• Lia Vernescu

The Ukrainian brother

I tried to remember if I had ever met any Ukrainian people in my life. Yes, I've met once a Ukrainian family. On a beach in Spain, in August 2018. We befriended, exchanged cards, but never got in touch again. I am so worried for them. I must find their card now, and call them over, if they need a house, a home somewhere.

That summer, silent armies of harmful sea-creatures invaded many beaches in Spain. But we didn’t know. We arrived at the small hotel late in the evening and jumped immediately into the sea. Next morning - a splendid Mediterranean morning - nobody in the water, everybody on the beach, looking at the sea. Hmm. I went in for a swim, not understanding. A voice called at me from the shore. I could barely hear, but I did make out some words: jellyfish, danger, come out. I looked around me, scanning the water, and only then I saw them: the jellyfish. What scares me most about them is that I do not know where their eyes are... I rushed out to the shore and thanked the man. That’s how I met them, a lovely Ukrainian family: the father, his wife, his two teenage children and his brother. He showed the marks on his swollen, purpled and lashed neck: a huge jellyfish had stung him the day before whilst swimming far out into the sea. Could have been fatal for anyone. But he made it back to the shore.

It was his brother that caught my attention. All day long he was hat-on, knees-high in the water fishing out the jellyfish with a hand-held net device on a long stick, scooping them out one by one, throwing them in buckets on the beach. He never got stung. We were watching him in disbelief. What's his secret? - we were musing - he must have a secret not to get stung; dear Marko, what is your secret? Sheer determination, Marko said, and lack of visible fear. You see, he was on a mission. He could not rid of all of them, obviously, they kept coming and coming from the wide sea, armies of invisible jellyfish floating silently, thousands, there in the water, watching us, preying on us. His was a sisifian task. But he had to do it. He was determined and resilient and meticulous and guarding. Those jellyfish ruined everybody’s holiday, and stung many. We were all helplessly sitting in the sand, longing for that emerald warm sea that we could not enjoy, could not touch. Torture! Some could not resist and did venture in, prudently stepping into the water, looking and not seeing them, only to be suddenly hit, out of nowhere. Snipers! The brother was the only one actively doing something, albeit utopian. It was his mission and duty: to catch and rid the waters of those invading harmful creatures one by one, as if he was protecting us all, any way he could; to keep the invaders away, just him, alone, even if it seemed crazy thing to do and impossible task.

That’s how he spent his holiday.

At that time, we thought him an eccentric. Today, remembering him, I understand. Only now I understand. He was Ukrainian. It was all so symbolic, that he will be forever in my mind. Like all Ukrainians now.

I wanted to share this story.