'Survivor' Star Amber Brkich Boasts Croatian Fraternal Union Connections

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'Survivor' Star Amber Brkich Boasts Croatian Fraternal Union Connections Barry Marjanovich 5/12/01 11:37 AM
The Zajednicar
March 7, 2001

PITTSBURGH, PA - Certainly the hottest show on TV season is "Survivor," a
reality show in which a group of people is stranded in a desolate area of
the Australian outback and forced to survive by scrounging for food in the
wilderness. Members of the two "tribes" of this group vote each other out of
the group until only one is left and that person wins $1 million.

With her obviously Croatian name, many of our members have been wondering
whether attractive young "Survivor" star Amber Brkich has any connection to
the Croatian Fraternal Union, indeed she does. In fact, Amber is the
grandniece of a very prominent former CFU official.

Amber Brkich's great uncle was former CFU Editor Steve Brkich, who served as
editor for nearly a quarter century. The late Stephen Brkich, a founding
member of Aliquippa, PA Lodge 738, was elected English editor of the
Zajednicar at the 1947 CFU Convention in Pittsburgh, re-elected at
subsequent conventions and then retired from the post in 1966 due to ill
health. He stayed on as editorial advisor, contributing to the Zajednicar
until shortly before his death in January of 1968.

Steve Brkich wrote a popular sports column called "The Dope Bucket" under
the pen name "El Cezar." He was president of his lodge for several years and
is still fondly remembered for his active participation in CFU affairs in
the Beaver Valley. He was a member and secretary of the Greater Pittsburgh
Croatian Day Committee and was made an honorary member of the committee
following his years of service with that organization.

Steve Brkich was also an active booster of the CFU Scholarship Fund and was
director and administrative secretary of the fund for a number of years. He
was also active for several years in the United West Penn CFU Lodges
Committee and was president of that organization for a time.

Amber's proud parents are Valentine and Cheryl Brkich and equally proud
grandparents are Michael and Edith Pauvlinch Brkich. Her uncle Michael
Brkich is deceased
and served as Mayor of Bridgwater for approximately 44 years. Highway 51 and
another road are called Brkich Way. Her other uncle, Michael Brkich, lives
in New Brighton, PA.

The following story about Amber appeared in the Beaver County Times on Feb.
16-17, 2001. It was submitted to the "Z" by Amber's cousins, George and
Helen Maljevec of Beaver, members of CFU Lodge 535. The story was written by
Times Staff Scott Tady.

Her tribe lost for the third straight week, but Amber Brkich survived
Thursday night's episode of "Survivor II: The Australian Outback."

Once again, none of the Brighton Township woman's fellow contestants voted
to boot her off CBS' immensely popular reality drama.

But for the first time, Brkich's path toward a possible $1 million prize got
a little rocky.

A few members of Brkich's Ogakor tribe wondered if she is under the spell of
domineering tribemate Jerri Manthey.

Colby Donaldson, the car customizer from Texas, remarked to the camera that
Brkich is in "the hip pocket" of Manthey, the bikini-clad, aspiring actress
who has emerged as the show's leading villain.

Mike Shanafelt, a co-founder of one of the several Brkich Internet fans
sites, fears his fellow Westminster College graduate is being influenced by

"Amber is selling out to Jerri," Shanafelt said, adding that he was not
pleased with Brkich's performance Thursday.

"She's coming off as someone who's not thinking for herself," said
Shanafelt, of Meadville.

But over at Kelly's Down by the Riverside Saloon in Bridgewater - where
Brkich worked as a waitress a few summers ago - a group of about 20 people
sat around the TV proudly rooting  for the hometown woman.

"I jokingly said to them that Amber was going to get voted off, and I
thought they were going to throw me out," owner Jim Kelly said.

And over at the Maljevec house in Beaver, where two flaming torches lit the
way to a "Survivor II" party, there was nothing but praise for Brkich.

"Amber's going to win because she's from a tough family," said 73-year-old
Vincent Maljevec, Brkich's cousin. He hosted the party, attended by his
wife, and several neighbours, including Mabel Miller, who is old enough to
be the mother of the original "Survivor's" crusty but beloved Rudy Boesch.

"I think Amber went in there and said, 'I'm going to be the winner,'" said
Miller, who turns 94 today.

Her fellow "Survivor" playgoer, Joann Treleaven, 74, of Beaver, admitted
their informal gathering got tense when Brkich and other Ogakors convened in
the show's weekly tribal council.

Each week, "Survivor" stages competitions between the Ogakor and competing
Kucha tribe, to see which one has to vote a member off during the sombre
tribal council sessions.

Thursday night's competition was test of knowledge, in which the remaining
contestants were asked science questions.

Brkich was asked a multiple choice questions: To purify water, how long
should you boil it?

Brkich's former science teachers at Beaver Area High School must have beamed
with pride as she gave the correct answer: 10 minutes.

But the Kucha won the contest, and so the choice fell to the Ogakor to
banish one of their own.

Ballots were cast, leading to a tie, of three votes each, for 40-year-old
chef Keith Famie and 23-year-old songwriter Mitchell Olson.

A second vote was cast, without Famie and Olson, resulting in a 2-2 tie.

"Survivor" host Jeff Probst then announced that under the show's rules, the
next tiebreaker says the person receiving the most votes during prior shows
was the loser. That meant Olson was kicked off the show, since he had picked
up a vote last week and Famie had not.

Whittled down to a dozen contestants, next week's show should be compelling,
especially with the Ogakor's allegiance so fragmented.

Famie and his fellow 40-year-old tribemate, Tina Wesson, appear to be
allies; so do the 22-year-old Brkich and the 30-year-old Manthey. Donaldson,
26, has shown cozying up to Manthey, though in private conversations with
the camera, he has expressed his disgust for her.

Going into Thursday night's show, Kucha tribe members Rodger Bingham, the
53-year-old teacher, had scored the highest approval rating among "Survivor"
viewers, based on a poll conducted by the show's official Web site.

His perky ally, Elizabeth Filarski, had the second-highest approval rating,
followed closely by Brkich.

Viewers' least favourite contestant by a landslide, was Manthey.