My name is PHILIP CHARLES YELAVIC, first child of Milan, born 01 November 1947.
I married JENNIFER SHARYN CARTER, 05 February 1972.
We have two children.
MARK MILAN YELAVIC, born 13 September 1979.
MELISSA LEAH YELAVIC, born 02 April 1982.
Our grandchildren are:
LUKA MITCHELL YELAVIC 16 years
MATEO WILLIAM YELAVIC 12 years
ASHTON MITFORD/BURGESS 12 years
EMERSON MITFORD /BURGESS 10 years.
I have a sister, JILL ANNE SHORTT, born 30 August 1949.
Both of us were born in New Zealand, our mother being of English descent.
My father departed Yugoslavia from the port of Split bound for New Zealand.
He was 16 years and 4 months old, he never spoke nor understood the English language at that time, and never saw his siblings or parents again.
Contact with home was by mail with his brother Ante, who kept him informed of those he left behind.
A huge change for a young boy, to travel to the other side of the world, and start a new life.
Upon arrival in NZ, at the Port of Wellington aboard the SS Maheno, he traveled north to make contact and work with his countrymen, many of whom had come to NZ earlier to work in the Kauri Gum fields, digging for Kauri Gum, aka Resin that oozed from the Kauri trees.
The Gum was used for ornate gifts, tables, furniture, medicinal purposes, and had a value and rarity that was sought after.
Much of the substance was exported also, and this added to its value.
The Kauri tree, native to NZ, covered much of the country, prior to man arriving here.
The first known human occupation was around the 12th Century, and these ancient trees, had laid buried for many thousands of years.
Hence the trees, buried deep in the ground, needed to be exposed, this required digging to do so.
The Gum attached to the tree was in perfect condition, due to being buried for so long, and this gave it, it’s value.
An incredibly labour intensive job, long tedious hours on the end of a shovel digging large and deep pits to extricate the Gum was what the Dalmatians did and were very good at.
Their work ethic was second to none.
The Yugoslav men were known as extremely hard workers. They were peace loving, gentle men, who were respected and accepted into NZ society
The first Dalmatians settlers arrived in NZ circa 1860 to work in the Gum Fields of the North of NZ.
Many came from the Vrograc/Ravca area.
Names from there such as Rakic, Triln, Yelavic, Vela, Vega and Selak have all left their mark here in NZ.
They settled into the way of life that it was then, NZ was a very young country, they contributed so much to its culture, married local women, as my father did, and most of the men never returned to their country of birth.
Many became successful businessmen, after the demand for Kauri Gum died, both here and overseas, and diversification of their lives needed to be addressed.
They turned their talents to Commercial fishing, fruit growing, farming, transport, wine growing, law, and many other occupations.
They became true entrepreneurs, their work ethic never waned, their successes were envied by others, and to this day that has not changed.
An occupation that they excelled at was and is wine growing. Their knowledge gained from their days in Dalmatia.
The names of Delegat, Selak, Fistonich, Nobilo, are synonymous to this day with the industry, all turning out award winning wines here and overseas.
My father married at the age of 31, 15 years after arriving in NZ, to ROMA DOROTHY SCOTT, in 1938.
He was an incredibly devoted husband and father, who unfortunately I did not know for long due to him dying when I was 24 years old
I had been married for 6months, his death hit me very hard at the time, due to the suddenness of it.
Prior to his marriage he moved around the North and Central part of the North Island of NZ, after working in the Gumfields, working in various occupations.
After getting married, his new wife was the daughter of an Orchardist, and this obviously appealed to him,as he went on to purchase his own orchard in 1939
The property was 20 acres big, and was already planted and producing fruit.
It was situated in a part of Auckland, the main city in NZ, called Henderson.
This area, and land, was an orchard growing area, fertile land suitable for fruit growing.
It was an enclave that was hugely popular with the Dalmatian settlers, whom in the main were the owners of the properties.
Sinkovic, Botica, Yelavic, Vodanovic, Mazuran, Mihalevic, Soljan, Erceg, Ozic, we’re some of the names who owned orchards all on the same road that my parents was.
A number of books have been written about these amazing people, their exploits, achievements, the hardships they faced as young single men separated from their families, and their ability to fit into and become important members of NZ society.
As of 2023 there are many of their descendants, whom are very successful in all ways of life. Their ancestors legacy from 100 or more years prior, lives to this day here in NZ.
He was immensely proud of his achievements, from a young boy, voyaging into the unknown, to a young man with his own orchard in a foreign land. He had come a long way.
As young children, my sister and my upbringing were second to none.
Our home was spacious, the orchard was our bread basket, our lives with our parents were perfect back then. My father was a great provider in every way.
He was successful enough to purchase a beach house and that was our go to place on weekends, public holidays and the like, it gave us all a break from orchard life.
It remained in family ownership for 50 years, and is now back in family hands, after a spell away from the family.
My son is now the owner of the property, back again in Yelavic ownership, all stemming from my father’s insight many years before.
In 1958 he sold the orchard and spent the remainder of his short life as a stevedore at the Port of Auckland.
My father died suddenly one night, and the familie’s lives changed forever.
Our lives were never to be the same.
My father never reflected on his life as a boy in Ravca, he did not speak of his life in NZ prior to getting married. It was if that it was not important to us.
We knew he came here to be with his countrymen, to send money back to his family, the financial reward was so much greater than it was in his homeland.
For me personally I have deep regret that I did not talk with this gentle man about his past.
Consequently, my wife and I traveled to Croatia for the first time in 2006, to seek out his family, and people who are related to me and my family.
They had no idea of us doing this, and so to find them, and spend time with them, was an experience that my wife and I will never forget.
To that end we have returned from here in NZ 8 further times to spend time with the family in Ravca, and to love the country that is Croatia.
Each time we visit we are greeted by the family as members of the greater Yelavic family, of which we are.
He would have been so proud of us doing this, and for me, as his son, it is one of the most emotional times I have experienced.
Both my wife and I, upon arriving in Croatia, feel that this is home, spiritually it is where I wish to be forever.
To my wonderful father, I thank you for being who you were, and for giving me the honor of being a part of you.
Gum digging in New Zealand: