Man lost in Sao Paulo airport for 18 days

Posted on July 11, 2011

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Robert Wladyslaw Parzelski 44, played the real life Viktor Navorski from Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal when he lived at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos airport for 18 days.

Parzelski arrived at Sao Paulo on June 17th on British Airways; he slipped through customs and waited for a friend who never came.

A car electrician from London Parzelski was unable to communicate with anyone, except when he was asked about his wellbeing he said “I am Poland.”

Airport cleaners who befriended him and named him “the German” provided him regularly with water, yogurt and cigarettes. Two empty vodka bottles and a makeshift toilet were found on airport property. Usually clean shaven, Parzelski now keeps a beard.

A few days into this stranger’s airport stay, local newspaper the Folha de São Paulo started investigating to find out his story. Since the airport officials showed no interest in him, the reporters contacted a 70 year old Polish doctor from Sao Paulo to communicate with Parzelski to get to the bottom of his strange arrival.

On talking to the lost man, it was discovered that he was a father of 5 from Krakow who had moved to London with his family hoping to work as a builder. When the economic crisis hit he had lost his sole income that is when a Polish friend from London proposed the Brazil trip with a one-way ticket, wherein he had to meet someone collect two telephone sets and return home for a small amount of money. When Parzelski arrived he waited for the person who never came, with no money and no ticket back home, he set up home on a concrete bench inside the airport.

The Polish Embassy in Sao Paulo was finally called in when no one could understand the reason behind ordering two Brazilian telephone sets from London.

With the case still unsolved, Parzelski was given a ticket back home on Swiss Air via Zurich. Before embarking he was seen enjoying Ale at the airport lounge bar, on July 5th the lost tourist finally left Brazil with a weary smile and a wave.

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