Communist Escapee & LI Graduate Now Trains Conservatives Worldwide

Communism is real for Zeljko "Zed" Zidaric.

A Croatian by birth, he escaped communism and grew up in Canada.

“As an escapee from communism with family left behind in Croatia, I know firsthand what communism is about,” he said. “I heard from my family about the hardships and the fear.  I knew that communism was a flawed system that benefitted only a few.  I was fortunate to have escaped and felt that it was my duty to stand against communism and fight to defend the freedom that we in the West cherish.”

So he attended Royal Military College in Canada and became an officer.

“I was fortunate that communism collapsed and I did not need to go to war, but I did volunteer to go and protect the new democracy in Croatia as it struggled to escape the shackles of the former communist Yugoslavia,” Zed said.

Although Zed grew up in Canada, he was born in a small village near Zagreb, Croatia.

His love for his homeland prompted him to develop the Civic Innovation Incubator in Croatia.

“I want to take what I have learned and bring it to Croatia so that young Croatians do not need to leave Croatia for a better life, but they can build a better life for themselves and create a better future for Croatia,” he said.

His group empowers and supports Croatian youth ages 18 to 35 to have faith in their ability to develop new conservative solutions to the problems that plague the nation.

Members of the Conservative Party of Canada recommended Zed look into the Leadership Institute’s political training.

So he came to LI’s Campaign Management School in February 2011.

He returned for LI’s International Leadership Training School in December 2012, and later he attended LI’s Future Candidate School and International Fundraising Training in 2013.

“The courses that I took at the Leadership Institute helped me apply what I learned in the corporate space to the civic activism space,” he said.

In the fall of 2013, Zed came to work at the Leadership Institute. He volunteered in LI’s International Programs department.

“While working in LI’s International Programs department I met many great people and realized how many of us are fighting for liberty,” he said. “Knowing that there is a large support base and that you are not alone is very empowering.  I now have friends that I can contact for just a conversation or help with a problem all over the USA and around the world.”

Zed met his sweetheart Alma Ortega, also volunteering in LI’s International Programs department. They recently became engaged and are now planning a wedding.

“As others told me, I will tell others: The Leadership Institute is the place to go if you want to learn how to be a successful conservative activist and want to meet others that share the same passion,” he said. “When you become a part of the LI network, you are no longer alone.”

Please congratulate Zeljko Zidaric for finding his passion to mobilize Croatian youth to advance the conservative movement. Please applaud him for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader-in-Training Award.

To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, at