I was born on 2 February 1932 at St. Lovrec – Labin in a seamen family. I have visited the grammar school at St. Lovrec, and went later for two years to the Italian Gymnasium at Fiume/Rijeka, completing the first class during the war and the second after the war ended.
When I was 15 years old, I went to sea on our little ships from St. Lovrec – Labinese Trabacles of some 150 to 200 grt. We transported mostly coals, coming from the Rasa coal mine, from the harbour of Brsica in the Rasa Channel to Rijeka, and that is how my seafaring career begun.
After several years on trabacles, I went to the Nautical School at Bakar, and absolved my study as a junior machine engineer. Afterwards I served in ships of the „Jadranska slobodna plovidba“ as a junior machine engineer, visiting most of Mediterranean harbours, until being recruited for the armed forces.
After serving for two years in the Army, I came back home, and was soon sent to the „3 Maj“ shipyard, where a new 500-ton ship was fitted out, a water carrier named „Izvor“. Later I was made part of the company on this ship on his route between Rijeka and Goli otok (the „Gulag Island“ for political prisoners). I served on this ship for several years; we transported water to the island, staying one night at Rijeka and another in the island.
After being looking at all this misery on Goli otok (but I wasn´t either imprisoned there or oppressed somebody), I went finally to the company of „Kvarnerska plovidba“ from Umag, and sailed for several years on their ships, again mostly in the Mediterranean. Afterwards I became Chief Engineer on „Istra“– a smaller ship belonging to the Maritime District (an institution supervising Harbour Captains), that was mostly stationed at Rijeka.
During this time it became possible to visit the University, and I completed the study of Economy, to be employed later by various shipping companies and maritime agents, until being finally retired.
I was always fascinated by the sea, and I wrote several articles for the Istrian newspapers „Jurina i Franina“, and in 2002, I published the book „Sveti Lovrec Labinski i okolica“ (St. Lovrec of Labin with the surroundings) about the „maritime Labinstina“. The book was present on the book fair at Pola, was selected for presentation on the International book fair at Leipzig and was presented there too.
Finally I wrote the manuscript „The Evolution of the seamanship on the Eastern Coast of Istria during the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th Century“. I was greatly inspired by visiting the „Gallerion“ maritime collection at Novigrad/Istria, a brain-child of Mr. Sergio Gobbo. There I saw many beautiful exhibits, including scores of models of Austro-Hungarian warships.
I knew a lot about seamen fallen during the First and especially the Second World War, and I knew many of the last mentioned in person. Being deeply moved by their fates, I started to write a book on these.
I started with the description of the Battle of Lissa in 1866, where many of our people were involved. Afterwards I described two Polar expeditions organised by Austria-Hungary, the first from 1872 to 1874, when the survey ship „Admiral Tegetthoff“ tried to reach the North Pole, and the second in 1882/83, going the island of Jan Mayen. In both adventures many people from our provinces were engaged – then known under the popular name of „Quarnerioli“.
The Mediterranean maritime trade was having a great importance during Old Ages and in the times before the discovery of America, to be strongly reduced afterwards. In the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th Century, great changes took place, especially in the maritime and naval technology. Sailing ships begun to disappear from the World´s oceans and were replaced by first steamers. In 1869 Suez Channel was opened, reviving the importance of the Mediterranean; steamers could now sail to the Middle and Far East through the Mediterranean, and not on the longer route around Africa. This stimulated the rapid development of sea trade on the Adriatic too, as a long gulf incised into the European continent. On the northern end of the Adriatic Sea the trade with the European hinterland ran through the most important Austro-Hungarian harbours of Trieste and Rijeka/Fiume. Both were soon connected by the railroad, Trieste in 1857 with Vienna and Fiume in 1873 with Budapest.
Steamers and steam locomotives were in need of coals, and these could be found near the Mediterranean coast only in the Rasa mine in Labinstina, on the eastern coast of Istria. These coals were stimulating the further development of maritime trade of Istria (mostly of south-eastern Labinstina and Plominstina), and the people living there based their existence in being seamen.
Some of them were buying small trabacles to transport goods along the coast, and many were going to sea on bigger ships from Trieste and Fiume overseas shipping companies. There was a time, shortly before the World War Two, when there was no house in Labinstina, Plominstina and Brsecina without a seaman; and the welfare of the whole area was based on sea trade.
In 1939 the World War Two began. During six war years many seamen perished and all trabacles of the Eastern Istria were sunk, including the vessels from the islands of Cres and Losinj, some 50 coastal motor vessels between 150 and 350 grt at all. During the war some 400 seamen from our provinces remained at sea, but they were never mentioned in our literature, and their „graves“ are dispersed all over the World´s oceans.
For several years I was researching and trying to collect data of their fates, to write it all down. I was in contact with the Maritime Museum at Trieste and other institutions, including the Ministry for the Merchant Marine at Rome, from where I received most of data, including names of all lost merchant ships, with names of all perished seamen and their functions aboard. I found out that already in 1940 some 40 seamen from our homeland were lost at sea. During six war years their number reached 400. Until now they were neither named nor listed in Croatian literature, and my manuscript „Sea trade on the east coast of Istria“ could be the first attempt to correct this omission. These poor people have no tombstones, their bones are dispersed all over the sea bed on the oceans worldwide, but they have every right to be named and their fates described in a historical paper.
After the World War Two many young people from our province were going to sea again, with scores visiting nautical schools at Bakar and Mali Losinj, and some of them also higher nautical schools at Rijeka and Piran. In the second half of the 20th Century there were many nautical and engineering officers from our province, together with numerous Captains and Chief Engineers. A third of trabacles sunk during the WW II were raised and repaired, to sail again along the coast under guidance of our seamen.
Already before the 20th Century came to the close, many Captains and Chief Engineers ended their careers in the Merchant Navy, their numbers diminished from day to day, and in the first decade of the 21st Century almost all were gone. Today there are only few Captains, Engineers and Wireless Officers at Rijeka and Pula, whose parents are coming from our province, but they are sailing on foreign ships under foreign flags, because our shipping companies are not existing any more.
An epilogue: in our province, where in the past there was no household without a seaman, and the whole territory profited from sea trade, today we could found no seamen at all – not a single one!
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