Why this Goa vil­lage will cheer Croa­tia

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

On Sun­day, many foot­ball-crazy Goans will be glued to tele­vi­sion sets to watch young and hun­gry Croa­tia take on for­mer champions France in the Fifa final. At least one lit­tle vil­lage will be firmly on the side of the debu­tants be­cause of a shared history.

Vis­i­tors from Croa­tia came to Gan­daulim, about 4km from Old Goa, some­time in the 16th cen­tury. They may have not dwelled there for long, but the re­stored Church of Sao Braz that they built be­side Cum­bar­jua canal is a re­minder of that stay in this small river­side set­tle­ment of about 200 in­hab­i­tants.

It was quite by chance that The Church of Sao Braz was built at Gan­daulim by Croa­t­ians who came to Goa in the 16th cen­tury. It was re­stored re­cently with Croa­t­ian help Croa­t­ian In­dol­o­gist Zdravka Matišic dis­cov­ered a ref­er­ence to her coun­try’s Goa links while study­ing San­skrit in India. Matišic car­ried out fur­ther re­search in the state’s ar­chives. The grand sight of the Church of Sao Braz — a much smaller ver­sion of Sveti Vlaho Church in Dubrovnik, Croa­tia — sil­hou­et­ted against a blue sky is said to have filled her with joy. How­ever, she was dis­ap­pointed to find the river­side en­trance to the church, styled like the arch on Dubrovnik har­bour, in ru­ins. The PWD knocked it down to al­low ve­hi­cles to reach the ferry point at the canal two decades ago.

On April 1, 1999, the first of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tion from Croa­tia ar­rived in Gan­daulim to ex­plore the Goa-Croa­tia links of yore. The 15-mem­ber par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion was ac­com­pa­nied by Croa­t­ian am­bas­sador to India Zo­ran An­dric

His­to­ri­ans think the Por­tuguese may have brought the Croa­t­ians to build ships — their ex­per­tise in this field was re­spected — or they may have ar­rived in the vil­lage of Gan­daulim, then a teem­ing sub­urb of Old Goa, as mer­chants.

Por­tuguese writer Gomes Catao in his book refers to apop­u­la­tion of 12,000 dur­ing its glory days. Women from the af­flu­ent strata of so­ci­ety here were trans­ported in palan­quins by slaves to the Sao Braz church, Gomes writes.

Since 1999, the vil­lage has been get­ting vis­i­tors, with the Croats de­vel­op­ing an emo­tional at­tach­ment to the place. “Ev­ery time a Croa­t­ian ship comes to the Mor­mu­gao har­bour, the sailors come to visit our church,” a vil­lager, Braz Sil­veira, says. A Croa­t­ian pe­di­a­tri­cian, Dr Mar­ija Radonic, who came more than a decade ago, went back and col­lected do­na­tions for the church, he adds. “I vis­ited her home two years ago, and she has pictures A statue of St Braz in tra­di­tional head­gear called ‘mitre’ and hold­ing the crosier adorns the main al­tar of Gan­daulim church. (Right) A smaller ver­sion of Dubrovnik Sveti Vlaho (Sao Braz) of our church be­fore and af­ter the restora­tion,” he says.

Tea Ba­tinic, an art gallery owner in Dubrovnik, do­nated his paint­ings to the church af­ter a visit. These were auc­tioned to fund church re­pairs.

Last year, a Croa­t­ian team vis­ited the vil­lage to film a doc­u­men­tary. “We are wait­ing to see the doc­u­men­tary that records the his­tor­i­cal land­marks in our vil­lage,” says a res­i­dent, Esper­ance Sil­veira e Vaz. The rap­port be­tween vil­lagers and Croa­t­ians has grown over the years. “The re­la­tion­ship with the peo­ple of Dubrovnik is very close to my heart, es­pe­cially af­ter I stayed with them for three days,” Braz Sil­veira says.

Ra­jti­lak Naik

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