It is estimated that there are over 1.2 million Croats, including their descendants, living in the United States.
Most are based in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cleveland, as well as in California. There are also large communities in Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Montana, New York, and New Jersey.
It’s rare to find a single-family Croatian surname today in the United States, but Joe Mikecin thinks it is.
The name Mikecin comes from Novigrad in the county of Zadar on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.
“I am the only Mikecin in the United States. I have been contacted by several Croatians asking how I came to the United States with this surname. Well, it’s kind of a great story,” Joe tells us, before explaining.
“My grandfather, Joe Mikecin, I think it was Josip, but I’m not sure, came to the United States in 1920 from Novigrad. He lost 4 brothers during the First World War. Apparently they tried to enlist my grandfather so he left for the United States with just the clothes on his back. He married a German, my grandmother Teresa, and they had two sons, Donald and Joe. Donald died of a childhood illness. My father Joe was very proud of his heritage.
My grandfather, along with many Italians, landed on Ellis Island in New York after World War I. He had a godfather named Branko Mikecin. We don’t know what happened to Branko, but do know he was a relative.
Grandfather worked in the oil fields in Texas before settling in St.Louis, Missouri. Since he was a mason by trade, he built a house in the town of Saint-Louis. The Croats helped him build his house. Its walls are two feet thick and it still stands today. It was during the Great Depression, so grandpa paid for them by feeding them. People were desperate back then. My grandfather had a large barbecue in the back to cook the lamb.
My father joined the navy during World War II. He was released and had 8 children. I had 6 sisters and one brother. My brother was unfortunately killed in a tragic accident. I got married and have two kids, Mark and Maggie,” says Joe Mikecin.
Joe himself enlisted in the Marines and later the US Army and saw action in Iraq and received a Purple Heart. His son, Mark, also joined the Air Force and became an aerospace engineer.
“He has secret clearance and flies F-15c fighter jets. Needless to say, I’m very proud of my son. And his daughter of course. It’s really nothing special. However, it is strange that a man like my grandfather fled the war-torn Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time and then had children who produced three generations of fighting Mikecins,” Joe adds. .
Joe, who currently resides in Foristell, Missouri, says he couldn’t be more proud of his Croatian heritage.
“We grew up with Croatian food. Finally we Americanize it a little. I love lamb shank. I actually love hunting deer and use deer shank instead. There is a Croatian Catholic church about an hour away – St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. They do church in Croatian and English. I don’t know the Croatian language, I only swore when my father and grandfather were angry. I can’t wait to go to Zagreb and Dalmatia soon, where my grandfather is from,” concludes Joe.