April 5, 2018
I interrupt this series of posts to announce we have just had our first official visit from the Croatian policija. Yes, you heard right. We were woken up early this morning with a knock on our door from our landlord Edvard. Since we were still in bed because we both had insomnia the night before, we jumped up and Mike ran to the door. It was almost 8 a.m.
“The policija are here,” Edvard said apologetically. “They are downstairs waiting for you.”
Bleary-eyed and disheveled, we hurriedly got dressed. I donned a baseball cap to hide my bedhead, and we both ran down the four flights of steps to our landlords apartment.
Sitting on a chair with a notebook in her hand was the cutest policewoman I think I have ever seen. She looked like she was about 25 years old and had a ponytail sticking out from behind her official police cap. She looked like she was playing police because she was so unlike the image of what I had imagined the Croatian police would look like.
Carolyn and James were already sitting on the sofa talking with her. I took a deep breath and sat down.
The police visit is just one of the steps the Croatian government takes to approve your visa for a one-year stay. They do it to insure you are living at the place you say you are living at, and it makes sense if you think about it. Still, it is a little unnerving because you know they have the power to reject your stay and at this point we have invested a lot of time and money by prepaying our year’s rent and moving here. We really want to stay.
So we answered a few questions the police woman asked and that was that. She told us we would receive a card in the mail in a few weeks and we were finished. I think the whole interview process took less than five minutes. So for now we will wait for our cards in the mail and see what happens.
April 9, 2018
8:30 am: We are sitting in the Policija station waiting for our number to be called. On Friday we received word through the mail ( “a blue envelope” is what Edvard called it) that there was a problem with our health insurance submission for our visa application, so we are at the police station waiting our turn. It is our second time at the police station since we arrived. The first time was to apply for our visa.
Edvard is singing, “Stranci in the night,” to the tune of “Strangers in the Night.” “Stranci” means strangers or foreigners in Croatian. “Stranci” is what it says at the counter where we need to talk someone about our visa. He is trying to break the tension because he knows we are nervous. He is being very silly. It works. I can’t stop laughing.
Finally our number is called, but the person we need to speak to is not available. We will have to come back at 2 p.m.
2 p.m.: We are back at the station waiting for the person we need to speak to. Edvard is back as well, and we feel bad that we have taken more time out of his day to be our intermediary. He is a not only a very conscientious landlord, but a busy real estate broker who speaks three or four languages. We hate to waste his time. Ten minutes after 2 p.m. a lady says it will be five more minutes. A half an hour later, we are called into the office. We are learning about Croatian time, Edvard jokes, although he is always very punctual.
As we make our way into the small office, the lady tells Edvard curtly he is not needed, and he can wait outside if we have any questions. I swallow hard. I know she speaks English, but it is broken and these are complicated discussions. And our Croatian is abysmal. Still, Edvard is ushered outside as we sit down and wait to hear what the issue is with our visa.
She then tells us our insurance from home is not valid here. We insist that our insurance company said it was. She explains, then reads us rules and tells us to sign things. They are in Croatian. I ask her some questions because she doesn’t say why our insurance isn’t valid. She appears to get agitated after explaining a few times, although she is not really answering the questions I ask. “Do I understand?” she says impatiently. “Yes,” I say, but I don’t really. Mike says he understands as well, but he doesn’t either.
Mike says he understands as well, but he doesn’t either.
We are then told we need to visit the Croatian Health Insurance office to speak with them. So we need to go there. That we understand. Why we need to go there is another matter. We have no idea. At this point we think they might approve our health insurance or maybe we need to get their health insurance. And she gives us her telephone number to give to Edvard if we have any questions for her (go figure!) and we are on our way.
April 10, 2018
3 p.m. We are on our way to the Croatian Health Care System office with Edvard. Mike and I are arguing over whether we should get Edvard to call the lady at the police department before we head to the office or after. Edvard laughs and says the woman is always right, so we are on our way to the office.
Passing through the streets of Pula, I am again struck by its beauty. Its thick wooden shutters with peeling paint on pale plastered buildings with terra cotta roofs. The rustic iron gates and the olive trees that line the driveways. The hilly terrain and deep green grass that contrasts with the dark rust soil that makes the area so fertile.
The imposing Roman Arch of Sergi that rises above the limestone streets and alleyways. The fact that we have have a chance to live in such an ancient and beautiful city is a dream come true. Will that be in jeopardy today because of health insurance?
We arrive at the office, and I’m very nervous. Edvard is joking as usual, and Mike and I feel fortunate that we have such an interesting and humorous advocate here in Croatia. We enter the building and Mike decides he should call the lady at the police station before we go into the office. We stand in a cold, dark hallway. Edvard points at a door and says, “This is us,” he says. “See, it says here, ‘complications (komplikacije).’ That’s what we have, “complications,” he laughs. I immediately think that is the office we are supposed to go into.
Then he calls the police station. He launches into a long and what sounds like a very heated discussion with the lady from the police station. He is very loud and paces up and down the cold hallway. I am freezing and thinking that she must be telling him we are not approved for our visa and have to go home. This conversation seems to go on forever. Yes, komplikacije alright.
Finally he is off the phone. He is aggravated and says we are probably going to have to enroll in the Croatian Healthcare System. Plus we will have to pay a large fee to enter the system, about 5500 kunas (around $900 USD) per person. The entrance fee is a little steep, I’ll admit, but what will it cost per month after we enroll? That’s why we are at this office, he says.
So we pass up the door with the “Komplikacije” sign and enter another set of double doors. Edvard is aggravated more on our behalf, and he begins to talk to the ladies at the healthcare system office. Again a series of Croatian sentences I don’t understand and it sounds very heated like before. Back and forth it goes. Edvard argues endlessly with the ladies, and Mike and I just stand there like American statues. The words are flying around like the seagulls around our apartment. Are we getting kicked out? Is it going to be a million kunas? What is going on?
Finally, they stop and explain that yes, we have to sign up for Croatian health care and it is 5500 kunas per person. The cost per month for both of us to have complete care for both doctor’s visits, prescriptions and hospitalization is…drumroll, please….A million kunas? Ten thousand kunas? Nope, 1000 kunas or about $170 per month. For both of us. Sigh, I think we can do that.
So while it is not the best news that we will have to pay for additional insurance, we will be covered completely for any emergencies in Croatia. And we have still have our insurance in the US for when we return home. I asked Edvard how much his insurance costs as a Croatian citizen: a whopping $150 per year. So he was furious that we would have to pay such a high “penalty” (that’s what he called the fee) for staying in the country for a year. I’m sure it would be higher and more difficult for “stranci” to get insurance in our country.
Oh, and I found out what the office was that Edvard was pointing to that said, “Komplikacije.” It was for Croatian Pregnancy Complications and Maternal and Parental Care. I guess we should have realized that when we saw a Croatian father push a stroller into the office.
Let’s hope our visa is approved and there are no more “complications.” The best lesson through all of this as well as through life itself is to maintain your sense of humor. It’s the best medicine for “komplikacije.”