One morning in February, a few fishermen were startled to see an old man lying on the ground in front of a hut by the sea.
He was thin, his skin peeling in several spots, and seriously injured.
Hut owner Vo Thanh Do, 61 a former motorbike taxi driver and tour guide, and his partner Tu Thi Kim Hoa, 60 quickly took the man into their care.
“I felt so sorry looking at him. He told me that he is 65 years old. But he had lost all his teeth. His body was full of injuries. He kept asking me to let him stay, so Hoa and I took him in,” Do recalled.
Do renovated the hut with a clad metal roof and tarpaulin cover. The fishing gear stored inside was moved to make space for the down-and-out convalescent.
The Russian subsequently introduced himself as Andrey Anatolevich, a geologist who had arrived in Vietnam in 2012.
Since setting foot in the country, Anatolevich had traveled to many localities including Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau, and Phan Thiet.
During a motorbike trip in Mui Ne in south-central Binh Thuan Province, an accident left him with a broken pelvis. A long period of hospitalization then depleted his savings, Anatolevich said.
Out of pocket, he said he had wandered around till he reached Do’s hut.
Erected amid moored fishing boats, the hut looks out to sea and enjoys the shade of coconut trees. Inside, there is little else but a reclining chair.
Anatolevich draws his monthly pension with the help of a Slovakian neighbor, which amounts to about VND5-6 million ($215-258) a month. Around VND2 million is given to Do and Hoa for food while the rest is spent on medicine and other expenses.
“He calls me ‘mama’, because I bring him food, clean his hut, and do his laundry each day. He told everyone my husband and I are his family,” Hoa said.
Andrey Anatolevich reads on a reclining chair inside the hut. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.
Since Anatolevich’s story was shared on social media, he has received donations of instant noodles, canned food, mosquito repellent, painkillers, blood pressure medicine, a rechargeable flashlight, pre-paid phone cards, paper, pens etc.
Many resort, hotel and inn owners have also offered him free accommodation, though Anatolevich has turned them all down.
He said he is content with his life in the hut and does not wish to return to Russia, where he has no living relative.
However, many worry Do and Hoa are taking on too heavy a burden, since the frail Anatolevich could fall ill or incur an accident at any moment.
Since his discovery, local police have met with Anatolevich several times.
“We hope local authorities or his embassy could soon find the best solution for him,” Do said.
When asked about his future plans, Anatolevich looked contemplative. His visa expired a few months ago and his passport is only valid for another year.
For him, life at sea is “very comfortable.”
“I want to stay in Vietnam,” he said.
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