Mate Marko Buljan was born in 1935 in Gornje Podbablje, Imotski. As a younger son of a blacksmith and raised in a patrilineal family, it was expected Mate would remain in the village to take care of his parents as two of his brothers escaped on foot across the Yugoslav border in 1960 because of political and economic oppression. Life in communist Yugoslavia did not improve, even after Tito opened the Yugoslav borders (1963) when people could legally emigrate to West Germany to work as guest workers. The exodus of Croats, especially from Dalmatian hinterland (Dalmatinska Zagora) was rampant as men left their families and villages to get a better life where the stomachfollows the bread, or trbuhom za kruhom.
Mate, in 1966, like most able-bodied young men, leaves his wife and four young children (ages 7, 6, 4 and 1 years old) to work in West Germany.
Two years later, 1968, Mate leaves West Germany for the United States because one of his brothers became an American resident after obtaining political asylum.
For Mate, the United States was truly a promised land where an American dream could be fulfilled with hard work, persistence, and perseverance.
After obtaining legal residency, in 1971, Mate’s wife and four children emigrate to the United States, specifically San Mateo, CA.
Mate is a gifted craftsman, and he attributes working with his hands to his family roots of blacksmiths. Mate excelled in metalwork, especially sheet metal, mechanic of automobiles, then maintenance engineer of large facilities, including hotels and various manufacturing companies.
In the late 1970s, Mate and his family started operating nursing homes for the elderly. All remodeling and maintenance of the homes was conducted by Mate.
Mate and his family have hosted many notable Croatian visitors to the Bay Area (musicians, politicians, priests, writers, poets, film directors, professors, and so on). Especially when Croatian diaspora was a necessary fuel to wrestle Croatia from communist Yugoslavia, Mate selflessly contributed to many Croatian causes, including, but not limited to: promotion and sponsorship of a Croatian film (My Uncle’s Legacy) which was nominated for the best foreign picture for Golden Globes; participation in the First Assembly of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Zagreb; donation to the Croatian Embassy in Washington D.C.; Croatian Scholarship Fund, and much more.
To this day, Mate says that his biggest legacy is that all of his children are married to other Croatians and that his grandchildren and great grandchildren speak fluent Croatian and that his entire family visits Croatia every year.