On November 26th, 72 years ago, Ivan Patzaichin, one of the most successful athletes of all time and a multiple Olympic and world champion, was born. It has been written and will be written about this God of sports, but today I would like to pay a small tribute to the one who was a different champion: of ecotourism and of friendship.
You may have a hard time thinking about a friend you would like to wish Happy Birthday to, but he is no longer with you…. But his spirit, the wave of friendship and kindness he left behind will live on. The champion Ivan Patzaichin, multiple medalists, would speak to you like an old friend even when he met you for the first time. More than 30 years ago, we met in a family context and I asked him to write for me a thought on a note. Since then, we have remained friends and we have met again on the professional coordinates, launching a partnership for ecotourism between AER and the Ivan Patzaichin Association. He was the ideal man who could promote the idea of ecotourism: he believed in the Danube Delta and loved its people, he saw nature and man together and he spoke simply, beautifully and from the heart about them. He was really a friend of people and nature and made you feel good around him when he talked about these things.
I had the joy and the chance to be a partner and a true ambassador of ecotourism. In 2013, it even opened the European Ecotourism Conference, hosted by us, in Romania. He has been with us or we have been with the initiatives of the Ivan Patzaichin Association many times. But beyond these professional aspects, the human, warm dimension of the relationship with Ivan was out of the ordinary. His presence emanated kindness. He was friendly with everyone around him. He never leaves a table or a hotel without paying attention to those around him, often turning his attention to the maid. Last year, during the pandemic, one of the owners of a delta complex, an AER member, told me how Ivan called him just to ask how he was doing. “It simply came to our notice then. It meant a lot to me during that difficult time.”
He loved not only people but also animals, even those forgotten on the streets, without a master. Ivan and the dogs and cats loved him, because I often saw him take care of them and give them attention, caresses or even a piece of food. Yes, the memory of Ivan still comforts our souls with his kindness and that unmistakable warm and strong handshake. A hand that made a legend, which also kept the paddle broken at the 1972 Olympic Games, but with which it still managed to qualify for the final where it won the gold medal, becoming the supreme symbol of the athlete and perseverance carried to the end.
I think he would be very happy to know that his spirit is alive among us and that we carry his ideas, desires and projects. If Ivan is not to say Happy Birthday, then I would like to wish the Ivan Patzaichin Association and the people behind it what Ivan wrote to me on my note, which is now yellowed by time above the desk: Good luck, congratulations! You failed, continue…
This article was made within the PET Romania project, developed by the Romanian Ecotourism Association, in partnership with the Ţara Dornelor Ecotourism Association, the Retezat Tourism Association and the Măgura Ecotourism Association, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021 .
The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org.