at noon until they sell out. Their price for a carton of sarma is 6 for $18. See below for additional details.

As we get closer to December, it appears to be unlikely that we will hold our Annual Christmas Party. The date is currently reserved for Saturday December 5th. The health and safety of the members of our community is the highest priority. As an option, I wonder if people would attend a virtual Zoom event? I created a survey below and I would appreciate your responses. We would need to have at least 50 responses from our members to make this event happen. I hear from many who say that they will not return to their companies until next year so assume it is unlikely we were able to gather together in person.

My best to all – stay healthy!

Andrea Novak Neumann


An Interview with Joel McDonald

By Abbey McDonald

I had the great pleasure of conducting an interview with my father, Joel McDonald, on Monday, May 11. I began by first asking him about the place that he grew up and if there was a strong Croatian influence during his upbringing.

“I grew up in the south-side of Chisholm, Minnesota. It is kind of the old part of town, down where a lot of the immigrant families lived. My house was moved from a mining location and it was a house that my great-grandmother, all of her children, and my dad lived in. I would say that, when my dad’s aunts and uncles were over, you could tell that Croatian culture was important because they often spoke to each other in Croatian. I would say that my mom, Darlene, even though she was a Findlander, would make things like sarmas quite often to just show the food part of the Croatian culture as well.”

Next, I asked my father what part of the Croatian culture motivates him to have so much pride. He responded with, “It’s hard to pick just one. You know if you look at the culture of the history, I am proud of the history with it being a country that fought for its own recognition multiple times in the history of Yugoslavia and the break-up of Yugoslavia. I love the food. It is kind of the lifestyle of being over there too, with the combination of history, scenery, and family. I am intrigued by the language, but it is a little bit challenging to stay consistent with it, since a lot of the Croatian-speaking generation isn’t around anymore.”

My father cooks Croatian food for my family on a regular basis. Perhaps the most common Croatian dish he makes is ćevapčići with lepinje and pomfrit. This is probably my favorite thing to eat out of all the other food he makes.

When asked how many times he has visited Croatia and if he had a favorite place there that he visited, he said, ”I went there seven times, going back to 1987, which was my first trip and it was still Communist Yugoslavia at the time. But to me, it didn’t feel like a Communist country. The most impressionable place on that trip was Dubrovnik and going up on the cable car to Mt. Srđ, overlooking the town. Dubrovnik has always been a place that had a special meaning to me because of the history of it. The other place hard to not include is the area in Lika, where our relatives are from. That’s the real reason why this happens. You can go to a lot of nice-looking places in the world, but a place that is like Croatia and is also dealing with your heritage makes it totally different.”

Next I asked Joel who his biggest Croatian inspiration is. He said, “I would say that it would have to be my dad, Bob McDonald, just because the seven trips that I have been able to be on were because of him. Whether it’s making me aware of the culture and history or establishing a connection with family over there and making those trips happen is why I would say it would have to be my dad.”
My grandfather, Bob McDonald has been to Croatia a total of 21 times. I have had the pleasure of going on three of those trips. I can proudly say that those three trips in 2009, 2013, and 2014, have been the highlights of my entire life.

We then moved onto my father’s profession and how it is influenced by his Croatian heritage. Joel said, “I teach high school social studies and coach varsity boys basketball at Hibbing High School. My Croatian heritage has influenced both in a number of ways. In the classroom, any time that I am able to talk about Croatia to help students understand something a little bit better, I do that. Whether I am talking about something in my senior geography class or my sophomore world history class, I include it because it’s, to me, important and is important to Europe and its history as well. If you look at basketball, I would say that the passion that Croatian’s generally have with competition and sports is genetic. Croatians take their sports, one of which is basketball, very seriously.”

I next asked him who his favorite Croatian basketball player is. He stated, “I would say, without question, it’s Dražen Petrović. Hearing stories of him and what he was doing in Europe prior to coming to the NBA and following his very short career in the NBA is what separates him from anybody else. I think international basketball wouldn’t be the same without Dražen. Also, I think that competition and passion were written all over his existence.”

