It's Saturday morning, another insanely busy weekend is about to start, which means that fifty thousand passengers will pass through the Port of Split with one man to see them come and go. The locals know him very well, as well as their regular guests, and there is surely no Croatian household that hasn't seen, at least once, the thin and agile, grey-haired and tanned man from Šibenik who knows every single detail there is to know about the ferries and their schedules. Tportal spoke to Mr Mrvica.
Ante Mrvica (65) earned a lot of nicknames in his long career; most commonly he is referred to as 'the good spirit of the Port of Split ', although it fails to describe the vast array of his skills. Officially, he is the 'Jadrolinija coordinator for the Split area', but, in reality, he is in charge of the entire city port.
From four o'clock in the morning until about midnight, day in, day out, Mr Mrvica knows the exact schedule for each ferry, he can anticipate the crowds, announce the next about non-scheduled lines, and he has grown to know the profile of tourists so well that he knows who is going where just by looking at them.
His phone is always on, but he never spends more than ten seconds talking to someone. He regulates, directs, intervenes and rescues. When an important Hajduk match is on, the islanders will ask him for a later departure. When there is trouble on Brač or Šolta, he will warn the entire chain of command. When the breaks of a bus carrying forty children from Vis stop working at Dugopolje, Mr Mrvica will order them to wait.
Well, the time has come: only two more weeks and Ante Mrvica will retire. You can tell that he hasn't taken it easy, but, rest assured, the port will have its symbol until the end of August. The man who knows the ropes.
"It's the law, what can you do," Mr Mrvica says. Even though it's forty degrees, he's not hot and he can readily tell you the years when it was hotter. The conversation is interrupted by passersby who recognize the real port authority even without the uniform.
"Sir, when does the Laslovo catamaran leave?" a woman from the central part of the country asks. "It's not Laslovo, it's Lastovo, ma'am. There it is, 'Judita,' but it'd be better to find some shade, it leaves in two hours," advises Mr Mrvica.
"The Bol catamaran? No, it doesn't leave at 4.30, it leaves at 4.45, you read the schedule wrong. If there aren't any tickets left, get the Supetar ferry and then take the bus to Bol," he explains to a young person from Zagreb. And it goes on and on.
It seems that he doesn't measure time as everyone else does, but he measures it based on ferry times - 'Supetar at eleven fifteen' or 'Stari Grad at eight thirty' are his points of reference.
Mrvica to be replaced by a machine from Rijeka?!
When Mr Ante Mrvica retires, there will be no one to replace him.
"It's true, my post will no longer exist. I do not know why or how, and I have no comment on it', Mr Mrvica is careful about expressing his opinion about the company in which he spent almost his entire working life. He has always been in the field - first, he worked for several years as a fleet inspector in the central and southern Adriatic, and then he spent more than two decades as its coordinator for the Split area. Only once, four years ago, he surprised everyone by applying for the position of Jadrolinija CEO.
"We all like to criticise others, but we have to wonder what we've done to change things. I applied so that my soul could be at ease," he explains.
Of course, he didn't get the job.
Behind this rugged, tanned face is a man who has dedicated his life to one thing - knowledge, ever since he and his family escaped the poverty of the island of Žirje and moved to Šibenik when he was eleven.
Mr Mrvica, Sailor, MS, PhD
"I boarded a ship and I celebrated my 18th birthday somewhere in the Atlantic, so I spent fifteen years sailing, and then I realized I had to invest in myself. First I went to Sailing School and then I joined the first generation of students at the Faculty of Maritime Studies I graduated from Engineering School, but I didn't want to wander aimlessly at sea, so I graduated from Naval School as well. I want to know everything and be able to do it all," our hero explains in his interview for tportal.
He did not stop there: he soon finished his graduate studies and got a PhD in logistics and management. In recent years, he has been teaching two courses at the Universities of Split and Zadar, and he plans to continue passing down his experience to new generations.
"Some people think it is smarter to spend money on commodities, cars, or mobile phones, but I have learnt that every kuna I spend on education was much more valuable. There is no greater satisfaction," Mr Mrvica says.
He could write a book about his adventures from the Port of Split, and all the thanks you notes and acknowledgements he got. There were times when he made the ferry to turn around because there was a pregnant woman or worker whose hand was injured, and he showed the way to numerous lost and confused tourists who were wandering around aimlessly.
"I always advise people from Zagreb to slow down, because if they leave Zagreb at 6 in the morning, there is no way they will catch the Vis ferry before 3 p.m. In case of bad weather, people from Brač will know in advance if their ferry will leave or not. If someone is late for the Korčula ferry, I draw an alternate route via Pelješac and let them decide for themselves," Mr Mrvica explains.
There were all kinds of situations: he recently approached a blind man with a walking stick and offered to help him, and the man was ecstatic."Is that you, Mr Mrvica?I recognized your voice, I hear it every day on the radio and it's very distinct," said the Zagreb citizen.A 70-year-old woman from Germany left Croatia with good memories as well.
A 70-year-old woman from Germany left Croatia with good memories as well.
"She had a ticket to Ancona, but there was a mishap on our side and she boarded the Supetar ferry. We offered to give her complimentary accommodation, but she wouldn't hear it: she wanted to sleep on the ferry. We found her a cabin and gave her meals, and she was so thrilled that she stayed there for two days! She travelled to Supetar and back twenty times! Understandably so, if you think of all the stunning Dalmatian men who took care of her," Mr Mrvica adds, laughing.
So, who will the islanders and Split residents call when these types of situations occur in September? We have no idea, but it certainly looks like the Port of Split will be dehumanised. Ante Mrvica will still be teaching at the universities, and in his free time, you will find him in his hometown of Žirje.
''I'll take care of my olives, catch calamari... It does sound like a lot of free time, but I'm going to adapt to it somehow," the good spirit of Jadrolinija concludes optimistically.
Article translated from tportal.