Goodbye, Vlad

By Johna Till Johnson

I’m terribly sorry to have to report that my best friend, paddle partner, husband, and love, Vladimir Brezina, died  Tuesday, December 13, at 7:20 PM, after surviving for 2.5 years with cancer.

My heart breaks, and a light has gone out in the world. But I have vowed to embody Vlad’s spirit of generosity, love of adventure and exploration, and appreciation of beauty in all forms. It will never be the same without him, but what he gave to the world will live on.

I plan to post a proper obituary in the days (maybe weeks) to come. And I plan to continue WindAgainstCurrent, but alas the quality of the photography will never be the same, as I don’t have Vlad’s brilliant eye and editing patience.

vlad-smiling-with-paddles-and-bridge-cropped

Vladimir Brezina 6/1/58-12/13/16

135 responses to “Goodbye, Vlad

  1. So very sorry for your loss, Johna. Sending huge hugs your way…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Johna, as all of your friends and followers, I am so sorry about the loss of your wonderful husband and friend. I wish the best for you in this time of great change in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are in my thoughts. Vlad truly had a gift. I truly appreciate that you both shared your gifts with us so that we could share in your adventures. He will be missed by many-of course, that means he touched and inspired many too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh! dear Johna! Stay strong with all the love you both shared. Dear God! May the soul of beloved Vladimir, Rest in Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss… Please accept my heartfelt sympathies.
    Ciao Vlad :-(

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Incredibly sad news. Keep strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Johna, Jeanie and I are so sorry, shocked and saddened by your loss. We felt we really knew Vlad even tho we only met you both to share a paddle once. We shared Vlad’s excitement and passion. He saw, understood and shared your experiences in an Extraordinarily personal way. He “invited” us to paddle around Manhattan with your posts. It is and will remain one of our favorite paddling memories. We expected to share more…. Vlad will be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am so very sorry for your loss. I followed your paddling adventures with much pleasure and always so admired the energy, skill and enthusiasm for life you both showed. I wish you all the comfort and space to grieve you need in the times to come.Nga Mihi Nui — my best wishes, Su.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Johna, I am so sorry to hear this news. I did not know even know of this blog until today. By chance I was searching this morning for a specific neuroscience paper of Vlad’s that I thought would help me frame a new research project. I always enjoyed the times that I was able to talk with Vlad at conferences. He was so kind and generous with his time and ideas, such a gracious, brilliant man. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have always enjoyed reading your blog and am so sorry to read of your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh Johna, I’m so, so sorry. Sitting here in tears. Vlad was the very first person I got to know when I started blogging back when I was living in New York. Although we never met in person, I feel like I got to know him and through him, you, over the years. Real candles on your Christmas tree, your amaryllis in full bloom, and of course your amazing kayak adventures. I shall miss his poetic eye for beauty so very much. Sending you love and light and my deepest condolences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ailsa–thank you so much. I am going back through our email exchanges (all I have left, except for photos, and this blog) and so many times a reference to you and your blog crops up. I think he truly loved the work you do. Thank you for posting this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I felt we were kindred spirits somehow, Johna – there were many times I took photos in Central Park and posted them, then popped over to your blog to see that Vlad had been there taking photos at the same time. We probably passed each other many times on our photo travels. I’m going to send you my contact details via your contact form, perhaps when we find ourselves in the same part of the world we can meet. Holding you close in my thoughts and heart.

        Like

  12. Don’t worry about the photos, Johna. They will be your photos, and your tribute, and we will see things through your eyes, and know that Vlad will be cheering you on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks, Tish, deeply appreciated. I do feel he’s guiding me. I picked my favorite photo of him for the Facebook notification, and found myself unable to use it without a little tweaking and twiddling–mostly playing with different crops.

      I swear it was his spirit egging me on. The final version came out quite well, captured all the feelings that photo inspired in me–and just knowing to think about “how it makes you feel” and translate that into an image comes from Vlad.

      Images were always his first language, as words are mine. But he ended up speaking and writing fluently in 5-6 languages… I can pick up some visual skills!

