According to an estimate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are over 40,000 Croatians and their descendants living in France, and around half of those are located in the wider Paris area. A period of intense migration to France started during World War II for various political reasons, and it would later continue in the sixties, this time for economic reasons.
Back in the time before the mass emigration, Croatian scientist, astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, Ruđer Bošković (Dubrovnik, 1711 – Milano, 1787), spent a portion of his life living in Paris, and even obtained French citizenship. His international significance can be seen in the fact that the house in which he lived was given a memorial plaque in his honor. An interesting thing to note is that it bears a sentence in Croatian;
IN THIS HOUSE, WORKED AND LIVED, FROM 1774 UNTIL 1777,
RUGJER JOSIP BOŠKOVIĆ
Memorial plaque on the left and the plaque in theEsplanade (photo courtesy of Antica B. Bavčević)
Paris also paid tribute to Ruđer Bošković on the 13th of July, 2013, when, in the central area of the park located along the Richard Lenoir Boulevard, in the 11th arrondissement, the Esplanade Roger Joseph Boscovich was opened. The esplanade was officially opened by the president of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipović, alongside Patrick Bloche, the major of the 11th arrondissement, and Pierre Schapira, the assistant major of Paris, as well as numerous Croatians living in Paris.
According to Hina, in his speech marking the inauguration of the esplanade, President Josipović had the following to say: ‘In choosing his name for this esplanade, both of his homelands have chosen to pay their respects. Today they are linked, just as they were by Bošković in his time, by a mutual sense of belonging to a unique political, economic, and cultural space within the European Union’.
We are also connected with France through Hajduk Split. French president Charles de Gaulle declared our soccer players an honorary sport team of free France for their contributions World War II. They were given an honorary charter plaque in 1945.
Plaque given to Split's Hajduk by president Charles de Gaulle
A group of Croatian immigrants in Paris, petitioned the military administration there to have a memorial plaque placed in the House of Invalids honoring the Croatian regiments that fought under the french flag in Napoleon's time. The plaque was installed on the 28th of October 1956.
House of Invalids in Paris and the plaque where it reads: IN HONOR OF CROATIAN REGIMENTS WHO, UNDER THE FRENCH FLAG, BROUGHT GLORY OF FRENCH ARMY
The Society of former Croatian students, the AMCA in Paris, led by the president Damir Perinić, started the intiative to have the monument erected for Croatian poet Antun Gustav Matoš (1873-1914) to mark the 100's aniversary of his passing. The monument was placed in the rose garden of Corentin Celton hospital in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris in 2014, and is a copy of monument from Zagreb, by sculptor Ivan Kožarić.
The Denegri brothers sitting by the monument. Gerard, the Honorary consul of the Republic of France in Split, on the left and Daniel, world-renown physicist, on the right.
In the town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, in southern France, there is an Avenue des Croates or Croatian Avenue and Croatian martyrs field in honor of the soldiers that managed to liberate the city for one day in 1943. They were members of 13th SS Handžar regiment which consisted of Croatians and Muslims from Bosnian part of former Independent State of Croatia, who were tasked with assisting the Germans and Italians in the fight against partisans. They were on training in France and started rebellion a week after the fall of Italy. The rebels were counting on help of the Allied forces, which never arrived, and thus their rebellion was quashed in blood.
In 1952 Croatian artist Vanja Radauš made a sculpture that was supposed to be placed in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, where locals honor the martyrs of the rebellion every year, but Yugoslavian Government of the time intervened, and the sculpture was placed in Pula to honor the victims there. However, Villefranche and Pula officially fraternized in 2006 and a copy of Radauš’s sculpture was taken to France to make the occasion.
Detail of Radauš's sculpture ( left) and a sketch of the Martyr's field by Krsto Hegedušić (right).