The majority of Croatians in the state of Ohio live in Cleaveland, and a number of them are part of the Croatian Brotherhood Community, or active in the Cardinal Stepinac Village retirement home. The home houses the Croatian Heritage Museum, whose efforts on behalf of the Croatian community have resulted in the creation of the Croatian Cultural Garden, which is one of 27 such national gardens in Rockefeller Park. It is the only such Croatian garden in the North American Continent.
In 2009, the committee of the Croatian Cultural Garden was made up of the following members:
Branka and Jerry Malinar
Sue and Robert Jerin
Ivan and Slavko Katic
One of the committee’s goals is to celebrate the rich cultural achievements and contributions of the Croatian people, and to enrich the educational inheritance of future generations. The park is located at the historic address of 1131 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, and the plans for the garden were made with the help of architect Jim McKnight. The costs of the project were estimated at around half a million dollars, so the project was broken down into two phases.
Location of the Croatian Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park
The first phase consisted of planting all of the greenery and erecting a monument, a bronze sculpture by Josip Turkalj, the Immigrant Mother, with the Croatian national crest on a stone base. Josip Turkalj (Rakovica 1924 - Cleveland 2007) was an academic sculptor who studied in Zagreb. At Ivan Meštrović’s request, Turkalj became his assistant, and went on to inherit his position at Notre Dame, Indiana.
The committee of the Croatian Cultural Garden requested the assistance of the Edward & Catherine Lozick Foundation, a charity that had always been willing to extend help to Croatian communities, which then donated half of the necessary funds for the garden. Edward Lozick is an American of Croatian descent, whose mother was from the island of Brač, and his father from Dugi Rat. The unveiling of the garden’s completed first phase took place on the 3rd of June, 2012, with Joško Paro, the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia in Washington, in attendance alongside many other Croatians.
Croatian Ambassador Joško Paro holding a speech next to Turkalj’s sculpture, at the ceremony of the completion of the first phase of the garden’s design in 2012.
One side of the monument bears an inscription in English, while the other uses Glagolitic script. It reads:
DEDICATED TO ALL OF THE IMMIGRANT MOTHERS WHO BROUGHT THEIR FAMILIES TO AMERICA SEEKING FREEDOM AND A NEW LIFE.
A joyous moment after the works have been completed. Edward Lozick, the tallest there, is in the middle.
For the second phase, the plans included making a waterfall reminiscent of the waterfalls on the Krka River, making a replica of the Baptistry of Prince Višeslav, and placing six benches made out of stone from Brač around Turkalj’s monument. The second phase was officially completed on the 10th of August, 2014.
The waterfall draws parallels with those on the Krka River.
One of the stone benches was bought by Danica and Jozo Zovko. They had the name of their son, Gerald (Jerko), engraved on the bench. Gerald was an American war veteran, but he was killed in Iraq while guarding the passage of food convoys.
Croatians placing soil brought over from Croatia in the garden. Father Mirko and Denis Kucinich from the House of Representatives talk to mayor Frank Jackson. The Turkalj family in front of Josip Turkalj’s monument (below).
Father Mirko with women unveiling of the Baptistry and Juliana Jerin, in her great grandmother’s dress.