Skip to main Content Site Map 705.759.0909

Croatian Culture

Who they are

  • Croatia is located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the south-east, Montenegro to the south-east, the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and Slovenia to the northwest.
  • The name of Croatia derives from Medieval Latin Croātia, from Dux Croatorum (“Duke of Croatians”) attested in the Branimir Inscription, itself a derivation of North-West Slavic *Xrovat-, by liquid metathesis from proposed Common Slavic period *Xorvat-, from proposed Proto-Slavic *Xarwāt- (*Xъrvatъ) or *Xŭrvatŭ (*xъrvatъ).
  • Historical references to Croats in the Holy Roman Empire date back to the ninth century. Stories connect the name “Croat” (Hrvat) with a powerful military chieftain in the early middle Ages and an Alan word for “friend.”

When they arrived

  • The first Croatians who came to Canada were two sailors; Ivan Malogrudic from the city of Senj and Marin Masalarada, from Dubrovnik. They were part of the crew on Jacques Cartier’s third voyage to New France in 1541-1542.
  • The First Croatian people arrived in Sault Ste Marie early in 1905. After in the 1920’s were more arrivals especially single men who worked in Northern Lumber camps and in the railways.
  • In 1935, employment was on the rise, especially at Algoma Steel Corporation, many Croats were hired and eventually they were able to bring their families from Croatia.
  • The regional concentrations of Croats were also concentrating in some localities in Ontario. There was a concentration of Croats from Dalmatia in Port Arthur; from Lika and Zumberak in Schumacher, and fromHrvatsko Primorje, Lika, and Herzegovina in Sault Ste. Marie.

 Language:  Croatian

  • Croatian language is the official language of Croatia, and Croatian (hrvatski jezik) is a standardized register of the Serbo-Croatian language spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries.
  • Croatian-language schools served nearly a thousand students in nearby Mississauga, with others in Oakville, Hamilton, and Sudbury serving fewer students. In Hamilton and Kitchener language training extended into senior high school.
  • The first chair for Croatian language and literature was established at the University of Waterloo. At least ten other language schools were set up across Canada as part of the Croatian Schools of Canada network. Several other universities (Toronto, York, Carleton, British Columbia, and Victoria) offered Croatian-language courses. Students at York University helped establish a Croatian Student Centre in the university’s new Student Centre.
  • The first Croatian newspaper was Croatian Voice (later called Canadian Voice). Petar Stanković was the editor from 1929 to 1977, in Winnipeg, which was closely related to the Croatian Peasant Party.


  • According to Statistics Canada (2006) the Croat ethnic origin population in Sault Ste. Marie is 205 people.
  • According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 97,050 Canadians of Croatian ethnic origin.
  • In the period between 1945 and 1956, on average 1,500 Croatians entered Canada per annum, almost all of them political immigrants. Between the years 1957 and 1961, the number jumped to 25,000, of which 8,000 were refugees.
  • Croat communities range in size from Toronto’s 19,000, through second-tier urban centres (Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal, Vancouver, and Windsor) with 5,000 to 10,000, to cities and towns on resource frontiers (Nanaimo, Rouyn-Noranda, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Timmins) with 700 to 2,000 members and generally declining, since their core group was the second wave of migration.

How did they contribute to life in Sault Ste. Marie

  • Croats immigrants made numerous and significant contributions to the agricultural, manufacturing, engineering, teaching, publishing, religious, mining, cultural, professional, sports, military, research, business, governmental and political life in Sault Ste. Marie and Canada.
  • A global cultural contribution from Croatia is the necktie, derived from the cravat originally worn by the 17th century Croatian mercenaries in France.
  • Those Croats who came to Canada via the United States, had learned more about business and some of them became small contractors for railway or timber companies, while others became restaurant owners, or owned bakeries or grocery stores in the primary resource towns of northern Ontario.
  • Between 1900 and 1940, The Trbovich family (parents of the Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Nicholas Trbovich -1975 to 1980) owned a grocery Store in James Street “ Trbovich Groceries”. It is important to mention the immense contribution they did helping to many people in Sault Ste. Marie providing groceries free to those in need at that time. Source: Mrs. Goldie Marinevich and Mrs Peggy Krmpotich. – Notable Croats descent residents in Sault Ste Marie.
  • 1940’s. After the World War II, Mr. Tony Lukenda opened a convenience Store on Second Avenue in Sault Ste. Marie. Mr. Tony Lukenda’s sons were notable dentists in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • 1960, Louis Krmpotich, who was member of the first Orchestra, continued teaching children and founded the Croatian Tamburitza Orchestra and St. Mary’s Tamburitzans. From this date to present, these Cultural groups has been participating perform at all Sault Multicultural events in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • “In April 1966, Mr Jacob Pandzic (of Croatian descent) purchased the Gros Cap property and the “BlueWater Inn” Motel and restaurant. On April 12, 2001, Mr Pandzic sold this property along with the Bluewater Inn property to three North American residents, Dirk E. McKimmy, James G. Wyrembelsky and John R. Wyrembelsky. The Bluewater Inn property was subsequently sold in May 11, 2001 to a local resident for operation as a restaurant and motel. It is worthy of note that the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority (SSMRCA) attempted to purchase this property in the late 1970’s but the owner would not sell (Cairns pers. Comm.)”.  Gros Cap area has a unique and great variety of rare plants and the extremes of microclimates not attainable in any one locality in Ontario. The site, if properly protected, can provide the basis of a significant natural history and must qualify to be consider a National Heritage. Source: “Gros Cap. Ancient Home Meeting place. Rare Natural Beauty. A gem at Risk”. July 2001. Sault Naturalist and Friends of Gros Cap 292 Northern Av E, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 6H3

