A museum to share your heartbreak story

Founders of the museum Croatian artists Olinka Vistina and Drazen Grubisic (Inset Pic)

Founders of the museum Croatian artists Olinka Vistina and Drazen Grubisic (Inset Pic)


The founders of the museum seemed to have travelled all across the globe to gather the displayed items and people had really shared them- from little pendants to toasters and little toys to scabs (from wounds!)

Heartbreaks are never easy. The pain and the anguish - while they can eat you up on the inside, they leave you with very few avenues to share them with others. The power of sharing your story is profound and that is exactly what the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia has been built on.

My husband and I visited this European city a few weeks ago and had read that visiting the museum was the most popular thing to do there. Clueless about what lay in store, we took a quick tram to the touristy part of the city which is located atop a hill. By this time, we had seen our fair share of museums on the continent and we were half expecting to see a colossal structure designed in Baroque architecture. Surprisingly, we found the museum located in an unassuming building with the most un-museum-like facade.

We walked in and bought our tickets from a very polite lady at the counter. We later discovered that the museum was first established in 2006 by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić with the sole purpose of enabling heartbroken individuals to share their stories with the world. For a museum, it is quite small- I remember walking around barely six to seven rooms - but makes for a heartwarming journey.

The first exhibit we saw was a bicycle that someone had shared because they had no use for it and it reminded them of their ex. As we made our way through similar other items and read stories of love and joy making way for heartbreak, we felt ourselves experiencing a gamut of emotions.

The founders of the museum seemed to have travelled all across the globe to gather these items and people had really shared- from little pendants to toasters and little toys to scabs (from wounds!). The story of the scab was Austrian with the contributor secretly holding on to the scab of their lover for 27 long years before finally donating it to the museum. It was a testament to the fear of letting our loved ones go.

Every kind of broken relationship was on display here, much like life. It's not just the romantic ones that end. Sometimes, parents leave their children and vice versa. And the exhibits were a silent reminder to be thankful for all the love within ourselves and others and not take anything for granted.

In yet another painfully funny story, we learned that the contribution - a small toy - was from the Netherlands. The toy had been a keepsake from the contributor's ex who had been going around giving the same toy to everyone he had been involved with, claiming it to be a special gift for a memorable relationship. The contributor, after having found the dolls in the ex's bag, had been waiting for the day when she would be bridled with one. She was more than happy to give it away to the museum when the chance arose. A lady who had been silently reading this story next to me burst out laughing at what seemed to be the lies we find ourselves believing in when we're in love. Another item that caught our attention in a very visceral manner was a broken VHS tape.

The contributor had been the child of a rich, yet dumbfounded in-love father who much against the wishes of his first wife and the family, married a much younger woman. The contributor claims that his father's second wife was only a gold digger which became very evident when she refused to help him through his terminal disease and tried to put him in a home for the indigent. When the father passed away, the contributor and his family refused to attend the funeral just so they could avoid the second wife. The VHS tape happened to contain a video of the parents' wedding but the contributor, in a bid to eliminate that part of his life, ran his car over the tape, sawed it in half, set it on fire, and a whole lot more before finally giving it to the museum.

As we finished, we realised the universality of outlets. We all have our means to purge ourselves of the pain, the embarrassment, and the anguish. But a museum for broken hearts is a giant leap towards sharing all that you want to and with whomever, you want to.

(The author was recently on a three-week trip to Europe)

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