Ms Štefanija Tomaic (née Vukušić) is a former meteorologist at the Zavižan station on Mount Velebit, the highest in Croatia at 1 594 meters. Attracted to meteorology at a young age, she began her career at 18 and was the only female to work at the station in its history. From 1972 to 1976, Ms Tomaic worked in harsh and solitary conditions. She would often spot wolves in the distance and find traces of bears. The howling wind, endless fog and lightning and storms were hair rising and would chill her bones. “It’s no place for a woman up there!” were comments she often received.
Even before deciding to work at the Zavizan station, many told her it was not a fitting job for a woman, however, the negativity and her love for the work only reinforced her desire to continue pursuing her dream. “It may look like something terrifying, but while you are doing it, it’s not a big deal. You don’t feel afraid or suffer any hardship.”
During her time at the Zavizan station, Ms Tomaic was responsible for taking measurements and phoning in her report to the Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service in Zagreb. It took a three-hour climb to reach the station, then two hours to come down. Since the standard measurement times were at 07:00, 14:00 and 21:00, she had to be up and going often before 04:00 and until at least 22:00, which left little time for sleep. Between her various duties –measurements, observations, administration – she would find time to write, paint on glass and read.
In addition to the knowledge required, it is important to have a big heart, an iron will and great love for the work...
After the birth of her third son, her growing family commitments led Ms Tomaic to resign from the Zavizan station. Although she is currently retired and living in a village in the Northern Velebit National Park, she is still active in meteorology, taking daily care of the rain gauge station of the Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service in Krasno. She has also been sharing her love for meteorology with her grandchildren and hopes that one of them may follow in her footsteps one day.
Ms Tomaic encourages young people who are interested and enthusiastic about meteorology to study, but makes it clear that education is not the only requirement for this field. “In addition to the knowledge required, it is important to have a big heart, an iron will and great love for the work, especially if your intention is to work in the mountains where it gets crowded in the summer but there is virtually no one in the winter.”