A nice little old man never moved house. Since his birth in 1913 he stayed where he was born - and yet he changed countries five times during his lifetime

There probably are not many towns in this world which have changed rulers as often as Rijeka.
The town of Rijeka has always been recognized for its strategic importance, hugging the coast adjacent to Trieste, the nearest port to mainland Europe. Thus, conquering Rijeka was often fashionable.

Over the years there have been many contenders for the control of Rijeka. Amongst the more noteworthy were the italian noble family Devino, one of whom gave Rainer Maria Rilke a peaceful haven in his mansion near Trieste, where the Devino elegies were created. The french noblemen Walsee were also after the town and subsequently the powerful austrian house of Habsburg attempted to secure the town for their purposes. At a time when Rijeka possessed one of the most modern theaters in Europe the town was beleaguered by Napoleon's army.

The hungarians also set their sights on Rijeka and eventually took control of the town by a ridiculous diplomatic falsification, named the Rijecka krpica (Rijeka's rag). In protest to this unnatural affiliation Rijeka's inhabitants applauded hungarian operas with Levelezö-Lap (which means - postcard!). They claimed, although being part of Hungary, it was the only word they recognized, as they saw it every day in the post office. Rijeka remained for many years under hungarian rule in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until the end of the First World War.

Having escaped major destruction during the war, Rijeka attracted the interest of Gabrielo d'Annunzio, the notorious italian poet cum soldier who, inspired by the town, insulted his countrymen by claiming that Italy's capital was located on the river Rijecina, not on the Tiber.

Contrary to all expectations and subsequent to d'Annunzios rule, Rijeka gained its independence in 1921, Stato libero di Fiume - The Independent Republic of Rijeka. Rijeka's independence was however short lived, from 1st January 1921 until 24th January 1924.

In 1924 Italy assumed the government of Rijeka as a part of Istria. In 1947, as a consequence of the Second World War, the town was appropriately incorporated in Yugoslavia.

After such a turbulent past Rijeka has, since 1991, achieved its complete affirmation in the state to which it always naturally belonged, the Republic of Croatia.

Thus, the nice little old man never moved house. Ever since his birth in 1913 he stayed where he was born - and yet changed five countries in his lifetime! You now know where he lived.
. . . Rijeka



Photograph: Laurie Hensman
Text summarized from What's on Kvarner, 1995
What's on Kvarner, 1999

Back to WWW Board