Excessive pride in my UK document has given way to a yearning for one from my mother’s country – but I may have left it too late

Throughout my life I have spent a fair amount of time in Croatia and, before that, Yugoslavia. Back in the day, one of my favourite things was to leave my British passport lying around when I was with friends over there. This was the one with the hard cover. It looked and felt substantial, especially to the Croats and Serbs I knew, who handled it in admiration. I specifically recall a friend of mine called Tomislav getting his passport out to show me. This would have been in the late 90s, when nearly all the people I knew there were looking for a way out to some place else. “What good is this rubbish?” demanded Tomislav, flapping his Croatian passport in my direction. “Where will it get me? Nowhere!” and with that he tossed it on to the floor.

Twenty years on, how things have changed. Now whose passport is more substantial? Ever since the referendum, my Croatian mum has been badgering me to sort out a Croatian passport. I’ve always felt half-Croatian and always wanted to formalise that with the passport, but now it felt a bit opportunistic so I’ve ended up leaving it until what might be, for all we know, the very last minute. Because I once had a Yugoslavian passport, I thought it would be relatively straightforward. But it turns out I need to locate a piece of paper proving that I was registered somewhere, in Zagreb. That piece of paper should have made its way to my mum’s place of birth from the Yugoslav embassy in London, but may now be somewhere in Belgrade, not Zagreb. Which may mean a Croatian passport is a long way off yet.

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