Life Beyond Tennis

An incredible story about tennis, Norway (!!), big fishing boat (!!!) & one crazy tennis parent

27.11.2016
HERMES - a modern fishing vessel where I hoped to work

Hi, it is Sashka’s father writing.

You probably heard before some amazing stories about insane things tennis parents can do for their kids. Let me tell you my story as well.

While it failed with no results, I still believe I did not waste my (last) money, time and faith. I do not know why, but I am sure that one day this experience & strong determination to help Sashka continue her tennis career will pay off. What if not? Well, at least I will regret about those things I did – but not about those I didn’t.

So once upon a time, one tennis family faced with big problems. A father’s company just got bankrupted – burying his savings and professional reputation. This family lived in a non-native country, with refugee passports. They were (actually, they are) significantly limited in their rights and couldn’t count on any help from the state or local authorities. Nobody wanted to give them a job – as they are refugees speaking not-so-good local language, not having local working experience etc.

The most important thing was they must finance their daughter junior tennis perfomance. They all together – a girl and her family – spent 10 years to reach quite a good tennis level. She is a promising young sportsperson. So they decided to fight…

“What should I do?” – I asked myself again and again. “This is my responsibility to care about Sashka. Tennis is really important for her, and if we just stop now, it is going to be a big tragedy for her. BUT HOW?”

Chapter 1. Costs

Then I got calmed, sat & started to calculate.

Sashka needs 2,000-2,500 EUR/month to continue her career. This is a minimal amount to keep practicing, playing nearest tournaments (no far travels at all) and buy only the very necessary stuff, like shoes and strings. This sum would allow to keep floating only… but when you are sinking, to keep floating is an obvious first choice.

The 4-person family’s cost of living in Croatia is 1000 EUR monthly. You need to pay utilities, eat something, tank your car (there no “inside-town” public transport in our place, so if you go to shop, or drive kids to school, you can do it by car only). We need some groceries, home care products etc. Everything extra is excluded. Everything.

So I need to earn 3,500 EUR per month. With our refugee status and full absence of professional background in Croatia, it seems unrealistic… But what if I look somewhere else?

“I can go to any place of the world” – I decided. “I can do any job – harsh, demanding and exhausting. I can work in places where it is extremely cold or extremely hot. I have a goal.”

I added 500 EUR per month for personal spendings into my calculation. If I go abroad, this sum will allow me to live & eat. I’d accept a bed in hostel, or a sleeping place in a ship cabin – whatever the cheapest. I am a modest eater, so a plate of spaghetti and couple of sausages, with some tap water, is completely enough for me.

So I got a target sum – 4,000 EUR monthly. The next step: where to earn it?

Chapter 2. Job

I started to search the web for real job descriptions with harsh working conditions but good payments. That was so naive, but when you are in desperation, the best you can do is… moving. If you stop moving, you’ll definitely fail further.

Here is the article I have found:

World’s Toughest Jobs – Trawler fishing in Norway

That was exactly what I needed!

“All work in the Norwegian fish industry is hard and physically demanding… There is a processing plant in the bowels of the ship where most of the work is done – much of the day is spent here killing, gutting and freezing the fish. It normally sails with a crew of 17, but as it operates 24 hours per day, there are two crews of eight who work six hours on and six hours off continuously for five weeks, and one cook who caters for everyone.”

I am strong, I have a huge motivation to work (my daughter) – if my employer asks me to work till I felt down exhausted, I will. I know how to work with fish.

What else can give me some extra points during my job interview?

Sponsorship! A company which hires me, can be a sponsor of my daughter effectively for free. In fact, if they give me a chance to earn enough money to support Sashka’s tennis – by my own hands, with full devotion of any job – they will sponsor her. But this won’t cost them anything extra, just my salary!

To that moment Sashka had a very positive background of tournaments played in Scandinavia. She reached final in Sweden and semifinal in Denmark. She spent several monthes in GTG Academy in Stockholm, where was gladly welcomed by world-class coaches and promising young players as clubmates. She could bear a logo of “job sponsoring company”, play tournaments in those areas they interested in, visited their tennis events.

She is not a WTA/ITF star yet… but she could rise to a good pro player… Even if not, what are the risks for an employer/sponsor except giving one job place to a person who are ready to die for this job?

So, I took my backpack, kissed my wife & kids and departured to Tromso, Norway.

No, I did not have an interview scheduled.

No, I did not have a contact info of that fishing company owner(s).

No, I did not have free money to make a “adventurous travel to North”. In the nearest future I will regret several times about money spent on that travel.

Yes, call me stupid & crazy.

I hoped to get a job on this fishing boat:

HERMES - a modern fishing vessel where I hoped to work

HERMES – a modern fishing vessel where I hoped to work

“May be, they do not have an immediate job for me” – I suggested. “But they could connect me to their colleagues who’s interested in. It is a huge industry… Someone in the industry is a tennis lover. Someone needs a really devoted personnel – why not me? At last, someone felt in a difficult situation during his/her life, and if he/she managed to overcome this, may be he/she wants to give a chance to others?!”

Chapter 3. Tromso

In an almost full day of travel (two connections, in Zurich & Oslo) I landed in Tromso.

Tromso. The REAL North!

Tromso. The REAL North!

Quick facts from Google:

“Tromsø, a city in northern Norway, is a major cultural hub above the Arctic Circle. It’s famed as a viewing point for colorful Northern Lights that sometime light up the nighttime sky. The city’s historic center, on the island of Tromsø, is distinguished by its centuries-old wooden houses. The 1965 Arctic Cathedral, with its distinctive peaked roof and soaring stained-glass windows, dominates the skyline.”

