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Vladimir and Tanja – good people whose hearts have led them to Peruća and cattle herding

Born 78 years ago in Marinci village on Cetina river, textile technology and engineering graduate Vladimir Marinko returned to his birthplace, now on reservoir lake Peruća, to breathe the sweet air of his youth. As a man ready for challenges, he spontaneously got involved in livestock breeding. Last autumn, this proud Dalmatian man received an offer to take over a herd of 40 goats which he happily accepted, motivated by our project and a vision of the area he lives in. Led by intuition, love and a combination of other circumstances, his 51-year-old niece Tanja Marinko Mastilović, who has formerly worked in healthy living, decided to join this man of youthful spirit in his adventure.

Tanja with the herd

When proud Dalmatian man Marinko received this offer, he had already been living in the Garjak hamlet for ten years. At the time, his niece Tanja came for a short visit. He introduced her to his plan, and since they concluded what a great opportunity it was, they started this journey together, even without any previous experience with livestock breeding. They courageously took over a herd of goats, a job completely different from anything they had done before. Naturally, they had many questions to be answered and challenges to be conquered from the start, but everything was easier with the help of their fellow cattle-herders and neighbours. These two urban people thus took the responsibility of working on a larger herd of goats housed in a hundred-year-old family home and entered a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with nature.

Vladimir and his speciality – “uštipci”

At the first visit of our team’s members to his home, Vladimir, as a friendly, warm man, told us, „you will always find a warm welcome and a cold beverage when you come to visit me“ – and so it is in every occasion. In addition to our teams’ expert advice to help these newcomers, the trail used for goats to reach their drinking area at the Peruća lake has been partially cleaned through the project. In addition, Mr. Marinko hopes that the spring called Turski bunar between Koljane and Garjak could be renewed, as well as the puddle located 10 meters downstream from the source, about 200 meters above Peruća lake.

Goats on their way to Peruća lake

What a typical day with goats looks like depends on the weather. In the wintertime, while frost lasts and the weather is cold, goats stay in the barn, being fed. When the weather becomes suitable, a team member leads their herd to graze throughout the warmer part of the day. Goats prefer hornbeam, cornelian cherry, blackberry, elm and ivy buds, as well as acorns, while they also prefer mistletoe, so the shepherd tries to offer it when he has the chance. The second team member usually spends time in the barn, preparing feed – barley, oats and corn, while simultaneously taking care of the youngest kids. During the warmer periods of the year, the animals spend the day in the shade.

Vladimir

New goat-herders learned very quickly that goats are not taken out in the rain and low temperatures, as well as that they are very tame and that they are very easy to guard because they do not move away from their keeper. What is important, they also learned, is that vitamins and selenium are very important for goats, because without them the goat becomes passive very quickly and within three days it literally falls off its feet.

Marinko remembers that, while he was younger, in times of intensive livestock breeding, the area of Ježević dry grassland and the coast of Cetina lacked in vegetation and juniper “was nowhere near, not a single plant”. Some could only be found far “below the ridge” on the steeper slopes of Mt. Dinara and above the houses, and even those few would be pruned and used for meat smoking. Ježević dry grassland consisted of “rocky terrain and grassland,” without vegetation back then, as a plateau with thousands of cattle. He also recalls seeing a stone-curlew in the nearby area, in the clearing and around the rocks. Marince hamlet had seven households, each having a donkey with a foal – on the stretch from Ježević to the Dragović monastery only, Mr. Marinko estimates, there were as many as 200 donkeys. As well as goats, they were not guarded, but would first go to Cetina river to a drinking place and then to the upper areas to graze, where they would eat that small amount of juniper found there. Clear terrain as such was ideal for this target species of ours, on the return of which we are working intensively.

Apart from being a man who dared to start livestock breeding in his mature age, Mr. Marinko showed courage earlier when he had decided to return to his homeland on foot, having crossed over 600 kilometers from his then home to the place of his birth. As a young man, he went abroad and started his career at a public company for textile import and export and continued to work in his private company in Belgrade. During his life there, he watched the ships sail along the Danube and daydreamed about returning to his native Dalmatia. At his 62nd birthday celebration, a year after becoming a widower, he informed his relatives and friends about his plan to go back to his homeland – on foot. Except for his strong will, he only brought a tent, a bag, a head-lamp and a backpack. During his trip, he would stay in a tent at gas stations along the road, as well in the backyards of good people he met while traveling. At the end of the summer of 2006, after about 20 days of walking, he arrived at Peruća lake’s coast. After arriving, he celebrated the Assumption of Mary at the Dragović Monastery and returned back to his family by bus. The following year he came to sort out his living situation, and has been living in Marinci since 2009, happy and content. Today he is a vital man, embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, no matter how long or short-lived it could be.

Mr. Marinko can be deservedly presented as a versatile man given that he has, in addition to everything mentioned, also written several books about his homeland and family. In his monograph “Kako sam prepešačio život,“ (“How I walked through life”) he described the adventure of returning home by foot while also recalling his youth growing up next to Cetina river. “Povratak u San Marinke“ (“Going back to San Marinci”) could be described as the family tree of his multinational family in written form. His poems are collected in “Miris nevena“ (“The smell of marigold”), while “Pelene i znoj“ (“Diapers and sweat”) recorded 12 true stories about women from the Vrlika region, about the hardships they went through in life, the unfortunate times of war and about their husbands who went away to make money for their families well-being. In the collection “Dalmatinske ojkalice“ (“Dalmatian ojkalice”) he successfully gathered around 800 ojkalica, rera or ganga songs as these are called in the Sinj area and in Herzegovina. This tireless man is currently writing a romance novel, “Katarina Marina“ (“Mara’s Katarina”) between two people of different religions, Katarina and Marko, who fight for their love while dealing with the pressure of those around them.

Mr. Vladimir Marinko’s life philosophy is to be kind to other people. In his youth, when the families were left without their land along Cetina river after the construction on Peruća lake, most family members immigrated, except for his mother Ilinka Marinko, born Ivanica Duvnjak, who remained there. Since he was forced to leave in search of a better life, the help he got along the way affected him greatly – “we nurtured that part of the emotions, that feeling of kindness, generosity and sympathy. The kindness of the people left a strong impact on me.” Marinko believes that, regardless of what someone does, “you don’t need to feel the regret, kindness always pays off,” and that conversation can solve every obstacle.

The challenge of caring for a goat herd was new to Mrs. Tanja, but also familiar because it reminded her of caring for children. She explains that she had got as many answers as there were questions she had asked people regarding raising offspring, and the same situation happened again with goat farming. Even though she points out that the job is physically hard and demanding, she emphasizes how it makes her feel alive and happy with where she is. Since Tanja’s plan from last autumn to come to Peruća for a quick visit went in an unexpected direction, she doesn’t make plans anymore, “The best is yet to come. It may be wisest not to plan.”