The Point Newsletter

    Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error.

    Follow Point

    Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

    Istrian Women enriching New York’s culinary pot. 

    They say: “New York is a melting pot”, the borough of Queens is the most diverse place on planet Earth. In this big city you will find what your taste buds desire. Astoria, Queens, is certainly known for offering an abundance of ethnic restaurants and has been a top destination for foodies to indulge. Astoria is also home for many Croatians who may have moved to neighboring cities but have never abandoned this gourmet heartbeat of New York, offering the best ethnic variety. It is a place where Croatians go to shop in specialty food stores and eat in among other, Croatian restaurants. This terrain is home to many delis and stores with Croatian foods.  Astoria most of all has several Croatian restaurants where you can meet friends.  Istrian social clubs: Rudar Club and Istria Sport Club are the longest running and most well-known. Meeting up on Friday nights with old friends or having Sunday lunch with family after Croatian Mass at Most Precious Blood Church, is where many Croatians find comfort of home-made foods. This practice spans many decades. In these two clubs’ other social clubs gather to have their festivities. Histria Association for Women (HAW) is one such club. This year the HAW organization is celebrating their 35th Anniversary. The anniversary will be celebrated in a very special way by making/writing a cookbook. The book will include the very best recipes from members of HAW that were collected and published in the Club’s journal over its many years of existence. The anniversary book will also chronicle 35 years of the Club’s history and messages from many friends of the organization. 

    Coming to America, these women have brought with them traditions from their homeland and preserved them while adjusting to life in new world. Some of these ladies were stay at home moms while others ventured to have careers, but all of them wanted to fill the void of missing their place of birth, Istria. Thirteen brave women decided 35 years ago to join forces and create a club that will give them that missing part of themselves. The first President of HAW was Maria Santalesa, who has continued her service to the Club to this day, including 22 years as President. Mrs. Santalesa is also President of the Istrian American Charities Association, a nonprofit organization that works hand in hand with HAW and many other organizations that gives back to Istria, collecting $30,000 just last year to help City of Labin buy a mammography machine. 

    Elda Zupicich, current President was among the founders as well. The name of the organization was chosen to commemorate Histri, the first known settlers of Istria that gave this peninsula its name. In 1995 during their trip to Croatia, the ladies fell in love with “The Maiden with the Seagull” in Opatija and “adopted her” as their symbol.  The Club’s mission is to provide educational and informational programs for Istrian women in NY/US to help them achieve a fulfilling and successful life in their new adopted country. The Club promotes their Istrian culture by organizing many events, holiday parties with good music, and home-made Istrian food. The group meets once a month at the Istria Sports Club in Astoria, N.Y. where they invite speakers on various topics of interest such as nutrition, health issues, self-esteem, beauty and make-up, financial issues, coping with grief during the loss, art, and music, coping with stress during the aging process, and many more topics. 

    In 2019, “The Journey”, a documentary film that tells the story of the Istrian women’s journeys to America was filmed. It was produced by Maria Santalesa, Histria Association for Women, and Istrian American Charities Association, and directed by Olivia Rutigliano. The film, which runs about 90 minutes, chronicles the experiences of women who emigrated from Istria to New York City during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. It weaves together interviews with twenty-two women to tell the whole story of this important national migration—emphasizing the difficult and sometimes cruel immigration procedures, and how, once they arrived, they made a new, unique home for themselves in New York City, and how New York City was culturally enriched because they made their journey.

    HAW has more than 180 members today, all women of course, men are only allowed to join on occasion when allowed by these fierce ladies. Over the years there were many exceptional ladies that were members but there is probably no other member more recognizable than Lidia Bastianich. Lidia is a very successful restaurateur, an Emmy award winning television host, a best-selling author of more than a dozen books and notably a nominee and recipient of many James Beard Foundation awards. Lidia was part of the original members of our club back in 1989 and has contributed considerably to its various charitable efforts. 

    The women of HAW are constructive, active, and amazing. Some other activities include the celebration of Christmas, enjoying beer at Octoberfest or just quietly sitting through a Friday night presentation of the guest speakers in the Club. I’m so proud to be part of this fun loving, caring, and overall wonderful group, and am looking forward to seeing our anniversary book finally in print so that it is available for everyone to use. The anniversary party will take place on April 28th at the Inn in New Hyde Park.

    By Sanja Floricic Bogovic


    Listen to Croatians Online here:


    Croatian American Media Association Corp is a tax exempt organization under Section 501 c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN # 99-1591741). Your donation is greatly appreciated and will be used to support our mission. Your contribution is tax deductible to the full extent permitted by law.