Strawberry Hill's Croatian community celebrates historic World Cup victory

July 12, 2018 - 4:43 am

When Croatia defeated England 2-1 to go to the final of the World Cup, it was party time on Strawberry Hill, a neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas that has drawn South Slavic immigrants for more than a century. 

Some 400 people crowded in the bar and gymnasium at St. John the Baptist Church Wednesday to watch the semifinal match.

Strawberry Hill native Madelyn Taylor has seen plenty of big gatherings, and even she was surprised at the turnout.

"Growing up here I've never seen it so packed for an event before," Taylor said. "It's so full you can barely stand around."

Nicholas Tomasic, who lives in the neighborhood along the bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, says Croatia's team draws much of its strength from their national culture.

"They have strong families, drugs are looked down upon in Croatia, they work hard, they all have a strong faith," Tomasic said. 

Expect even more enthusiasm and ethnic pride Sunday at 10 a.m., when the Croatian men's national team takes on France in the World Cup final in Moscow.

The people KMBZ's Bill Grady talked to were confident their team will get revenge against the French, who eliminated Croatia en route to a championship in 1998.

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