Author Archives: Luka Karaman

Bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani

Bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani

Informant: MK was born in New York, but raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He is a senior in high school. He has an older brother, and a younger sister. While growing up our grandparents would teach us valuable life lessons and most of the time they would use a proverb in doing so. Proverbs are a huge part of our family’s culture.


My informant heard this proverb from his grandfather and his teacher back in elementary school.


What does “bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani” mean?


“The literal translation is better a sparrow in a hand than a pigeon on the branch. The English equivalent of this proverb is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This means something you have for certain now is of more value than something better you may get, especially if you risk losing what you have in order to get it.”


I think this proverb has a good message to it; don’t selfishly throw away something good just because you think you deserve better. However, I also believe you should never settle. If you truly think something out there is better and you can achieve it, I say go for it. The proverb is applicable sometimes, and not others.

ko nema u glavi ima u nogama

Ko ne radi glavom radi nogama (ko nema u glavi ima u nogama)

Informant: MK was born in New York, but raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He is a senior in high school. He has an older brother, and a younger sister. While growing up our grandparents would teach us valuable life lessons and most of the time they would use a proverb in doing so. Proverbs are a huge part of our family’s culture. MK heard this proverb multiple times weather it was from family members and schoolteachers.


What does this proverb mean?


“Roughly translated it means one who doesn’t have it in his head has it in his feet. Another version of it is one who doesn’t work with his head, works with his feet.”


Does this proverb have any meaning to you?


“Yes, it does. My grandmother tells me this almost on a daily basis haha. I got so use to hearing it that it became almost like a joke between me and my grandma.”


The proverb explains how if you don’t think, you will have to go back to where you started and do the same thing you should’ve done already. For an example my wallet is in my room and I already left the house to go for lunch, I have to go back home (work my legs) because I forgot it (didn’t think). All in all the proverb is clever and like most of them it teaches a lesson.

Legend of Lokrum island

Legend of Lokrum island

NK is my grandmother who was born and raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Being a local she knows a lot about the city and its folklore. She first told me this story in elementary school right before I went to Lokrum for a school trip.

“Did you know that the island of Lokrum is haunted?”


No, why is it haunted?


“well to know why its haunted you have to know the history of the island. Once upon a time, a huge fire spread in Dubrovnik. The fire was so vast it posed a threat to the city and all the citizens in it. In desperation and sorrow, the people of Dubrovnik turned to prayers and promised to build a monastery if they survived. Suddenly the fire stopped. The citizens of Dubrovnik held its promise and built a Benedictine monastery on Lokrum. The monks took care of the island and, for centuries, have turned Lokrum into a paradise. But interest Lokrum aroused by Dubrovnik rich families who wanted the island all to themselves and their own personal benefit. These rich families drove the Benedictines of the island, but before they left the island, they cast a curse on Lokrum.”


What was the curse?


“After the holding the last mass on the island, right before they left they surrounded the island 3 times in the dark mysterious procession, the persons buried deep inside the hoods lit candles and held them upside down. During the procession, quietly repeated, “Damn everyone who gets Lokrum for personal enjoyment!” And so it was. From that that day on any one who owned Lokrum has died a mysterious death.”


After doing some research other versions are really similar and historically the story happened. All owners of the island did die in a mysterious death or had some big tragedy happen in their life. To this day no one owns the island, and I find it interesting how people still believe in the curse.


For another version of this story visit

Tucanje jaja (Cracking eggs)

Tucanje jaja (Cracking eggs)

Informant: SK is my mom. She was born and raised in New York, but moved to Croatia in 2002 and has been living there ever since.


What’s your favorite thing to do on Easter?


“Play cracking eggs.”


What’s that?


“It’s a game my family plays every Easter.”


How do you play it?


“Ok, so you need two players, each player has an egg and you hit the egg with the other egg. The egg that’s the least damaged is the winner. The winner as a prize gets to eat the egg.”


This game is a traditional Easter game that’s appropriate for all generations, and it’s interesting how from simple things like eggs a family cam make up a game that will bring the family even closer. Having it played on a holiday like Easter makes it even better because the whole family is there.

Cabbage medicine

Cabbage medicine


Informant: TF was born and raised in Villa Park, California. His father works in commercial real estate and his mother working as a manager for Choc Hospital. He has one older brother, a twin sister, and one younger brother. TF is half Lebanese and strongly connected to his Lebanese background. He is a first year student at USC. The informant heard this type of medicine from his grandmother who used this kind of medicine all the time when she was a child.


In the beginning of this semester a friend injured his knee. He fell on it while carrying heavy weight. The next day he came to practice and his knee was all swollen. He told us what happened and than my informant TF suggested to put cabbage on it. Both my friend and I were confused thinking he must be messing with us, but then he explained:


“Cabbage is used to reduce the swelling. If you hit or injure yourself, you can remove the swelling and bruises with the help of this old folk medicine. Just wrap around two cabbage leaves onto the beaten spot.”


This folk medicine sounded really strange. Putting a vegetable on your swollen knee will make the swelling go away sounds ridiculous at first, but if the cabbage leaves are able to absorb the fluids it would reduce the swelling and in that case it makes perfect sense. Of course our friend didn’t try this method, but it is an interesting method and if it happens again I would like to try it and see if it works.