“The First Croatian Converts,” Global Histories: Croatia (2019)
“The First Croatian Converts,” Global Histories: Croatia
In the early days of the Church, missionaries occasionally traveled through the Balkans but were unable to stay long. In May 1899, Mischa Markow preached briefly in Serbia before being banished. Later, in March 1911, John Stosich (Janko Stošić)—who was born in Dura Gora, Croatia and serving in the Swiss and German Mission—recommended that missionaries be sent to Zagreb, Croatia. Within a month, Stosich and Elmer V. Howell were preaching to Stosich’s family and acquaintances in and around Zagreb, but before anyone was baptized, the missionaries were arrested for distributing religious tracts and were eventually expelled from Zagreb.
A few years later, in 1914, Eviza Arbić Vujičić, who was born in Špišić Bukovica, Croatia, was baptized in Budapest, Hungary. After World War I, Vujičić moved to Beograd in the newly created country of Yugoslavia. Though isolated, Vujičić kept the faith until Arthur Gaeth, president of the Czechoslovak Mission, visited her in the fall of 1932. As soon as Gaeth arrived, Vujičić gave him tithing she had saved over 14 years and spoke for hours about “the experiences and trials she had undergone since the war.” With Vujičić’s assistance, Gaeth also began teaching Matej Spaček, who had learned of the Church from a local newspaper. Spaček was baptized the following year.
The first baptism in Croatia came three decades later. In Zagreb, Tomislav Zidar found tucked inside an old newspaper a tract giving an account of Joseph Smith’s story. After corresponding with missionaries in Austria, he was baptized in 1966. Zidar remained faithful and was present at the organization of the Zagreb Branch in 1982.