Sušnjevica - Valdarsa
Cities, Towns and Hamlets

The legend remembered by Renato Pernić, editor of the music program of Radio Pula and a collector of the originai folk songs, explains the origin of the town name: "Once, in the location of the village, there weren't any houses, so the "Ciribirci" used to say that they went to the meadow, or sus njevicu!" 

Sušnjevica - Valdarsa
by Marijan Milevoj

Fleeing the Turks, large groups of Romanians reached Istria five centuries ago. According to a document, discovered at Kubed near Koper, the Vlachs clashed with the autochtons in 1460. Most likely, they inhabited then a much larger area than today, but they gradually assimilated with the Slavic population. On the Labinšćina, Istrian Romanians, inhabit, besides Sušnjevica also Brdo, Kostrčani, Nova Vas and a part of Jasenovik [prior World War II,  that there were other towns as well]. Their traces can be found in the Slavic population through their names: Licul, Černjul, Burul, Faraguna... Most of their names are almost entirely Croatized by now [ex: Pezul = Peculić], only the name Bartul remains in its original form [in Istria].

Their Croatian neighbors, started calling them "Ćiribirci", a neologism derived from the words "Cire bire." Translated it means "Hold it!" Various legends about this name do not agree in all details. According to one story, Romanians earned this name in Istria, which has a derisive connotation, working in the port of Rijeka, where they made their living, working hard on the docks. Carrying heavy bags, they would yell "Cire bire" to one another! Another story says, that the same words were shouted to one of their compatriots, while he was fighting with the member of another ethnic group. Life of the Istrian Romanians was quite hard; they lived on the poorest and least fertile land. They [only the Istro-Romanians from the villages on the north side of Učka] mostly supported themselves by hauling charcoal over Mount Učka to Rijeka and Trieste. Sometimes, when the gusts of "bura," blowing from Učka, were strong enough to turn the cart upside down along with the load of firewood, the cry "Cire bire" could be heard.

Women from Sušnjevica and from surrounding villages used a lot of imagination to feed their numerous offsprings. For example, they had the practice of adopting orphans from the orphanages in Trieste, thus ensuring financial support from the government. Some families had more than one orphan who were treated the same as family members. Therefore, some names can be found nowadays in Sušnjevica that are uncharacteristic for this area.

Another terrn, "bajle" - is also associated to the women of Sušnjevica [and nearby towns]. This was the name of a bizarre profession [no, common use in many countries by aristocracy]. To earn some liras or florins, they breast-fed the babies of wealthy families in Opatija and Rijeka. Their own babies were thus denied mothers' milk [not always so]. This was a service with a taste of poverty and bitterness. In the family where at least one member had a steady employment, misery was not so evident. Owing to such conditions, males from Sušnjevica began to sail as early as during Austrian-Hungarian rule. This gave them the opportunity to emigrate, mostly to the United States, which was even more intense after the war [after both world wars]. The "official" language in their community is Istrian-Romanian, containing numerous [?] Slavic [and Venetian] words. The Croatian language, was never forgotten [never learned by those not attending school], after being taught in the school founded by the St. Cyril and Methodius Society during Austrian rule.

In spite of being a substandard area, with very poor communications and road connections, without economic resources, Sušnjevica became a borough [comune?] with the arrival of Italian authorities. This was a concession to the Romanian population, with a deliberate emphasis on its separateness from its Croatian neighbors, with whom relations were not always perfect, somewhat burdened by prejudices. For example, a young man from Čepić, would have never married a girl from Sušnjevica, a "Ciribirka" [this is popular modern lore, not quite true a century ago when Čepić also had Istro-Romanian speakers] - we found out while gathering materials for this book. The decision to form the borough of Sušnjevica, which was renamed [under Italy] to Valdarsa, was confirrned by royal decree of January 19, 1922. Until then, Sušnjevica was part of the borough of Boljun, along with Letaj. Grobnik was under the municipality of Pazin, while Brdo, Jasenovik and Nova Vas [Noselo] were within the borders of Plomin. The newly founded borough had 2,128 inhabitants. Along with a police force, like any other borough, a new municipal building was built, and it dominates in the village along with the church. There were four tavems, a tobacco-shop and a store in the village. While parting with Sušnjevica, let's note a few words in the language of the Ciribirci. "Bura dia! [zi']" - Good day! "Bura sera!" - Good evening! Nice girl is "mušata fetica" [with the pronunciation of the a and e being different from the Slavic]. Let's count from one to ten: ur, doj, trej, puatru, činč, šuase, šapte, opt [ossun], devet and ozače [zače].

This postcard with trilingual greetings was published by the end of the last century, and was mailed sometime later.

Brdo, a picturesque village on the hill above the Lake of Čepić. The first picture postcard from Brdo in the beginning of the 20th century with greetings in Croatian language. Every bit of the land was cultivated then, and the homes were full of children.

Note: Text shown in green and within square brackets are comments/corrections made by M.C. based on direct personal knowledge and from evidence from family history.


  • Marijan Milevoj, Postcards from Labin / Kartulini z Labinscini (Postcards from Labin), translation to English by Valter Kvalić, Naklada Matthias (Labin, 1997), p 52-3. All © copyrights reserved.

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