How to summarize one’s life in a couple of paragraphs? How to truly portray an individual, with all their complexities and nuances, flaws and virtues? It is hard to do while the person is alive, even harder in death. The answer to the posed question is self-evident; it’s impossible. The only people who really knew ZVONKO SANTAJ are those who had spent time with him and shared their lives with him from day to day; his family.
He often liked to point out that Santaj plastika is a family business. But he didn’t just mean that the company was run by one family. For him, the company and its employees eventually became another business partner, another longtime friend, another family member. One large, extended family, and he its pater familias.
By definition, a “director” is a person responsible for managing the affairs of a company. And in that narrow view, ZVONKO SANTAJ was indeed the director of Santaj plastika, from its founding and humble beginnings in 1986 in the family garage, through moving to the Small Business Zone in Valpovo and opening a new plant, until his death on New Year’s Eve 2019.
But in practical terms, he represented much more than that. Simply put, he was the Alpha and the Omega of the company. Everything would start and end with him. No problem was too big, no question too small for him to tackle. Such actions require a large amount of energy, and he had it in abundance. This is clear to everyone who has met him over the years and had the opportunity to collaborate with him. To us, his employees, it was clear every day. From the moment we would find him sitting in the conference room before work, drinking coffee while reading the morning paper, until the moment we went to our homes, and he – after a day filled with documents, meetings and conversations – would find himself in the same room, thinking about the next day, the next move, the next solution.
The fact is that for ZVONKO SANTAJ working hours as such did not exist, at least not in the traditional sense. He was working even when he wasn’t. As it turned out, maybe a little too much. Maybe if he had been just a little less focused on the work, he might have been able to tackle the only problem he failed to solve in his favor in time. The problem that left Santaj plastika without its central figure long before its time, and his family without a husband, a father, a grandfather. Maybe.
The measure of a man is reflected in several ways. One of them is by what he leaves behind when he abandons this world. ZVONKO SANTAJ left a part of himself in Santaj plastika. His vision, perseverance and effort are woven into every piece of plastic produced, packaged and sold that came out of the production facilities of Sunčana 17 in Valpovo. Through his work, he left an indelible mark on the local community – and beyond – and created a legacy that ultimately outlived him. It is now the responsibility and obligation of his extended family to ensure that this legacy continues in the future. And not only that it continues, but that it thrives. His life and his work deserve nothing less.