Marija Razan-Krizanac, School Director
‘God is with me, I am not afraid …’
A few minutes before the last formal item in the programme of the 20th Christmas in Europe in Zagreb – that is to say the gala dinner - Marija Razan-Krizanac took the time to tell me her thoughts about this event which she had agreed to organise as a matter of urgency, even though she was well aware that she would have to overcome more than her fair share of problems.
«’You know, last year I was at Christmas in Europe in the Azores and it was such a beautiful experience. When AEHT President Klaus Enengl contacted me when Rhodes had stood aside, it was the end of August 2011, but I didn’t hesitate – and I was right. Everyone really had the Christmas spirit. And then it was an opportunity to bring in various people and to make ourselves known, as well as to develop this spirit which consists of peace and moral values.
What was wonderful is that everyone who worked for this event to be a success trusted us completely. And for this reason everyone in the team was highly motivated. In our school, our objective is to develop everyone’s sense of human values, and this is why nothing is difficult if you put your heart into it. With Lijliana, Sandra, Ingrid and all the others, both teachers and students, I think that we have won the bet. Of course we had to ask for the approval of the authorities, who gave their agreement at once. And I’ll tell you a secret, God is with me, so I’m not afraid, not afraid at all!’
Klaus Enengl, AEHT President
‘The Croatians come up with the goods!’
Because of his busy schedule Klaus Enengl was not able to be present for the whole programme and he was very sorry about this. Nevertheless he too wanted to express his gratitude to Marija and to the teams from her school.
‘I have felt really good in Zagreb even though I’ve only been here for two days. This Christmas in Europe has been really very well thought-out and most impressive. Christmas in Europe has lost none of its attraction over recent years. And bringing traditions together, comparing them, exchanging ideas, singing together, laughing and eating – that’s what’s happened in Zagreb!
The European Buffet was a real success, though I do regret not having been able to taste everything that the students and teachers from the different schools managed to prepare for us. Unfortunately the venue for the buffet was slightly too small given the number of people attending, but overall the Westin has been the perfect setting for this event, including from the point of view of the hotel staff who supported the students even in the kitchen. As far as the inaugural parade is concerned, it was very well organised and helped to spread the word about Christmas in Europe and the AEHT, not only because it looked so colourful and cheerful, but also because of the large number of people taking part. The demonstration by wolf protection activists which we passed on the way surely didn’t attract even half as much attention!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart the Croatian school and their Director Marija for agreeing to organise this Christmas in Europe in such a short time and in such a masterly way. We have all had the impression that the Croatian Schools work closely and harmoniously together, and that the AEHT can count on them 100%. When a Croatian School undertakes to do something, there’s no need to worry. The Croatians come up with the goods!’
‘If we had to run Christmas in Europe again, I’d be glad to start next Monday!'
Ljiliana Lez-Drnjenic, who has been a teacher of literature and Croat language at the Zagreb School for the last 30 years, was Marija Razan-Krisanac’s right-hand woman throughout Christmas in Europe. She kept her eye on everything, seemingly able to be in two places at once, never raising her voice and with a natural authority that everyone recognized. She too agreed to give a few minutes of her time for this interview just before the gala dinner, while drawing on the nth cigarette of the day!
‘How many of us were there in organising this Christmas in Europe? Ten or so teachers and 50 or so students. I was at Christmas in Europe in the Azores last year, and I came back enchanted with it. I saw what was involved, but I never imagined that we would have to organise one too. I must say that we didn’t really have any major problems to overcome. We’ll see soon enough when we produce the overall accounts. But I say what I think: if we had to do Christmas in Europe again, I’d be ready to start next Monday!
Our Director was very enthusiastic, and it washed off onto us and onto the students. If you remember, all 400 seats in the theatre were taken for the cultural part of the programme, and the exhibition was visited by more than a thousand people, children and adults. The hotel staff have confirmed these figures to me. And then we’ve had four television reports, articles in Zagreb newspapers and more than 800 ‘hit’s on the first day our website was open for the ‘live stream.’
And then off she goes, disappearing again to see if everything is OK for the gala dinner!
Student Participants pictured at random just before the gala dinner
Every year I come across the same enthusiasm among these young people. Not one of them expected this when they arrived here. They are all enthusiastic, not only about this adventure for which they have been selected by their schools, but also about the general atmosphere of this Christmas in Europe in Zagreb; enthused by meeting other young people from other countries, by exchanges of ideas and emotions throughout these five days.