On Wednesday October 17, our host Jan Miyasaki spoke with Jennifer Wilson of Des Moines, Iowa, a travel writer whose works have been featured in National Geographic Traveler, Gourmet Magazine, Midwest Living, and more. Jennifer is the author of Running Away to Home – Our family’s journey to Croatia in search of who we are, where we came from, and what really matters. The book was named Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She spoke with Jan about her experience in Croatia.
During the recession, Jennifer, who is Croatian by ancestry, decided to leave Des Moines, Iowa and “take a family sabbatical” to the land where her great-grandparents were born. “As a travel writer I get obsessions with places, and Mrkopalj, Croatia became an obsession… and within the year, we were plunked down in this little mountain village in the northwest of Croatia that seemed like it had stopped in time since my great-grandparents left.” Jennifer’s great-grandfather left Mrkopalj for Iowa in 1906, where he worked in a coal mining community, and then sent for Jennifer’s great-grandmother to join him in 1908. Much like her great-grandfather, Jennifer traveled ahead of her family to Mrkopalj to see if she could bring her family there. Encountering an entirely unfamiliar landscape, lifestyle, language and currency, Jennifer was initially daunted by the drastically different life that Mrkopalj presented. Entering the village the second time however, this time with her family, Jennifer explains, “it was an entirely different scene. Croatia is all about family, and when I arrived with my family, in search of my Croatian family, the tone had changed significantly.” Jennifer describes the amount of help that was extended to her family by their friends and neighbors. “… it became an obsession for them to help us find old relatives and help us learn what kind of lives our grandparents must have lived when they were there.”
She will be speaking at Sequoya Branch Public Library on Friday Oct 19 at 7 pm.
Visit Jennifer’s website at www.jennifer-wilson.com.
Listen to the interview here: