Zagreb: Temporarily new world – not the first time

The people who remember what life used to be prior to the global outbreak of Covid-19, may regard this new world as something terrible writes Ivor Kruljac from Zagreb. According to him, there is no need to regret that our kids never got to experience our cities as they used to be in spring back in 2019. "An old saying goes how 'you can't miss what you don't know'. So don't feel bad for the kids, they won't miss it. And if you miss it, smile when you think about those good memories."


Last Monday, 20th April, only 10 more people were infected. The good trend has continued throughout the last week as well. In fact, the results in Croatia have been so good that the Croatian civil protection directorate has started to talk about lowering restrictions, starting from this week with working hours of stores going back to normal. And the big support started to crush down.


One of the biggest controversies angering, not only the public but also scientists, was the announcement of opening churches for masses on 2nd May, while elsewhere the restrictions forbid gatherings of more than 10 people (or five people if we talk about the upcoming labor day celebration which Zagreb citizens regularly celebrate barbecuing outdoors). Opening churches before many other things such as shopping malls, bars, schools, cinemas or massive events such as concerts and festivals, say the opposition voices in the public sphere, isn't only hypocritical towards people who aren't believers but it's also a very risky move when massive gatherings should indeed be avoided. Hopefully, the amount of criticism on this decision will change the government's mind before the situation with the Coronavirus could escalate.


Zagreb, April 2020. Photo by Ivor Kruljac.


In general, news about easing the restrictions gives both relief and worries. Relief that things are getting back to normal but also the fright that could lead to a second wave which could even be worse.


'News about easing the restrictions gives both relief and worries'

However, at least until the vaccine is found, it's obvious we can't go back to normal. Rather we should re-invent normal in order to have a peaceful cohabitation with the Coronavirus.

Krunoslav Capak, the director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health gave a few examples of how this post-lockdown reality will look like in an interview for Croatian National radio. „What used to be a table for four people will now be a table for one, two people maximum and the tables will need to be disinfected after every guest“, said Capak for cafes and restaurants. The same goes for the much needed hairdressers (the author of this text currently looks like Johnny Bravo without the hair gel) will also be able to work only with extra precautions. Weddings who used to have over a hundred people will also not be able to have such massive attendance. Mask wearing is highly advised (especially in public transport, for employees and in closed places) and continuation of social (physical) distancing as well.

"I need a haircut". Photo by Ivor Kruljac.


Last year the average person didn't even dream of hearing something like this (unless he/she watched some horror movies about pandemics). Despite serious conversations on reviving counties with good results, the dream we would all go out hugging friends or just random people on the street is falling flat.


The new normal. A brave new world which is actually a scary new world. At least for people having a hard time even thinking about these radical changes in everyday life. Speaking to some of my friends who grew up in Zagreb in a specific type of fashion, culture, lifestyle, and philosophy, they were not thrilled with things not going back the way they used to be. And I understand them, but I remembered older people like my grandma and what they have told me.


'Speaking to some of my friends who grew up in Zagreb in a specific type of fashion, culture, lifestyle, and philosophy, they were not thrilled with things not going back the way they used to be'

How my generation looks, varies and is dependent on subcultures: hip hoppers, punks, metalheads, hipsters indie and or, etc. Either way it is much more different than my grandparents' generations with simple clothes, shirts, suits, or something else, much simpler, much less explicit, or decorated. My generation speaks a mixture of Croatian and English (for instance you speak Croatian the whole time, but insert the word "random" in a completely Croatian sentence because it sounds cooler than "nasumično"). Some new words in the Croatian language were clearly influenced by English too. My grandparent's generation had the same, only with German.

Photo by Ivor Kruljac.


Now we can always talk to whoever we want and tell them where we are, instead, like in the old days, having to search for a phone booth to contact someone if we are outside. And that's just a tip of the iceberg of changes.


The idea of mask-wearing waiters and other employees working in regular contact with other people may seem scary. But, that's nothing new in some other countries. Particularly in Asian countries such as Japan and China where people are used to wearing masks from time to time. For pollution if not for any other reasons.


And yes, we, the people who remember what life used to be, may see this new normal as something terrible. They will regret that our kids never got to experience Zagreb as it was in spring - back in 2019. Because things used to be more simple. Because life used to be better. Wasn't that something we usually hear from older generations? The generations that didn't grow up in such diversity of (sub)cultures? Those who wore simple clothing without slogans or weird images? Those that used to speak German-influenced slang rather than the English one?


'We, the people who remember what life used to be, may see this new normal as something terrible. We will regret that our kids never got to experience Zagreb as it was in spring - back in 2019'

An old saying goes how "you can't miss what you don't know". So don't feel bad for the kids, they won't miss it. And if you miss it, smile - for the good memories you had from those simpler times. Or just feel relieved because this is actually unnecessary fuss. The vaccine will be found in a year or two and we will return to normal. And with the possibility that some new virus will emerge in the future again causing similar fuss... well at least we will be more prepared for this lifestyle then.    


Ivor Kruljac is a journalist and slam poet from Zagreb, Croatia. Find his previous stories here.


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