Ivana Mažuranić was born on April 18, 1874 in Ogulin. At the spot where her birth house used to be – at 21 Bernardin Frankopan Street – a new building, the headquarters of the Croatian Forest Administration, was erected in 1952. Her mother Henrietta (née Bernath) was from a Varaždin family, while her father Vladimir Mažuranić was the son of the first Croatian 'commoner' Ban (Viceroy) Ivan Mažuranić. When Ivana was born, her father was state attorney in Ogulin. Ivana was the eldest of four children: she had two brothers, Božidar (Darko) and Želimir (Željko) and one sister – Aleksandra (Alka).
During her childhood, Ivana's family moved several times: they left Ogulin in 1875 to go to Karlovac, then Jastrebarsko (1878), then back to Karlovac in 1879. In 1882 the family finally settled in Zagreb where Vladimir Mažuranić took a post in the Government's Department of Internal Affairs. The only permanent place to which the Mažuranić family returned time and again was the summer house in Hališće (the hills around Varaždin), the family heritage of Ivana's mother. In her Autobiography (1916), Ivana describes her visits to Hališće as one of the most permanent and most joyous memories of her childhood: And yet, my only lasting memories are of the time spent on summer holidays (in the hills of Varaždin, in the wondrous and idyllic hamlet, the heritage of my mother). In a manner of speaking, that time brings together everything I call youth.
In her Autobiography, Ivana mentions two childhood trips to her native Ogulin: during her first visit to Ogulin in 1880, the mountain Klek made a strong impression on the six-year old Ivana. When she returned to her home town in 1886 as a twelve-year-old girl, Mount Klek and the city of Ogulin inspired her to write her first poem: To the Star of My Homeland.
In 1882 the Mažuranić family moved to Zagreb, to a house at 4 Markova Street (today's Mletačka Street) which was owned by Henrietta's aunt. Ivana successfully completed two years at a girls' school, but was mostly home-schooled. Her teacher Marija Jambrišakova made a strong impression on her – Ivana would later write about her (in a text entitled The Sentence That Encompasses the World), giving her part of the credit for her love of the written word and her literary ambitions.
Ivana studied German, Russian and English. As is evident from her Autobiography, she made daily visits to the house of her grandfather Ivan Mažuranić at 5 Jurjevska Street. This was a time when she became aware of a special bond between her and her grandfather, her admiration for him and the profound influence he was having on her.
Dubravka Zima, 2013