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Oral Histories


Men and women connected with the Croatian American Cultural Center share their stories and their songs in recorded interviews. These oral histories highlight the "up close and personal" stories of growing up Croatian American.

Anka Cavrak
Anka was born and raised in a mining community in Northern Ontario, Canada. Her parents came from villages near Karlovac, Croatia. She describes growing up in an ethnically diverse community and moving to San Francisco as an adult where she reconnected with the Croatian American community through involvement in the SMBS ...

John Daley
John's grandfather came to America as a stowaway around 1900, from the village of Senj, on the Croatian Coast near the Island of Krk. John speaks of his lifelong attraction to the culture, especially to the music and dance, his journeys back to his ancestral village, and his activities as Cultural Director of the SMBS... more...

Phyllis Doyle
Phylis grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a home that was half Serbian and half Croatian. She rediscovered Balkan dancing on a Thanksgiving visit to relatives in Pennsylvania and quickly sought out the Slavonic Cultural Center and the Bay Area folk dance community, where she has played an active part ever since.... more...

Adam Eterovich
Adam is a second generation Croatian American, from the island of Brac, on the Dalmatian Coast. He speaks about growing up in the Croatian community in San Francisco, about the his forty years of involvement in the SMBS, and of the complexities of establishing an ethnic identity. He is married to Danica Eterovich whose interview also appears on this web site..... more...

Danica Eterovich
Danica is a first generation Croatian American who came to San Francisco from Zagreb, Croatia in 1958 when she married Adam Eterovich. She speaks about her family life in Zagreb, her Croatian wedding, the adjustment of coming to San Francisco as a young bride, and about the differences between Dalmatian-Croatians and her own people from Zagreb. ...

Zoran Matulic
Zoran was born and raised on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia where his family is in the resort business. He came to San Francisco by himself at age seventeen and has established a name for himself in the fine restaurant business. He is currently the owner of Oberon Restaurant on Lombard Street in San Francisco.... more...

George and Lillian Ruzich
George and Lillian have filled their lives with music since they were children in Detroit. George describes the handmade mandolin he carried through Italy during his stint in the Army. Lillian talks about singing with her sister on the radio and on stage for the Slavic community in Detroit. (Click here to listen to Lillian singing on the radio) They both talk about how music and the culture has inspired their marriage and their family life. .... more...

Martin and Rose Santich
. Music, family ties and a dedication to local Slavic organizations have defined the lives of Rose and Martin Santich. They speak about growing up Croatian American in the San Francisco Bay Area, sixty years with the SMBS, and their very deep love for the music of the Dalmatian Coast. They were interviewed by Christine Zohar Olson in their home in Castro Valley, in June 2002.... more...

Sharon Skorup
Sharen was born in the San Francisco Bay Area to parents from diverse regions of Croatia. She shares memories of culinary and musical traditions in her family, and of her almost forty year association with the Kolo Festival which was founded by her uncle John Filcich. Sharen was interviewed with Phyllis Doyle by Christine Zohar Olson, at Chris' home in San Francisco in May 2000... more...


The idea for this Project grew out of our awareness of the wealth of untold stories among the Slavonic Cultural Center's membership. Men and women of all ages have a treasure trove of stories and songs relating to their experiences as immigrants and children of immigrants with roots in the Former Yugoslavia. We wanted to document their lives and to share their stories with a wide audience. We've tried to use both the influence of music and experiences at the Croatian American Cultural Center as common threads in the interviews.

The participants in this project have such delightful stories to tell, songs to sing and photographs to share, that we knew right away we wanted to present their oral histories in audio and visual formats as well as the interview transcript. We believe the combination of formats presents a deeper, more interesting and more accurate profile than the transcript alone. We currently have sound clips, music and photographs on the web site, and are working to supplement the oral histories with more musical examples, longer excerpts from the recorded interview, and family photographs.

We also want to take full advantage of the Internet's ability to reach a wide audience and are excited about the possibility, for example, of relatives in Croatia hearing an interviewee's voice on the Internet.

