ROLLER-BLADING the Carrigaline-Crosshaven Greenway is one of 29-year-old Croatian hotel manager Sabina Krkic Bengez’s favourite pastimes in her home away from home.
Living in Cork for over five years, Sabina followed her then-fiancé, now husband, Marko to Cork after he moved in 2015.
“I decided to move to Cork in February 2016, a year after my (then) fiancé got a job in a local restaurant in Carrigaline,” she explained.
Sabina said at the start she found it tough being so far from her family.
“As someone who is very close with family, the first few months were very hard and I started doubting my decision.
“Eventually, I started working in the same restaurant as Marko as a kitchen porter and quit after a tough five months. I wanted to work more with people and practice my English so I applied for a position in Jump Juice Bars where I spent two years, making my way up to the top, from cashier to store manager. Today, I am part of the Trigon Hotels and after working with the Cork Airport Hotel team, I joined The Metropole Hotel.”
Sabina is now the front office manager at The Metropole Hotel and said she loves working there.
“I won employee of the month at the Cork Airport Hotel and then employee of the year and then employee of the month at The Metropole and then I graduated from the training management programme. I think you could say I found my space.”
Sabina and Marko were married this year, back home in Croatia with both of their families present.
“We wanted to share the day with friends and family.”
Living in Douglas since she arrived in Cork, Sabina said she loves her landlord Mags and thinks of her like her Irish mammy.
“I don’t have family here, but I feel like we do. It is nice to have, we can rely on them and it feels like we belong here.”
One of Sabina’s best memories in Cork was St Patrick’s Day 2016.
“I had just arrived in Cork and the streets were full of people. The weather was amazing which always helps and the parade was fantastic. We ended up in the Oliver Plunkett Bar dancing and singing with friends.”
Chatting about Cork characters, Sabina said she thinks Cork people are very laid-back.
“I like their attitude of not caring what others think.
“They are extremely friendly and always in the mood for a quick chat, even with a stranger. They are also very kind and patient.
“When I first moved to Ireland, I struggled a lot with the accent but they would just repeat whatever was needed.”
Another thing Sabina enjoys about Cork is the wide variety of cuisine available.
“When it comes to food, there is so much more to try here than back home and you can enjoy different cuisine every day.”
While Sabina is very settled in Cork, she said she gets very emotional when she makes the trip back to Croatia which she tries to do twice a year.
“I always get very emotional going home and leaving. I love my hometown, it is a perfect mix of urban and rural for everyone’s soul.
“I miss walking through the old city park where I spent my childhood playing around the castle ruins and just listening to birds singing.
“When it comes to family, I’m very close with my dad and younger sister. After I lost my mom, who was my best friend, to cancer almost three years ago, it made it only harder to leave them once again.”
Growing up in Croatia, Sabina was part of a majorette dancing club for 10 years and used to manage her club’s social media platforms and PR.
Still maintaining a strong interest in her old club, Sabina proudly said her friends on the Sveta Jana majorettes club are the 2021 National Champions.
Looking ahead to what the future might hold, Sabina said she is not sure if she wants to bring up a family so far from their Croatian heritage.
“Ireland has more to offer when it comes to career and financial stability, but I cannot imagine my kids one day growing up without their Croatian family. On the other side, I get very anxious just thinking about moving back home so, who knows, maybe we’ll stay.”