The suggestion earlier this year that the palm tree on the Škojić islet in front of Vrboska would be removed was met with fierce local opposition. For a while the topic raised a storm and was hotly debated in local cafes and the media, both local and national. Then there was silence on the subject, giving rise to some anxiety that the plan might be going ahead quietly with no-one noticing.
So it was with some relief that Eco Hvar learned that the plan has been shelved - at least for the time being. The relief is two-fold. Firstly, we at Eco Hvar share the view of many that the palm is a symbol of Vrboska and has earned the right to stay in place for its lifetime. Secondly, we feel there are many more pressing needs which require attention, such as more street cleaning and litter clearance, not to mention a recycling system. It is no comfort to be told that the money for the Škojić project was given for that specific purpose and therefore has to be spent. At the very least, there could be an alternative plan - preferably one that would employ qualified landscape gardeners to tidy up the islet in its existing form.
Trees have a special place in the environment. Left to themselves, most of them will outlast our brief human lives, and will provide continuity of place for the generations that come after us. Palm trees may not be indigenous to Dalmatia, but they have thrived here for enough long years to qualify for permanent residential status.
They are decorative and also useful: they provide welcome shade in the heat of the summer, and, for some people at least, a natural food source in their edible dates.
The many palm trees which grow in gardens on Hvar often have great sentimental value to their residents. One of Hvar's talented group of dialect poets, Katica Babaja, née Bunčuga, has celebrated the palm tree which grew in her family's courtyard in Jelsa in a moving and memorable poem, 'Polma', written in Jelsan dialect. She describes how the palm tree had watched over the courtyard and provided a safe home for the birds, while all the family activities through many years took place under and round it, until the house emptied as the children went their various ways. The palm gradually dried up and died of a broken heart. The video below (which you can also access through this link) has Katica reciting her poem. The poem is followed by a film from 1996 showing a gathering of the Bunčuga family for a feast in the courtyard the day before Katica's nephew Danijel Duboković, youngest son of Katica's sister Anjuška, went to do his military service in the Croatian army. Although the palm is not visible in the video, it did provide the setting for the event, as for many others like it over the years.
The video is spontaneous and authentic (!), and is narrated by Anjuška's oldest son Frank, who has more recently gained some internet fame for his fun series as 'guardian of the Hvar dialects'. The family restaurant in Pitve, Dvor Duboković, has earned deserved praise as one of the finest eateries on Hvar.
The palm tree in the Bunčuga family's courtyard died a natural death. Eco Hvar hopes that the Škojić palm will be left in peace to do the same, when its time comes.
© Vivian Grisogono 2014