To Your Heart's Content

Friday, December 08, 2006

Larger Than Life

Igor was up for the night on Wednesday and thanks to a rendezvous with a mutual friend who goes way back--Jack--we had a delightful evening. Funny thing is, Igor is one of the most modest men I've met and here is a perfect example of how.

After our reacquaintence with Jack, we proceeded to rather aimlessly amble the streets of Beijing, in search of nothing in particular, but as always finding the rioting comfort of each other's company. So about 11 p.m. and he gets a message on his cell phone, which read something like: "Igor, I admire your bravery and courage so much. You are great man!" And I said, who in the HELL is that? You get messages like that often lover boy? Of course, he demurred saying he hasn't told me, or anybody really, the story. What story?

Igor saved a young Chinese man's life last week. The guy jumped off a bridge intending to commit suicide and Igor happened to be taking a stroll along the river bank when he saw a body floating, and then sink into the water. There were other Chinese there watching this and Igor, without hesitation, threw off his bag and shoes and jumped in after him, blindly and desperately grasping under the brown, cold water, until finally he got hold of him. Luckily the man was close to the shore. By that time however the man was dead and Igor dragged him ashore immediately trying to resuscitate him using only what he has learned watching TV! Well it worked! and Igor said the most exhilarating moment, the most profound moment, was seeing life flow back like a jolt of electricity into the man's eyes.

Funny thing is, he didn't tell his parents, his friends, or anybody. His boss from Ukraine happened to be there that week, and with the press hounding Igor, he inevitably found out and sent flowers to Igor's parents. Anyhow, he was rewarded by the government, was on the news and headlines! And to top it off, after asking him questions like Why did you do it?! Why did you risk your life to save him?! he told the press (in Chinese): "I saw about five people next to the river, just watching, doing nothing. I thought it strange. Why didn't they jump in and save him? When it's life we're talking about, the choice is very simple. Even though I am a foreigner, I live in this city, I love this city, and I love the life and people here. It is my duty/responsibility." The next day the young man's parents brought Igor flowers and expressed their gratitude.

I found a great commentary on what Igor did on a Chinese blog. This is some of the best Chinese writing I've seen (which doesn't say much given my lack of experience). It is introspective, retrospective, well-expressed, and it is interesting because it offers a constructive criticism, which is rare: 国人缺少的恰恰就是这种朴素的生命伦理观,而今一位乌克兰小伙子用自己的勇敢行动和质朴的话语给国人上了一堂生命伦理课。(Chinese lack exactly this kind of plain moral outlook, and yet today a young Ukranian man courageously acted and offered simple and unadorned words, both to give the Chinese people a lesson in morality.)

Of course, that was never Igor's intention, he acted as he always does, with an uninhibited heart and mind.


  • I want to be surprised but thats just the way Igor is. Perhaps the least selfish man I've met and I would like to admire him but I know thats not what he wants.
    I really miss both you and Igor and hope we have more days of madness ahead of us.

    By Anonymous Brian, at 4:28 PM, December 08, 2006  

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