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From a Croatian farm to a tree nursery in Tehachapi

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi


October 12, 2019

Jon Hammond

Ivan Jadric at his J Ranch Nursery in Brite Valley.

I was born in Croatia in the first months of World War II and I can remember being a little boy later in the war and watching war planes flying overhead to bomb a nearby village. I lived with my parents and three brothers on a farm in the Croatian mountains. It was not an easy life under Communist rule. We worked hard and there was still no money. If we wanted to have a pig, we had to have three – one for us and two for the Communists. One cold November day when I was 13 years old, I was in a barley field with my father, loading hay onto a horse-drawn wagon. The mailman rode by on his bicycle and told my father there was a letter for him. It was from my father's parents, who had left Croatia when my father was only seven years old and moved to Argentina. My father opened the letter and read it. "It's from your grandparents; they want you to come live with them. Do you want to go?" That was it, no warning, no introduction, no smile, just a question.

I decided I would go, so my father took me in our horse-drawn cart to a bus station. Then I took a train and eventually ended up in Italy. I boarded a semi-cargo ship for Argentina. The voyage lasted more than a month. With all those days at sea and no one to talk to – I was just a boy and the only Croatian among all those Italians, and I couldn't speak a word of their language. I looked out at ocean waves in every direction and wondered what I had done. I wished that ship would turn around and take me home.

I learned Spanish living with my grandparents in Argentina and eventually married my beautiful wife, Maria, there. We moved to the U.S. and became American citizens and moved our family to Tehachapi in 1990. We have the Tehachapi Martial Arts Center and also the J Ranch nursery on Highway 202. I love it here. I work on our ranch seven days a week and it is my therapy. I love trees, period. I like them all.

Ivan Jadric

Ivan Jadric is a martial arts master who established the Tehachapi Martial Arts Center in 1991. He is also a farmer, a nurseryman, a winemaker and an all-around larger-than-life human being.


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