On vivacious, tourist-filled Tkalčićeva, there is a small, quieter spot, easily missed. Behind the cafes’ chairs, there is a semicircle, with gravel on the ground, a few benches and a sculpture of a woman. This is Zagreb’s true heroine, Marija Jurić Zagorka (1873-1957).
Marija Jurić (Zagorka is a pen name, meaning “a woman from Zagorje region”) was a writer and Croatia’s first female journalist. Her career was difficult, as she had to fight a lot of prejudice in order to get work. Fortunately, she never gave up, and she had the support of Zagreb’s great patron, bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer.
Through many years of her career, she read miles of archives, often reading well into the night. She used this knowledge to write about a dozen amazing novels, all but one set (at least partially) in her hometown Zagreb. I love her novels because her love for our city is evident in every sentence she wrote. The novels are mostly historic, with real-life characters such as the empress Maria Theresa, king Mathias Corvinus & many Croatian noblemen. Most of her novels feature a love story, too, mainly about made up characters. This was done in order to make the books appealing to a wide audience.
Marija Jurić Zagorka frequently had her work underestimated as “trivial” & “not artistic enough”. Therefore it was a great achievement when in 1991 this simple, yet beautiful sculpture by Stjepan Gračan was placed in the very heart of the city that she so successfully immortalized through her work.