Ben Pecotich's picture
Ben Pecotich

How does a landscape shape a soul? This journey back to where my grandfather was born and lived the first fourteen years of his life. What does it tell me about him? I believe we are products of our environment. We are greatly shaped by assimilation. The place we live, the cultures we are immersed in, the people that surround us or we surround ourselves with and the experiences they have had, the places and cultures they have been exposed to.

My name is the only real tangible thing that attaches me to this land, a tenuous connection but one that everyone seems to acknowledge. Ironically a name that I, and to my knowledge, entire family have been mispronouncing, at least for all of my lifetime.

 

So what is there to be gained by returning to this place? Is it purely a point of interest or are there deeper impacts? Does it reveal something about my family, my grandfather, my father, me? On a superficial level I could point to many things about the lifestyle, culture, values of the place and say “that’s where I get it from” but to me that is as convenient and shaky as looking at a horoscope and making it fit.

But I have no doubt that these roots have shaped me to a certain degree. How could it not. My upbringing, the values that have been instilled in me, the prejudices, bitterness.

I am writing this just as we have passed back through Smokvica on the bus from Korcula to Vela Luka. As I was thinking this and trying to get it on paper we rounded the corner coming into Smokvica. It is currently 4:45 in the morn and the town was lit up in lights, the church clock tower outlined in christmas lights and a warm glow on the main area of town. The warmth and brightness of this brief moment seemed in sharp contrast to the emotions I was feeling. I think of all of the people I have met in Croatia. In Split, Korcula and Smokvica, everyone has been warm, friendly, welcoming - even before I mention why I am here or that my name is Pecotich.

I guess though, that our public and private lives can be different worlds. My family has always been known as supremely hospitable and friendly. I guess that could be a value that comes from this place and culture.

Why then do both my dad and grandfather give off an air of such a tough life. If I’m looking to understand this side of things, maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe it has more to do with another time and place. Maybe it was a tough life, maybe to survive the hardness had to kick in.

 

My first trip to the small town my grandfather grew up in before emigrating to Australia when he was 14. Smokvica is in the middle of Korcula - one of Croatia's Adriatic islands. Written on the bus from Korcula Town to Smokvica on 7 December 2003 and then the bus from Korcula Town to Vela Luka on 8 December 2003.

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Meandering WhispersTravel