For further information, or if you are interested in being interviewed for the Project, please contact Nancy MacKay, Project Director.

Design Statement

Project Design Statement

The primary objective of the Project is to document the life stories of members of the Croatian American Cultural Center of San Francisco, and to present them on Slavonicweb, the official website of the Center. As the Project matures, we will consider expanding the project to include oral histories of members of the greater Balkan dance and music community, or the Balkan American community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We will present these life stories making full use of the InternetÍs capabilities, in particular, presentation through text, audio and graphic formats, and the use of hypertext and links for connecting and organizing information. We believe the combination of the audio interview, photographs, music, and maps to supplement the written summary/transcript presents a deeper, more interesting and more accurate profile of the interviewee than the transcript alone. Because spoken words and music are special emphases of this Project, we are especially interested in recording and producing broadcast quality sound.

The secondary objective is to develop a model for using the Internet in oral history that would be useful to small projects with small budgets. We believe the Internet offers oral historians enormous possibilities both in the use of multimedia tools, and the use of hypertext and hyperlinks for organizing information. In the future we hope to make use of the possibilities offered by metadata for further organizing information. We would also like to explore the use of interactive maps. In addition, we plan to address the issues of informed consent, privacy, intellectual property and archiving/storage as they apply to the Internet.

This is an ongoing project.

Since this is an Internet project, the potential audience is the whole world. In particular, it is our hope that the site reaches researchers and relatives of the interviewees who live around the world.

SlavonicWeb Oral History Project uses standard oral history methodology when it applies, but because are we exploring the application of new technologies to oral history, there are a number of uncharted areas where we are developing methodology as we go.

a) Interviews. We use traditional oral history interviewing techniques. Because we will use audio segments in the presentation, high quality sound is a high priority for this project.. This project considers the taped interview, not the transcript, to be the primary document.

b) Transcription. The Project attempts complete transcripts, and will keep the transcript as an archival copy. Due to limited resources, we have incomplete transcripts for some interviews.

c) Permission forms. To date the Project has obtained release from interviewees to put reviewed selections from the interview on the Internet. No other permissions have been obtained. As the Project grows and our resources increase, we want to obtain broader releases from interviewees.We believe in providing informed consent, to the extent that any of us knows the the ramifications of Internet access. Since interviewees may not be Internet savvy, we make an extra effort to explain complexities of the Internet.

d) Relationship to interviewee. The wishes of the interviewee is our utmost concern, not only in stated reality but also in spirit. In any conflict the wishes of the interviewee will prevail. In any bibliographic citation, the interviewee will be considered the author, and the interviewer will be the editor or contributor. We encourage the intervieweeÍs participation in the process as much as s/he is interested. Any material we put on the Intenet is reviewed and approved by the interviewee; this is in addition to the permission forms.

e) Technology. We attempt to make the site interesting and available to all viewers, irrespective of technical limitations. That is, we have designed the site to be interesting to people without a graphical user interface or with all versions of common browsers.

f) Archiving/preservation. Every recorded interview has an audio tape archival copy, an electronic and print version of the raw transcript, and the final version on the web, which is hosted on a commercial server. At the moment all the materials reside in the home of the Project Director and are not available for researchers.

PROCEDURE STEP BY STEP. These procedures describe the ideal situation. No oral history has followed them exactly.

a) Select potential interviewees. So far this has been random. We select whomever we know, whoever would be willing. There is a spot on the website for people interested in participating to contact the Project Director.

b) Contact omterviewee in person or by phone. Tell them hom or her about the project, answer questions, ascertain the level of interest. Set date for preliminary interview. Interviewee chooses the place for both interviews, usually their home. Send the person the ñwelcomeî handout and a copy of one or two finished oral histories from SlavonicWeb (or this can be done at the preliminary interview).

c) Preliminary interview. Purpose is to become acquiainted, describe the whole process, answer questions, decide on topics for the recorded interview, make sure the interviewee feels completely comfortable with the interviewers and with the process. Identify any topics not to be discussed during recording. Discuss the possibilities for adding photos or music to the finished interview. Make sure the person understands the implications of putting the interview on the Internet, and that they have full control of the material at every stage in the process. Describe permission form.
Recording person will identify potential recording problems such as a soft voice, or extraneous noise in the room. Ideally the preliminary interview should take place wherever the actual interview will be conducted. If necessary this preliminary interview can be conducted over the phone or on the same day as the actual interview.

d) Recorded interview. About five days before the actual interview the interviewer sends interviewee a list of topics to be discussed, derived from discussions in the previous session. Target length for the interview is 70 minutes, the length of a minidisc recorded in stereo.

