Klepetan and Malena - Croatia's Greatest Love Story

April 26, 2019

A faithful male stork flies thousands of miles each year to join his handicapped lover who cannot fly.

The story of Klepetan and Malena, is one of love and devotion.

stork love story
Klepetan and Malena / Credit: AFP

By late March, Klepetan was back in the tiny village of Brodski Varos in eastern Croatia for the 16th year in a row, after leaving his winter home in southern Africa.

There he again met the love of his life, Malena, which means "Little One" in Croatian. She waits patiently for him to arrive so they can make more babies to add to the 62 the pair already have.

The faithful couple's long-distance relationship has made them celebrities in Croatia.


Local school caretaker Stjepan Vokic, 71, adopted Malena in 1993 when he found her near a pond, injured by a shot from hunters.

Malena spends winters in a storage building in what Vokic calls an "improvised Africa" with a nest, heating and aquarium.

In spring Vokic makes a gigantic nest for Malena on the building's roof.

stork love story
Vokic and Malena / Credit: AFP

Klepetan, the father stork, teaches the babies how to fly before migrating with them in early August to southern Africa.

Meanwhile, Malena stays with Vokic, who bathes her and puts cream on her feet to stop them drying out, as she is away from her wetland habitat.

"I also take her fishing since I can't take her to Africa. We even watch TV together," Vokic told AFP.

"If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her. But I changed her fate, so now I'm responsible for her life."

Klepetan, named after a knocking sound storks make with their beaks, wears a tracking ring.

His final migratory destination has been traced to near Cape Town, some 14,500 kilometres from Malena. It takes him a little over a month.

stork love story
Credit: AFP

Croatia is home to some 1,500 pairs of white storks.

More than 210 birds live there in nests on the roofs and lamp posts. Their number is more than double the village's human population.

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