I will see an amazing beauty of Tromso later. That day, unpacking my things in a tiny room of a local hotel, I tried to figure out what to do next. I was completely alone, with a very limited amount of cash, with a strange & crazy mission: to find a local fishing company, meet its owner or CEO and convince him to hire me. What a task!

…Next morning I woke up very early, had a quick breakfast and searched online some additional info. I found contact phones of this fishing company & a boss name (Jan-Roger). I also found out that he’s a great fan of… basketball.

I still missed two important points. First – I did not find an address of the company. Second – anyway, I needed an introduction: someone who would help me arrange an interview. Whom can I ask to help? The only entity: tennis.

This photo is made NOT by me, but it is exactly what I see my first evening; I think its author stayed the same hotel & the same room, earlier or later

This photo is made NOT by me, but it is exactly what I see my first evening; I think its author stayed the same hotel & the same room, earlier or later.

Chapter 4. Tennis club

I called a local tennis club and asked its manager for a meeting. It was an easy task – to reach Tromso tennis club was much challenging.

The club is located near the town border, almost in suburban. You can reach it by bus, but a ticket costs around 7 EUR (in local currency)! “No way” – I said & decided to walk. iPhone Maps suggested that it is 40 minutes walking distance.

…After almost an hour and half in blizzard & windstorm I reached my target. I was frozen & irritated. In the middle of my way a guy on wheelchair asked me to help him go down a hill (bus line & walking road is up the hill, and houses are down, in a small valley). I helped him, but when I returned back up to hill, I felt two times and scratched my hand to blood. Can you imagine my optimistic mood?

A young lady in the club was very friendly. She offered me a cup of tea and showed their venues. Several good hard courts, locker rooms, gym… and a climbing wall. I showed her Sashka’s medals – and directly asked for help.

“So you came from Croatia to arctic Norway for an UNSCHEDULED job interview?” – she was amazed.

“Do I have a choice?” – I noticed.

She asked my phone number – but honestly that moment I was almost sure that she won’t be able to help. Cause I looked really strange – a wet Ukrainian refugee with tennis prizes in bloodied hands, somewhere above the Artic Circle :). I said “thank you!” and stepped to Norwegian snowstorm again.

My phone rang in a half an hour. “Hello, it is Jan-Roger from Hermes AS calling. I can meet you today at 1 p.m. I will have 30 minutes, hope it is enough”.

I was in the very middle of the blizzard. I had snow in my mouth, eyes & ears. I was hardly alive.

I was happy.

Chapter 5. Interview

We met the same day at 1 p.m., in Hermes AS small, but cosy office in the very center of Tromso. Jan-Roger appeared to be a handsome though a little overweighted (just like me) guy near his 40s. His brother (sorry I do not remember a name) was also very kind.

He seemed to be impressed by my cross-European travel as well.

“Why our company? Just because of BBC program?” – he asked.

“Yes,” – I said. – “I also like your boat. It is very modern” – just kidding.

“You bought a ticket and flied several thousand kilometeres, basing on one internet publication? What if we are in the sea – by the way, we will depart in 3 days?!” – he was really amazed.

“But you are not in the sea. And I am here talking to you. May be, it is a destiny”.

We talk more than hour by his initiative. He asked me more & more questions about me, tennis, Sashka, my skills. He asked whether I understand that it is very hard to work in the sea. “If a human can do it, I’ll do it” – I answered.

“The biggest problem is you do not speak Norwegian,” – he said. “We typically do not allow people on board who do not speak Norwegian, though we have exclusions”.

“Try me. I need 3 month to speak Norwegian OK. No Ibsen fluent quoting though”.

We finished that interview almost like good friends.

“You understand, I can not guarantee anything. I’ll talk to my colleagues and contact you within 24 hours whatever we decide.” – said Jan-Roger.

Tromso at night is absolutely breathtaking!

Tromso at night is absolutely breathtaking!

“For sure. I am already thankful to you for this meeting. Just keep me informed please”.

…Stepping down to the central street of Tromso, I felt wings behind me. I wanted to sing. I wandered through the streets of beautiful Tromso till the late night, and enjoyed this Arctic town in the night lighting.

I imagined how I work on the boat, and my life is re-built again. I saw Sashka playing Wimbledon with Hermes logo on her t-shirt. I saw me and Jan-Roger in the player’s box eating cream strawberry, chatting and laughing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Hermes AS company, a proud sponsor of Oleksandra Oliynykova, and it is amazing CEO Jan-Roger” – told an invisible announcer in my head.

Chapter 6. The end

He never called. He never sent an e-mail or SMS.

I waited for 2 days, then tried to call myself – my call was immediately denied. I sent SMS & e-mail – no answer.

All I feel was emptiness. Total vacuum.

For two more days – I had money for 3 nights in hostel only – I looked for another job, but without success, as I do not speak Norwegian. My wife all the time asked me how am I, is there any progress. “Yes, sure” – I answered. “Absolutely not” – objected “honest me” inside.

I returned to Porec. It was a complete, undisputed defeat.

Chapter 7. Postscriptum

This loss didn’t break me. Moreover, it makes me work harder. It makes me put more efforts in Sashka & our joint project. I would like Jan-Roger decision to be a big mistake. At last, he could call, yeah?

Nevertheless, I still believe in a “sponsorship-in-exchange-for-a-job” scheme. it is a brilliant opportunity for a company to get a highly motivated employee, who will work where necessary, when necessary and never complain. This employee will value this job as a treasury. This potential employee… is me. Plus – the company will get visible in sports world, in media, with no extra costs.

There are billions of jobs in the world. There are thousands of CEOs and owners.

I know that somewhere in the world there is that guy with whom we will eat cream strawberry in the Wimbledon player’s box while Sashka plays final.

Chatting, laughing and being happy.


If you can offer me a job (sponsorship offer attached) – please contact. For other options to support Sashka, please click here.

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