Having a target duration gives the interview a shape and keeps the it on topic and is an average personÍs attention span. If that is not long enough the interviewer and interviewee can mutually decide to continue the interview either at that time or at another time

e) Transfer recording to audiotape. Ideally, two analog (tape) copies are made of the interview. One copy is the archival copy and wonÍt be touched, the second copy is the working copy -- for transcription, etc. In reality this is cumbersome, time consuming, expensive, and probably overkill.

f) Transcribe interview. This is the most resource intensive step. It generally takes six hours to transcribe each hour of taped interview. When resources are available, we will have the sstape transcribed professionally. Though there are definite advantages to having the interviewer transcribe the interview, we feel that our time is better used other areas.

g) Review transcript by listening to complete interview with transcript in hand. Make important changes such as spellings of proper names or phrases important to content which transcriber didnÍt pick up. Transcript doesnÍt need to be verbatim that is, repeated words and phrases can be left out, but all meaningful words must be present. Make appropriate changes to this transcript and print it out. This will be the archival copy of the verbatim transcript.

h) Edit transcript. Ideally the interviewer should be the editor. Editing means deleting some text and very selectively reorganizing text, but never adding or changing significant words. The finished product should be three to four pages per interviewee, edited from an original transcript of fiteen to twenty pages.

The following subjects are of special interest to this project and should be included if they are discussed:
a) the personÍs birthplace and place of origin in the Old Country, what generation
b) growing up in ethnic neighborhood
c) language, holidays, religious festivals, food, weddings or other points of ethnic identity
d) importance of ethnic music in their lives, as a child, as an adult
e) role of SMBS in their lives
f) if they have children, how (or if) they transmitted ethnic identity to them; what parts of their culture do they wish will be carried on

Details, stories, anecdotes, names and places are what make the story rich and personal. ItÍs tricky to preserve these details in the summary and still work within the constraints of brevity and privacy (that is, not putting anything too personal on the Internet) but worth it.

The final document is obviously just a summary. Possibilities that the full transcript or full audio recording being mounted on the Internet are not being considered by the Project at this time, but may be in the future.

i) Interviewee to review and approve. When I am satisfied with the final edit, I send a copy to the interviewee for his or her review. I prefer to copy it into HTML template so it will appear just like it will on the SlavonicWeb and the person can view it in its final form. Ask him or her to review the content and to verify spelling of proper names and places. Get oral final approval from interviewee.

j) Post it on the internet. Add a short description to the Table of Contents page with a link to the oral history. DonÍt forget metatags (especially title and keywords) in the HTML document.

k) Audio. Select three or four segments from the audio three to six minutes each. Selections donÍt have to parallel the text, but should relate to it. Choose selections that 1) have excellent audio quality, 2) convey emotion, humor or some quality that canÍt be captured by the text, 3) have interesting content. Audio is a place where a longer story or anecdote could be presented if alluded to in the summary.

a) Mark the audio clips as tracks on the minidisc
b) Audio engineer to convert minidisc tracks to Real Audio files.
c) Load audio files to host and convert to .rm files, with .ram file as pointer

TECHNOLOGY. Appropriate technology is a major consideration in this project, in particular, recording quality and Internet technologies. Unlike other oral history projects, we must meet standards for music as well as voice recording.

a) Website. The website resides on a commercial server and is maintained by John Daley and Nancy MacKay. The oral history site is maintained by Nancy MacKay. So far, this has been a volunteer and amateur effort. As the website grows, the existing file structure and templates are becoming cumbersome and confusing.

