House History


The Story Behind Marina’s by the Sea

Every house has a story. The story of Marina’s By The Sea begins in 1912, with the birth of Antonio Picinić, also known as “Lečič”, Marina’s grandfather.  Lečič was born on the island, then known as Sansego (under Austrian control).  The Picinić family had lived on Sansego Island for centuries, over which time the island was claimed by various countries.  In 1920, after World War I, it became part of Italy.

Lečič became a well-respected businessman, an entrepreneur, and accomplished builder. He married Gaudenzia in 1934 and their son John “Ivancvu” Picinić was born in 1936.  In about 1940, Lečič began to build his own house. Young John would assist in building the home. The traditional island home was modest and utilitarian, but he decided to construct a progressive home with a more European style, the first of its kind on the island.

As World War II was ravaging the rest of the world, the island remained untouched by war and together with his son, John, Lečič was able to complete the home in 1952. Built with their own hands, the house still stands out on the island as something truly unique. It is a testament to hard work, family, and the spark of inspiration.

At the end of the war, the island was taken over by Yugoslavia and its name was changed to “Susak”.  In Croatian, the word “otok” means “island”, so it is referred to as “Otok Susak”.

A yearning for something better

As John got older, he worked in the shipyards on the island of Mali Losinj.  He became an expert mechanic, and studied boating, working on the boilers of large ships.  He later joined the Yugoslavian army, and was stationed in the city of Ljubiana.

But John wanted something better for himself. He saw the United States as a land of opportunity where a man could realize his dreams. Eventually, John decided to escape The Socialist Republic of Croatia, which was under the communist rule of Marshal Tito, President of Yugoslavia. Three times John attempted to escape the country into Italy, and three times he was caught and imprisoned in a work camp.

Life was hard in the camp. Work was designed to break the prisoners’ spirits. They were forced to carry large boulders from one place to another. The next day’s work was to bring the rocks back to their original location. The men in the work camp were given little water, but even these harsh conditions couldn’t break John’s determination.

Escape to freedom

John made yet another attempt to escape Yugoslavia under the cover of night by hopping a train bound for Italy. Crossing the border into Italy, he crab-walked on his back while spotlights cast from high towers moved to and fro across the grassy landscape. He was almost killed several times during his escape. When he was clear of the spotlights, John started to run. Finally free, he spent some time in Genoa, Italy, living in refugee camps there, before finally coming to the United States.

After becoming a citizen of the United States, John started a business in Seattle, Washington. There, he met and married Rita Michelotti, and raised a family – Marina being the oldest daughter.  John never lost his love for Susak Island or the home he built with his bare hands. Eventually, he returned to Susak Island with his family.

Coming full circle

Some people have a special connection to a certain place. Marina visited Susak and the house for the first time in 1979, when she was 12 years old. At that time, there was no electricity or running water on the island. Still, the house was an extension of the island’s unique beauty and seemed to radiate the calming spirit of the land upon which it was built. Marina could feel her heart was particularly drawn to the family home.

The family visited the island on other occasions in subsequent years.  Those “summers with Nonno” (Italian for “grandpa”), as Marina’s daughter calls them, brought the family close together and motivated Marina to continue John’s legacy. When her grandfather, Lečič died in 1989, ownership of the home passed to John.  Upon John’s passing in 2013, Marina inherited this island home, and continues to share her father’s passion for Susak Island.

Marina’s by the Sea is the culmination of a life well lived. Its walls were built by two men with unbreakable spirits. It is a house with a grand story. We are eager for you to experience the amazing culture and history of Susak Island.