Change, which frightens so many, was something I had been mulling over for many years. I had been contemplating making my retirement home in Croatia and the ultimate decision was made during my 2007 sailing trip from Trogir to Dubrovnik. Six nights spent sailing among the 1185 islands along the Dalmatian Coast was the catalyst that reminded me how long I had loved the beauty of the deep blue-green Adriatic waters. Something had been calling to me since I first visited as an adult in 1971. Five years ago I made my move from California, and that cold windy January night in 2008, when I walked down the Stradun in the footsteps of my ancestors, I was finally home.
At last, a day of celebration! After the long five years it took for me to obtain my Croatian citizenship, it only took another seven months to obtain my ‘Osobna Kartha’ (I.D. Card). The day has finally come and I am now “legal.”
The saga begins in March 2008 when I was informed that citizenship would take a short six months to one year process and was promised to be painless. Hah! Famous last words!
I hired an attorney, Branka, who worked tirelessly on my behalf. She sent all the required papers, notarized and properly completed to the appropriate government official in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. During the first few months she received a few requests for more data, which was forwarded quickly. I had the mandatory interview by the local police department which consisted of questions regarding my income and assets. It was very short and easy. My last question to the interviewer was ‘How soon will I hear from the proper authorities? I can still picture his smile and gentle tone, ‘Very soon’. After waiting six months and hearing nothing I began to ponder what was the definition of ‘very soon’?
A year passed, my frustration growing leaps and bounds, I began to make weekly visits to my attorney’s office. Branka also began monthly faxes inquiring my status. For three years she never received one response! My stress was showing; I had countless a nightmares of being deported or incarcerated. I realized I was an ‘illegal alien.’ Although Branka assured me that my residency here was not a problem, she also had become bewildered by the long wait.
It was a cold wet day in November 2012 when a letter arrived from my attorney. I remember ripping the soggy envelope open in great anticipation of good news, only to see it was not my official notification. Someone in Zagreb finally had looked at my application and had questions about my legal name. It appeared that my official birth certificate was different from my passport and I was expected to clear up the discrepancy in two weeks. After three years of waiting, I was very upset but proceeded to obtain the requested (demanded) documentation.
At the time of my birth my parents had not yet selected my name and it was shown on my birth certificate as ‘baby girl Sosa.’ An addendum was added a few weeks later which gave my name as Caroline Sosa. I was baptized Caroline Ann Sosa sometime later and when I applied for my first passport in 1954, my baptismal record had sufficed. Now, I needed more documentation, which required everything translated into Croatian. It took more than the two weeks they requested, but it got done as quickly as possible.
At last early July 2012 my official Croatian citizenship document arrived in the mail. Plain blue envelope, no fanfare, no welcome letter but at this point all I wanted was that document and I could shoot off my own figurative fireworks.
Once I had the Croatian citizen document I assumed it was all that was needed to obtain my identity card. Little did I surmise the bumpy road would continue! I needed to supply even more documentation. Since I rent my small apartment, I had to request documentation from my landlord including a notarized lease and his original title deed to the apartment. Thank goodness he was cooperative and acted on it almost immediately. Once again I needed to bring my US passport, original birth certificate and my FBI letter showing I have no criminal past with an Apostle Seal. All my documents had to be translated again by a designated attorney and photocopied.
Like worker bees everywhere, the woman at the local police station failed to do her job accurately and never gave me the entire list of required documents on my first visit. Once my preliminary application had been made I was advised that the police would make an unannounced visit to my home to verify that I am indeed living at the address. It took another four visits to the police station, each time presenting additional paperwork, because a complete list was never given. I always tried to be polite but finally actually started to cry. What more could they want? I finally got the complete list and was able to meet all the requirements.
Ultimately, seven months later I had met all their demands. Yesterday the worker bee began to fill out more papers with the same old questions: birth date country of birth, parent’s names, and address and phone numbers. I could not help but wonder where this was leading again! But finally, it was over and she issued me a temporary ID card! The permanent card should be ready for me to pick up in about three weeks. Oh yes, she added, “bring my US passport to verify my identity.” Whatever!
What can I say, the photo says it all!
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Spend the morning in Cavtat with me