Meet Hanna Ripper

“I used to work as a lifeguard in Hawaii on a popular tourist beach, where I encountered just about every nationality and ethnicity there is. I will never forget my encounter with a particularly rude tourist from Ukraine. The beach I worked at was notorious for big, exciting and incredibly dangerous waves. You had to have at least two years surfing experience before you ventured out, and there were frequent warnings echoing across the beach to warn mindless parents to keep their children at least 45 meters away from the shoreline. I was stationed along the end of that beach where the waves were not as rough, but still required close supervision and decent experience in swimming.

The Ukrainian man wasn’t particularly overweight, but he was definitely a big man and behaved rather strangely. He stumbled around the beach and frightened young mothers who often asked me and my colleague if we could remove him. Since he was not an immediate threat, unfortunately, we could not. We then noticed him staggering towards the waves with a surfboard. Immediately I went after him to suggest staying on the beach. His condition was not one that made it suitable for such rough waves. He began to yell in very broken English about “a woman’s place” and “ignorant little girls” and how he was the “best swimmer in Ukraine.” And that I should very well “f*** off” and stop embarrassing him.

I did as he wished and went back to my tower where I told my colleague everything. Then we waited. Sure enough, we saw the Ukrainian man struggling against the tide and beginning to flail as if he was drowning. Immediately, leaving my colleague to keep watch, I hopped on one of the jet skis reserved for us and went after him. When I reached him, he immediately grabbed my leg and pulled me off the jet ski into the water. The man pushed my head down to keep himself afloat whilst screaming for someone to save him.

When I managed to get free, I used one arm to tether myself to the jet ski and punched this man square in the face with my other hand. During his moment of shock, I gently maneuvered his head so it slammed into the side of the jet ski. He lost consciousness and I was finally able to sling him on the jet ski and ride back to shore. We went through the usual procedure of calling an ambulance and performing CPR and the man was revived and, to my knowledge, completely fine. He did attempt to sue me for assaulting him and for destroying his pride and public humiliation. Thank god for Good Samaritan Laws.

It was a horrific ordeal and while it was the most satisfying thing in the world to punch him in the face (so I could save his life, of course!) I seriously considered quitting my job that week. But then I got a visit from a little boy named Andriy just a few days later. He was maybe 6 years old, and he was the son of the Ukrainian man I saved. He gave me a metal ring with designs etched onto it. He told me it was a magic ring that protects whoever wears it. His mother clarified that it was a ring Andriy’s grandfather had given to him. The grandfather got it from an elderly Scandinavian man during World War II after he rescued him from a collapsed building. It had been passed down for generations as a sort of protection charm. Of course, I immediately refused such a priceless gift, but they insisted I take it for saving his father’s life.

I still have the ring, I’ve gotten it cleaned and strung it through a necklace. It’s here with me in Prague and I always have it on me, whether in my backpack or around my neck. Andriy gave me something else that day. He had drawn a picture with the title “Thank you for saving my dad.” And the drawing showed just that: in it I was saving his father from big waves. But what made my eyes mist up every time I looked at the picture, was that Andriy had given me a halo and angel wings.”