Stories from the city: Dalibor Šušnja | Zagreb

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Time Out contributors

Dalibor Šušnja is a friendly, larger than life character who lives in Zagreb. He is known to many who live in and visit the city, due to the fact he is a near-permanent fixture at some of Zagreb's most popular outdoor events, with his Fantastic Foods street food outlets.

I was born in Zenica, in Bosnia. A long time ago, ha! In every town in Bosnia lived three kinds of people; Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims. My family is Croatian. My parents are from Busovača. When I was growing up, our best friends were our neighbours, a Serbian family. My father and their father worked together, the mothers were friends, they had a son the same age as me and a daughter the same age as my sister. We were very close and would celebrate birthdays together. At our Christmas, they would come to us and at Orthodox Christmas, we would go to them. It was a happy time.

In the days before the war, many Serb families left Zenica. I would see the buses full of them. I was very young. I did not understand it. One evening, we were sitting with our neighbours as usual, laughing and enjoying. The next day, they were gone. When they reached a safe location, they called my parents to tell them. They said they'd had threats. My mother was crying. They asked my father to take their apartment key. Everything in the apartment was like the day before. They didn't take anything, only a few clothes. My mother took all their photographs to keep them safe. Me and my sister were in many of the photographs. When the army discovered the apartment was empty, they came to the house and demanded the key. Soldiers moved in. We moved to Busovača.

In Zenica are 200, 000 people, in Busovača only 20, 000. It was hard for me, because I was almost 18 and I had just started going out. But, I did not have to worry about that for long, ha! They took me, gave me a gun and put me on a hill. I was on the front line for one year, but luckily we were never asked to attack, we were only defending. And, also luckily, I was not injured or killed. After the war, the economic situation in Busovača was just worse and worse. And so I came to Croatia, to try and find a better life. The first year I worked in Istria as a waiter. After that I came to Zagreb and I liked it very much.

After a couple of years working here, I decided I wanted to be my own boss and so I started making street food. First I started making fritule from one fryer. All the money I made I put into the business. Now I have three houses like this. I have two sons. The younger one adapted to life in Zagreb very well, because he was very young. It was difficult at first for the older one. But he started to play handball and now he has many friends from the sport. He plays for Dubrava, maybe the second team in Zagreb.

I like my job. I'm good at it. Everywhere I have my house, there are others, and we do the best. I like working with people and meeting people. In Zagreb every year there are more and more tourists from all over the world and I love to meet them. Zagreb is not too small, like Busovača, and not too big, like Berlin or London. I made hundreds of friends here and not one enemy. My favourite place in Zagreb is Zrinjevac park. It is always beautiful, in the daytime and at night. And in the summer and in the winter. 

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