Ugljan hides many traditional customs, but the most interesting ones are to be found in the Association Điran, named after a favourite flower on the island. The association gathers the women and some men from Ugljan and protects the traditions of the old from this part of the island. We talk to Mrs. Ingrid and Mrs. Sjajna from Điran in the association's headquarters in Ugljan. Here they show us a typical Ugljan female folk costume. Among pictures adorning the space we notice an old photograph from the beginning of 20th century. It depicts women gathering in front of today's elementary school, where once traditional events and dancing took place. Next to it is a picture of Điran's members, dressed in same costumes, and often with family connections to the faces from the past times. This might really be the best way to describe the work of Điran, whose members have tremendous energy and love for the tradition, customs, and passion for life.
The group is excellent in enacting events based on the heritage passed through generations. It especially focuses on the Blue Night Festival, held in June close to the St. Jerome's Monastery. It is an event full of dancing and singing, celebrating the summer time. For some years, Điran was trying to re-introduce the carnival traditions, once very popular on the island, but the years of inactivity has done its job. For the Assumption of Virgin Mary and for Christmas, the members usually make fritters (frite) and kroštule, favourite sweets, as well as cod stew. At some point, they also dance the Ugljansko Kolo – the Ugljan dance which you can see here:
We were, of course, interested in various food memories of the place. As many men went to work as sailors, and some relatives went over the Atlantic, to Americas, the islanders in Ugljan had a bit better life than usually. Still, they were basically poor, and lived of agriculture and sea. Luckily, this flat part of the island had wheat and corn fields, thus food was never really scarce. Olives were, of course, the basis for many foods and this noble plant nourished many. Since 1905 every family had its own field, where family olive groves were especially present. In winter, dried pork products were and still are favourite meat. Various sausages and prosciutto adorn the attics and basements of Ugljan's homes, and its slightly smoked meat has spectacular taste and scent. The ripening of these pork products is possible due to bura, strong north-east wind coming from the near-mythical mountain Velebit, always visible on the eastern horizon.
Some families had sheep on the island, which was a source of local lamb for Easter and summer. Otherwise, fish was abundant on the menu of islanders, together with potatoes, Swiss chard, and sauerkraut. Our two ladies remember the grandma's pogača bread, freshly baked once a week. A special meal from the past is prigve; a kind of sausage made of rice, pork blood, wheat, and spices. The sausages should be cooked, dried and quickly fried before serving. Usually, prigve has been served with bread and olives. Of other interesting things, people used to cook or stew sea snails, and for snacks salted olives with some bread was just perfect.
Our stay with Điran women was indeed an excellent introduction to the way of living on Ugljan. Luckily, they travel around Croatia and world, and show this tradition further. We just hope new generations will continue to cherish the heritage and customs of the Olive island!