I have always looked up to Dražen because of the Croatian influence that has been passed down from both my father and grandfather. I got the chance to see both the memorial for Dražen that is right outside the Cibona basketball arena and his gravesite in the Mirogoj Cemetery. These are two experiences that I will hold close to my heart throughout my entire life. One of my family’s pet beagles is even named after Dražen, the “Mozart of Basketball.”

The last question that I asked my father was, “Having grown up and played for your own father, Bob McDonald, at Chisholm High School, what is it like to now be able to coach your own son, Ayden at Hibbing High School?”

“It’s different, without question. I realize why my dad never really brought the game home with him. I never wanted to force the game upon either you or your brother. It’s really special to be able to coach your own children. I felt that I was a coach to you, even though I wasn’t on the bench during your games. It’s also complicated because of the perception that your children get special privileges when they play for you. But instead it is the hard work that is put in that separates certain players from others. Most of my coaching career has been coaching other people, so the reason I coach isn’t to simply be able to coach my own son. To some extent, all the players are kind of kids to me.”

I remember that all throughout my high school basketball career, after a game, I had to be the one that asked my father to talk about my performance. I think that having a father as a coach is something that is so very important. I will always remember the countless hours he and I spent in the gym. While I have shot thousands of shots in the gym, he has been an amazing rebounder for both my brother, Ayden, and I.

The interview that I did with my father, Joel McDonald was so fantastic to me. I have inherited a Croatian pride that will be with me forever. I hope to one day buy a house in Croatia. Then, I will be able to have my family over for a great vacation. I also hope to one day become fluent in the Croatian language, like my grandfather, Bob.


2020 Summer Newsletter

Dear Minnesota Croatian Friends,

I hope that everyone is healthy and safe and is getting out a little bit more in Minnesota now that the restrictions have been lifted for restaurants and businesses. Even while we are restricted in our current activities, we are working on some fun things next year such as holding a Croatian Soccer Night with the Minneapolis Soccer league against a Croatian American team from Milwaukee. This could be a fun family event for our community.

Here is an update on some of the fundraising initiatives that was in our last newsletter.

1. CFU – Croatian Fraternal Union. They surpassed their goal and all funds were directed to the Croatian Red Cross. They raised close to $20,000.

2. NFCACF – National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation asked for donations for the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts which received extensive damage. They were able to raise over $20,000 to help with the restoration of the museum. Marko Kirn met with them this past week to take a tour of the damages. It will take up to $18 million dollars for a complete restoration.

3. ACAP – Association of Croatian American Professionals. Supporting KB Dubrava (a hospital in Zagreb) and KBC (a hospital in Split) asking for funding for Medical equipment and supplies – they were able to raise almost $45,000.

The Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota had a very busy year planned for our community and so many things had to be cancelled such as the Timberwolves game, the Festival of Nations, our language classes, and our first ever Paint Night. But the Croatian Hall is opened again and they need our support. The Dubrovnik Paint Night has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 1st at 6:00 pm at the Croatian Hall.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival went virtual this year instead of being postponed. Hopefully, some of you were able to enjoy viewing some of the Croatian films.

The Slavic Experience 2020 has been postponed until August 7th and 8th, 2021. It would be wonderful if the Minnesota Croatian community will participate in it. If anyone would like to champion this event, please contact me. For more information, please check their link to Facebook for this event or their website

Abbey McDonald from Hibbing, MN was our intern this past spring. Abbey had been busy working on our list of Noteworthy Minnesota Croats and finding their pictures. You can see the entire list here. It seems to be a list of mostly politicians and hockey players! Please feel free to send us any names that we missed.

Abbey also interviewed her father, Joel McDonald, who was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1991 and scored over 3,000 points during his prep career. Abbey’s grandfather, Bob McDonald was the winningest high school basketball coach in Minnesota. Abbey herself scored over 2,000 points during her career – a true basketball family. You can read the interview in our newsletter. A big thanks to Abbey for all her help to our organization this year.

As we get closer to December, we will make a decision whether or not to hold our annual Christmas Party depending on the the outcome of the virus. The date is currently reserved for Saturday December 5th and we may only be allowed to have a smaller group attend.

My best to all – stay healthy!

Andrea Novak Neumann


Newsletter Archive

An archive of our newsletters (dating back to 2018) can be found by visiting this site.