On a Sunday afternoon my cousin Tonći took my mother and me to see the local parish priest, Father Petar Kosić. We wanted to see the church records from St. Michael’s (Sv. Miholjica) Church in Sveti Vid, Croatia where my great-grandparents were married in 1904. He found their entry in the old, oversized book . . . it recorded the marriage of Antun Radić and . . . Jelisava?
My great-grandmother was called Liža (the “i” is pronounced as a long “e” and the “ž” is pronounced like the “g” in the French word “gendarme”). We thought her full name was Elizabeth or Eliza and had never heard the name Jelisava (the “J” is pronounced “Y” as in “yet”). Sometime during her long life — she lived to the age of 92 — she had lost her passport and any identifying papers. So, what was her name? A little researched solved the mystery: Jelisava is the south Slavic form of Ersebet or Elisabeth. Elise, Elisa, and Liža are diminutives of Jelisava. (Diminutive names can express smallness, familiarity, or affection.) Elizabeth is the Anglicized spelling of the name.
How wonderful to learn something new about my family history and my beloved great-grandmother. I am named after her and as my father pointed out, “lisa” sits right in the middle of Jelisava.