Simone made the move from New Zealand to Croatia
(Photo: Private album) Lately, a growing population of people with Croatian roots residing abroad has been considering the prospect of moving to Croatia for a new life. Many have taken the plunge, and we caught up with one of them, Simone Antunovic (de Cunha), who made the almost 20,000-kilometre move. As a Croatian growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, Simone’s rich culture and heritage were pivotal in shaping who she was in the world. “I believe this to be true for many of us who hail from the brave migrants who made the passage to what was then, greener pastures,” Simone starts off telling us. From a young age, travel was always something she aspired to. Moving through the world and having enriching experiences as she worked along the way was the goal.
“My earliest experience of travel was when I was eight years old and we lived in Croatia for a short time. My parents saw it as a way to connect us with our roots and family here, and it did that and so much more. We bonded with cousins, spoke the language, and lived the simple village life. It was truly so sad to leave, but it was inevitable and the day eventually arrived. We took the long journey back down under and slipped right back into life there,” she explains.
(Photo: Private album) Fast forward 11 years, and it was time for her first big move from New Zealand.
“At 19, myself and a couple friends moved to London via fun European explorations, and there my love affair with Croatia continued. I returned in 1995, 96 and 98. Then again a few times in the 2000’s. I returned to NZ pregnant with my daughter some 17+ years ago and our family based there until this move,” she says, before adding.
“The final visit before we moved was in the summer of 2019 when we ventured off on our Croatian summer holiday. I recall the feeling as myself, sister and daughter sat on the plane about to depart Split to head back to NZ. As soon as the plane took off, we all felt the same feeling; like a gut wrenching pull from something we didn’t want to be pulled from.
Beautiful Pelješac (Photo: Private album) It felt like this was home, in a deep DNA link kind of way, and it raised unsettled feelings within us all. I think that really got me thinking about life, what I wanted, what made me happy, where and how I wanted to live for the foreseeable future.” Enter March 2020 and the pandemic.
“What can I say other than for me, Freedom is my number one value, and down-under, the big C came with some pretty severe restrictions. Somewhere around the time of our sixth lockdown (who’s counting), my family and I made the decision to move permanently to Croatia. Within six months we had sold land, businesses, my sister sold a tiny house she’d just had built, and everything else that goes with a big international relocation.
Not to mention, we weren’t even sure we would get out of the country due to border closures. Emotions were definitely running high. It was a stressful, yet exciting time. My daughter was unhappy at school and with the circles she was mixing in in NZ, and the rest of us were hugely open to change, moving on, and making use of our dual citizenship.”
Eventually the day of departure came, and Simone says the experience at the Auckland airport simply amplified their decision to leave.
“I’ve always been a traveller, but this was different. In some ways we felt like we were escaping the country of our birth. A strange and surreal feeling, but also excitement for what the future held,” Simone tells us. What have they found on the other side “More love, more freedom, more spontaneity, more whole-hearted joy. You either align or you don’t. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the discomfort of moving somewhere new, particularly when you’ve been used to a certain way of doing things.