b) Recording. The Project receives audio materials in two ways: Interviews which we record, and prerecorded segments, usually music, provided by the interviewees We currently record interviews on a Sony MZ-R50 minidisc recorder and a single standup microphone. This system records in digital and outputs in analog. We are very pleased with the quality of sound and the ability to mark tracks, though it raises problems for transcribing and archiving. Currently, we transfer the interviews to audiotape, making either one or two copies. The (analog) audiotape is currently considered the archival copy and the copy used for transcription. We select sections of each interview to post on the website in audio form. Selections are based on content, audio quality, and particular anecdotes or speaking patterns that are not easily conveyed as text. Our goal is to post three to four audio clips, each three to five minutes (400 to 600 KB) for each interview. Selections are marked as tracks on the minidisc and converted to RealAudio files by a paid sound engineer. Then they are set up as .rm and .ram files and linked to the interview to more orless parallel the text.

Recorded music from another source. We also receive prerecorded sound (generally music) offered to the Project by interviewees. For example, we were offered a taped radio segment from the 1940s. We welcome all musical contributions which contribute to and enhance any oral history. These segments are also converted to RealAudio and posted according to the procedure mentioned above. These tapes arrive in different stages of quality.

c) Visual. It is our hope to supplement oral histories with visual materials, such as photographs current or old photographs.

d) Interactive. I would like to consider the possibilities of interactive technologies. In particular I would like to develop an interactive map, mainly of Croatia, where people can click on the home village of various people to get more information about it. Other interactive possibilities are feedback to the site, online discussion forums and chat groups.



John Daley, Cultural Advisor and Liaison
As Cultural Director of the Croatian American Cultural Center since 1986, John has introduced Balkan culture to San Francisco Bay Area residents through cultural, artistic and educational events. He coordinates the annual cycle of festivals, traditional arts classes and special events. In addition, he plays bugaria and saxophone in the Slavonian Traveling Band, the house band of the Slavonic Cultural Center. John was interviewed for this Project in 1999 and his oral history appears on this website.
Nancy MacKay, Project Director
Nancy has been involved in oral history since 1992. In addition to SlavonicWebOral History Project, she has done oral histories for the Legacy Oral History Project and Mills College. She is a member of the Legacy Oral History Project Advisory Board, the Oral History Association and the Bay Area Oral Historians Steering Committee. Nancy has been interested in the culture of the Balkans all of her adult life, and has been active at the Croatian American Cultural Center since 1986.
Christine Zohar Olson, Ed.D., Cultural Consultant
Christine is a member of the SMBS and its Cultural Committee. She earned her Ed.D at the University of San Francisco in International and Multicultural Education, with special work in participatory research, a methodology which focuses on personal interviewing. In 2000 she participated in the Columbia University Summer Institute on Oral History. She has a deep interest in the culture of her Slovenian and Croatian ancestors and has pursued this interest through travel, cultural activities and professional research. She has worked with the Project as Cultural Consultant and Senior Interviewer since 1999.

Research Guidelines

Guidelines for Researchers

We have developed a close and trusting relationship with all the men and women who have agreed to share their stories, their photographs and their music. We ask that researchers approach this material with the same respect and sensitivity. This project follows the Oral History Evaluation Guidelines published by the Oral History Association.

Each participant has signed a permission form giving the Project permission to post audio and text excerpts from the recorded interview on this web site. Some informants have expressed a willingness to be contacted directly by researchers. For more specific information, please contact Project Director, Nancy MacKay

Audio or text excerpts may be used for scholarly purposes within appropriate context and with proper credit..

Please cite interview material as follows:
[name of interviewee]. Interview. [date of interview, interviewer]. SlavonicWeb Oral History Project. [date of citation]. <>

Adam Eterovich. Interview. April 1999, by Nancy MacKay. SlavonicWeb Oral History Project. 22 February 2000. <>

For more information on web citations, consult Columbia University's Guide to Online Style.

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