Daruvar, 29 November 2019 (MIA) – When we arrived in the Croatian town of Daruvar—a small, beautiful place in the western part of Slavonia, halfway between Zagreb and Osijek—to attend its Fra Ma Fu festival of long-form journalism, we didn’t expect such a heartfelt welcome.
People were full of love and respect for us only because of our Macedonian heritage. We were flattered but also baffled. What was the reason for this?
Finding the answer was easy.
Everyone in town was quick to grin and tell us that a fellow Macedonian, Doctor Ignatovski, opened the town’s first private clinic.
Also, that Faruk from Tetovo made the best burek in Daruvar – and all of Croatia.
The Macedonian doctor who fell in love in Croatia
Bojan Ignatovski is a specialist in general plastic surgery. He owns the Arcadia Polyclinic in Daruvar, the first family-owned private plastic surgery clinic in Croatia, founded in 1992.
When we visited Arcadia, a large, modern building designed in line with the highest standards and located in a forest, Doctor Ignatovski told us the hospital was worth over 2 million euros.
Twenty people work in the hospital, which helps more than 1,000 patients a year: 60 percent of them from North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and 40 percent from Croatia.
“I’m Macedonian, I was born in Zletovo,” Doctor Ignatovski told us, “and I moved to Croatia for emotional reasons.
“I received my medical degree in Skopje. I then served in the military in Croatia and met my wife here.”
“I fell in love with her,” he continues, “and began this romantic fairytale that made me leave Macedonia.
“I started a family in Daruvar. I have two children. My daughter Biljana is a radiology specialist and the director of Arcadia, and my son Ivan is a successful businessman.
“In Macedonia, I had worked in the Kochani and Shtip hospitals, and also had the opportunity of working in the Skopje clinic.
“I have many relatives in Zletovo, but love triumphed.
“In Zagreb, I worked at the renowned Rebro clinic, where I specialized, and then I completed my education in France.
“I had a great mentor and friend, Doctor Mishkovski from Skopje, who was a great influence, and whom I still deeply respect.
“He helped me find my calling, in a way.”
Doctor Ignatovski, despite collaborating with several regional healthcare providers, still has close ties to North Macedonia.
He’s been helping out his hometown, and he has collaborated with Skopje’s Faculty of Medicine and the Clinic of Plastic Surgery, running workshops there over the past couple of years.
Sometimes medical students also come to Croatia to learn from him or fellow experts in the field.
Asked what it’s like to be a Macedonian living in Croatia, Ignatovski said he’s lived in Croatia for such a long time that he’s just as proud to be a Croat of Macedonian origin as he is of his native identity.
“I love my hometown of Zletovo,” Ignatovski said.
“Whenever I can, I go back to Macedonia, a country I still have a connection with.
“Often, my friends from around the world tag along. I take them on a round trip, to show them around.
“And we stay longest in Zletovo, my hometown.”
Doctor Ignatoski doesn’t see his clinic as the best thing he has done in his life. He believes his children are his biggest success.
And, since running the clinic, his radiologist and director daughter has raised the bar of care even higher, he said.
He owes all of this, he added, to his upbringing and the support his parents gave him as he was leaving Macedonia.
Their parting message? Always put people first, Doctor Ignatoski told us.
The Macedonian who makes Croatia’s best burek
Croatia also has another set of parents to thank: Faruk Demiri’s, who moved from the village of Dobarce, near Tetovo, to Daruvar.
They are the ones to blame that their son Faruk, in the Orient bakery, now makes the tastiest burek in Croatia.
Suspending our disbelief that we found such people in Daruvar, we accepted Faruk’s generous invitation to his bustling bakery.
We enjoyed delicious quarter slices of burek on the house, both meat and cheese, with homemade yogurt on the side.
“In 2014,” Faruk told us, “some journalists came from Suitcase Magazine. They were food writers.
“They came, they tried it, and they loved it.
“Then they came back the next day to have my burek again, and this is how word spread. Soon other journalists and media outlets were saying I make the best burek in Croatia.”
Faruk told us he’s had other guests from North Macedonia, as well, including the soccer player Agim Ibrahimi and Economic Chamber president Branko Azeski.
We were happy to join the roster and confirm his reputation as the ultimate burek master, while feeling right at home in faraway Croatia, in Daruvar, thanks to Bojan Ignatovski and Faruk Demiri.
Translated by Dragana Knežević
Edited by Magdalena Reed