 Holidays and Celebrations

  • STATEHOOD DAY/CROATIA DAY (Hrvatski Dan) June 25. This is a holiday that occurs every year on June 25 to celebrate the country’s 1991 declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. The Statehood Day is an official holiday, a day off work in Croatia.
  • CROATIA INDEPENDENCE DAY October 8. This holiday is celebrated in Croatia to mark the day in 1991 that the Croatian Parliament voted to cut constitutional ties with Yugoslavia. The Croatians had declared their independence three months earlier, on June 25 ( Croatia Statehood Day), but a three-month moratorium was placed on implementation of the decision to give European negotiators a chance to broker an agreement
  • ANTI-FASCIST STRUGGLE DAY June 22. It is a Croatian holiday and celebration. Celebrated on June 22, it marks the beginning of the uprising of Croatian anti-fascist Partisans against German and Italian occupying forces, that started with the formation of the First Sisak Partisan Detachment on June 22, 1941 near Sisak, Croatia.
  • THE CANADIAN-CROATIAN FOLKLORE FESTIVAL –May 25 (Victoria Day long weekend). This is an event celebrating Croatian folklore and heritage with a weekend of performances. Croatian groups from around Canada participate in the yearly event. It is traditionally held on the Victoria Day long weekend, to allow for three days of festivities. There is a Western and Eastern edition of the festival. The Eastern festival began in 1975, while the Western began in 1978. Groups perform Croatian kolo dances, as well as traditional Croatian music, which are characterized by Tamburitza Folk songs. The event is governed by the Croatian Folklore Federation of Canada, which was formed in 1973 to keep Croatian culture alive in a foreign country.

Notable Canadians of Croatian Descent

  • Louis Krmpotich 1924-2010 Sault Community leader. His life demonstrated his lengthy  commitment to the preservation of the Croatian Culture in Sault Ste Marie as director of the youth and adult Tamburitza Orchestras.
  • Nicholas Trbovich Sault Ste Marie Mayor. Ancestor of Croatian immigrants. He is a Canadian politician who served as the Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from 1975 to 1980.
  • Mrs Goldie Marinevich Croat descendent in Sault Ste. Marie.Born in 1930, Mrs Marinevich is an active member of the Croatian Community in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Raymond Yakasovich 1928 – date of passing unknown. Notable Dentist in Sault Ste. Marie
  • Dr. Louis B. Lukenda Sault Ste. Marie medal of merit 2004 – Dr. Louis B. Lukenda is recognized for his outstanding contribution to the community in the field of education and health.
  • Jacob Pandzic Mr Pandzic owned the Gros. Cap property and the “Bluewater Inn” Motel and restaurant from April 1966 to April 12, 2001. The Pandzic property (as it is known) has been open to the public for more than 70 years. More than one generation of Sault Ste. Marie citizens have enjoyed its unique beauty.  Also. Mr. Pandzic is one of the founders of the Canadian Croatian Home Association– Croatian Hall.
  • Peggy Krmpotich Teacher and musician.  Notable descendant of Croatian origin in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Father Veselko Kvesic Franciscan Father of the Custody of the Our Lady of the Highways Croatian Catholic Church since July 07, 1994 in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Georgia Tomas President of the Canadian Croatian Home Association- Hravski Dom- (The Croatian Hall).
  • Robert Herjavec is known to many Canadians as the good looking, nice dragon on the popular CBC series Dragons’ Den. The show features five ultra successful Canadian entrepreneurs looking to invest in other Canadian business start-ups.

Video/interviews  gallery  click here  Croatian Culture, Croatian Culture

Flag of Croatia