ROKO AND CICIBELA
(married February 16, 1903 – died in the winter of 1936-1937)
Cicibela was the sobriquet of the daughter of a poor Split porter named Špiro and the housewife Manda; her real name was Dujka, after the patron saint of Split, Dujam or Doimus; her birth house was in Veli varoš, in Ulica Sv. Frane 30, where she spent her childhood in poverty and in the nearby tavern, in which she was dubbed Cicibela – a typical name given to cats in Split.
At the age of 18 she became an orphan, and knew neither reading nor writing, nor any other kind of job, and she had no family or friends to protect or advise her in life, because of which she tended to be sneered at and mocked.
In time the boat deteriorated even further and took in damp, which was harmful to their health. Nevertheless, Roko would stop up the holes with cement to protect his Cicibela. However, one day a tempest smashed their boat and they had to find a new house, a new boat. All they had to move was themselves, for they had nothing else.
Thus they moved from gajeta to leut, and lived in them; the scene of the couple who had only a dog and a boat was recorded by many a Split tourist, until the city fathers placed them, because of their advanced years, in the almshouse that then occupied part of Diocletian’s Place.
Roko and Cicibela were used to living between sky and sea and on their boat at Matejuška and could hardly bear the alms house, and would sit day after day by the sea, looking with longing at the little ships moored there, only setting off back to the almshouse in the evening.
Towards the end of their lives, someone offered them a ruinous little house not far from Matejuška. “All they lacked was that familiar wooden bottom of the vanished boat-cum-bedroom, for in their new dwelling they had to sleep on the bare ground. Lying closely together, they spent the nights in the dark and damp little house, and their memories joined in a common tale. Together they watched the comings and goings of the souls of their vanished friends, souls that would visit them at the time of the greatest silences. They no longer needed to eat or drink, for they lived off memories that heated them on the damp floor of their hovel. And then came along heavy rains, in conjunction with the cold of winters, and fettered them to their earthen bed. .. Hand in hand, they listened to the messages of the endless distances that edged closer, and their foreheads burned together, as in that distant period when they first spent the night together in Roko’s gajeta at Matejuška. They no longer needed to talk, nor could they, and their eyes closed from thankful weakness. And so together they departed.” (A. Kudrjavec)
The lives of Roko and Cicibela, Split lovers who did not die young, but simply lived a difficult and toilsome life together, have given rise to stories and dramas, films and poetry.