Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Immigrant Honored Croatian Diplomats to Visit Granite City Man Who Led Relief Work

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Immigrant Honored Croatian Diplomats to Visit Granite City Man Who Led Relief Work

Article excerpt

How does a guy who sells fish sandwiches for a living at a little family-run restaurant get to mingle with the Croatian ambassador to the United States and some top Metro East area politicians?

Through a lot of hard work and strong dedication to his native land, says Branko Ostrec of Granite City, a Croatian immigrant who operates the Marko Fish House in nearby Madison.

"I'm a little bit stressed by the whole situation," Ostrec, 54, conceded in an interview Wednesday. Ostrec's work as president of the St. Louis-based American Croatian Relief Project recently caught the eyes and ears of Miomir Zuzul, Croatia's ambassador in Washington, and Andrija Jakovcevic, Croatia's U.S. minister counselor (a sort of trade representative). As a result, those tw o diplomats are coming to the St. Louis area this weekend and will be escorted around town by Ostrec. Some Metro East officials will join them at a reception at 4 p.m. Saturday at Ostrec's home in the 3100 block of Parkview Drive in Granite City. Planning to attend that event are Madison County Board Chairman Rudy Papa and St. Clair County Board Chairman John Baricevic, both of Croatian ancestry; as well as Croatian-Americans Bob Churchich, the Madison County sheriff; and Debbie Saltich, the Madison County clerk. "We want to be able to show what Croatian immigrants have accomplished in America," Ostrec said. All of this attention is coming to Ostrec thanks to the relief project he heads. The nonprofit group of about 60 volunteers from throughout the St. Louis area was formed shortly after war broke out between Serbs and Croats in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then, the American Croatian Relief Project has shipped food and supplies valued at over $60 million to those suffering from the war's effects in Croatia, Ostrec said. "We are only thinking to help the needy there," he said. …

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