Tatjana Marinić

Illustration by Anđela Žapčić

7 February 1897 – 8 February 1966

Josipa Marinić was born in Slavonska Požega as one of thirteen children, only seven of whom would survive. Her parents were extremely poor, but decided to educate as many children as they could, ready to extend this privilege to their daughters as well, seemingly aware that Josipa showed a propensity for learning and acute intelligence from an early age.

Having completed elementary school in the wake of World War I, Josipa was sent to the Teacher’s School in Osijek. Unfortunately, immediately after the first year, her parents could no longer support her, but she got a job as an unqualified teacher at a school in the village of Poljanska near her home town. Already at that time, she seemed intensely aware of social issues and developed a particular skill for implementing gradual but noticeable improvements in her working environment, e.g., she opened a kitchen for children who come from distant villages.

After the war, she went to Zagreb to finish the State School of Teaching. It was there that she met Antun Branko Šimić, one of the foremost Croatian writers of the early 20th century. A part of their correspondence, nine intimate letters survive to this day. He dedicated some of his most beautiful love poems to her and he named her Tatjana, a name she adopted and continued to use for the rest of her life. Their relationship ended tragically with his premature death in 1925 from tuberculosis. This loss left an indelible mark on her and caused her to dedicate all her time and energy to political work, especially the Socialist Labour Party of Yugoslavia which she joined in 1919.

Between two world wars, Tatjana’s political orientation guaranteed her constant police scrutiny, harassment, arrests and eventually torture. She was imprisoned and beaten so severely that she sustained spinal injuries and lost some function in her arm. The Zagreb branch of the Communist Party sent her to Austria for medical treatment and mental recuperation. During her stay in Vienna, she travelled twice to the USSR and closely followed the development of pedagogy and psychology, showing particular interest in child care institutions, day care centers, nurseries, kindergartens, and institutions for the elderly.

She returned to Zagreb in 1934 and was immediately arrested. After release, she travelled again to the USSR to attain more education, and was eventually employed by the Department of Public Health and Social Policy. In 1940, her superior, Kamilo Bresler, sent her to a poor village near Samobor, where Marinić excelled at social work by opening one of the first kindergartens (which the locals dubbed the “Small School”) and a school kitchen for underprivileged children.

During World War II, Tatjana joined Bresler, a key collaborator of Diana Budisavljević, who launched a massive effort to rescue Orthodox children from Ustasha camps. This will later cause controversy and stain her otherwise exemplary career, as contemporary research using the saved documentation, Budisavljević’s extensive diaries and other sources showed Marinić tried to downplay and nearly erased Budisavljević’s main role in the effort, while attributing the credit for saving the children to herself and the communists. 

In 1943, she joined the Partisans and founded several homes for orphaned and neglected children in the area. The war left upwards of 80.000 children orphaned so caring for them remained Tatjana’s preoccupation for many years. She knew that such an effort would require social care from professional staff and the application of new knowledge in the fields of social psychology and pedagogy. Marinić dedicated much of her time to the development of an educational system for the staff through various courses and seminars she often taught herself. In 1948, she became the director of the School for Preschool Educators in Zagreb.

She continued her career in Yugoslav state institutions responsible for social work and social policy, acting as the president of the National Committee of Yugoslavia for the issue of preschool education, and one of the first honorary members of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP).  She was part of the working group for the preparation of the social work study program and was a member of the expert team sent abroad to learn the methods of education of social workers in different European countries and the USA. Upon return, she was elected as a professor of social work methodology at the recently established Vocational School for Social Workers in Zagreb (the oldest school of its kind in Southeast Europe). She retired in 1957, and died in 1966.

Today, she is remembered as one of the founders of social work in Croatia. In recognition of her contributions, the Society of Social Workers of Croatia established an award for social work that bears her name.

Kindergarten Tatjana Marinić in Zagreb

Kindergarten Tatjana Marinić, Ivana Gorana Kovačića 31, Zagreb

The Tatjana Marinić Daycare Centre was founded in 1946 and is one of the oldest institutions of the kind in Zagreb. Until the construction of today's central building at 8 Pavlinović Street in 1982, the centre operated as part of the Children's Centre "May 25" along with three other Basic Organizations of Associated Labour (the so-called OOURs) in the city centre. The Tatjana Marinić Daycare Centre became independent and got its current name in July 1992. This makes it an interesting case because the majority of daycare centres and schools that had carried the names of women antifascists were renamed in the early 1990s following the dissolution of Yugoslavia.