22 Sep Croatian prime minister makes good on promise to visit Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (September 22, 2022) – On a brief break from the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, the prime minister of Croatia made a brief stop in the Steel City on Thursday evening to fulfill a promise he made.
Last summer, Bernadette Luketich-Sikaras, the secretary treasurer of the Croatian Fraternal Union that is headquartered in Wilkins, visited Croatia and invited Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to visit Pittsburgh.
He promised her that the next time he was in the U.S. he would. In between General Assembly meetings and speaking at Harvard, Mr. Plenkovic made good on his promise.
After starting a speech in his native language, Mr. Plenkovic switched back to English, acknowledging that many of the people in the room were second generation or greater and may not speak fluent Croatian.
“I’m really thankful for everything that you do, for the love of your homeland and the incredible work you have done here,” he told about 50 of the CFU’s members during a welcome reception.
Before visiting the CFU main office, Mr. Plenkovic first went to St. Nicholas Croatian Church in Millvale to view the murals painted by Maxo Vanka in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Mr. Plenkovic talked about the Croatian immigrants who came to Pittsburgh and were “doing the hard work” in steel mills.
He commended the CFU, which has been widely considered the largest and oldest organization of Croatians in the diaspora, for its ability to “remain committed” to continuing tradition.
“What you did here, with such strength, with such continuity, with a self-sufficient organization, it has not only kept you together, but enabled the Croatian principle of solidarity to be put in place in a manner which is enviable and which is incredibly efficient,” he told the CFU. “I think the story of the creation of the fraternal union is the story of success.”
Since its inception in 1894, the CFU has worked closely with the Croatian government and currently serves about 50,000 members. Part of its work has included administering a $7 million scholarship that helps fund 250 college students each year.
“Today truly is a great day in the city of Pittsburgh,” CFU National President Edward Pazo said of the prime minister’s visit.
Although this was Mr. Plenkovic’s first trip to the city, other Croatian dignitaries have visited, including Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the country’s first woman president who came to Pittsburgh in 2019 for the Jubilee Mass celebrating the CFU’s 125th anniversary.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle also was invited to the reception but could not attend because he was in session in Washington. Instead, he sent a congressional proclamation in honor of the prime minister’s visit.
Mr. Plenkovic returned to New York City on Thursday so he could attend the General Assembly on Friday.