      Thank you again for the encouragement.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. So very sad to hear about your loss…I’m just a long distance admirer of your blog but I still feel the pinge in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. So very sorry to hear of your loss. I appreciated the visits to my blogs from you both. Vlad will be sorely missed in the blogging community, and I send you my heartfelt condolences.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am so very sorry for your loss Johna. I send you my heartfelt sympathy at this difficult time. Vladimir’s memory lives on through his unforgettable work which as you can see touched so many of us. My thoughts are with you from across the blogosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’ve always admired how the two of you had so many great journeys together. My condolences for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

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  19. Heartfelt sympathy on your loss. I enjoyed the post and looked forward to the journeys.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am so sorry for your loss Johna.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Johna,
    I’m so deeply sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with you. I’ve never had the pleasure to meet Vlad in person, but in the postings he had become a kind of a familiar person. He’ll be missed.
    Take care, and may your Christmas still be a good one,
    Pit

    Liked by 1 person

  22. From what I read and saw of Vlad from his photos and this blog, he was a shining light. Really makes me remember and pause to think how precious and precarious our lives are. Condolences to you Johna.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This is very tough to hear, double tough this time of year . Your escapades throughout Gotham with Vlad inspired Me to take on My own kayaking adventures around the city and for that I’m indebted to you both . Please keep the blog alive . My sincere condolences …

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Johna – thanks for letting us know. I haven’t been around the blog much lately, so I’m glad I caught this. I will always appreciate the friendship both of you extended to me and the kind comments (and teasing) back and forth.

    He truly was your soulmate. You’ve had so many adventures together! He will be missed.

    Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  25. You know my feelings and I can repeat them as many times as you need. You’re not alone and one of Vlad’s many kind gifts to others was to share you with those in his world. Danushi and I are grateful to have you in our lives.

    HarborLAB will honor him and we will post about his loss when you’re ready to write more.

    Personally, I never knew of his particular love of Christmas trees. I will think of him this Christmas before the wonder of each.

    Love,

    Erik

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I am saddened to learn of the news. Please know I have missed the posts and have been thinking of him and wondering. I am sad to learn of his passing. I am thankful that I have been able to read many of his posts and learn of his adventures – I have been inspired by his adventurous spirit. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. So sad, so sad. His beautiful, beautiful photos will be sorely missed. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and I hope you can find solace at some time in the future when you browse his elegant and poetic record of your kayaking adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I don’t think I met Vlad in person, but through his excellent photography and your posts here I feel like I knew him. I’m so sorry for your loss and for the loss of this great voice for the waters of NYC.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Johna, so sorry for your loss. I looked up to Vlad as a teacher and an inspiration as I paddled around NY Harbor in my own Feathercraft.
    Even though I never met him, he gave me invaluable kayak lessons and tips just by posting to Wind Against Current. With his amazing photos and trip reports he inspired me to seek out new places to paddle and explore around the Harbor. I always hoped I would run into the two of you out on the water one day just to thank you both. He will be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Dear Johna,
    I am so sorry to be reading this news. My deepest condolences to you.
    I can still recall when I first met Vlad online discussing a long kayak trip. You were both such a huge help to me when I paddled down the Hudson from Canada. If there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Sincerely,
    Larry Jensen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you so much, Larry! And I will totally take you up on your offer–because I’d like to do the “Hudson from Canada” trip as well myself (you may recall, I accompanied Vlad only from Albany). So I will totally be back in touch when I’m ready to do that trip (well, hopefully long before) to pick your brains and experience.

      Thanks for writing. Vlad was consistently touched and amazed by how many lives he touched with our blog. It was my idea originally, but he put in the consistent energy and focus to keep it going–a mantle I shall now proudly take up!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I am so sorry for your loss, Johna. How sad! I knew Vlad the adventurer only from your blog but had the privilege of working with him when he was a graduate student at UCLA. Even though we did not see each other very often since that time it was always a treat to be with Vlad. He was probably the smartest, unpretentious and deeply humorous person I ever knew. He will be dearly missed,
    Christian

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Johna, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve known you and Vlad only through blogging, but have loved your adventures, your thoughts, your love of being with each other that is clear in every post. You had a rare and special partnership. I wish you love and light and hope you’ll keep paddling with Vlad in your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I am so sorry to hear this terrible news. I have been following your adventures with joy for years and I — and the whole community — will miss him very much. My deepest sympathies to you and your entire family.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. As someone who enjoys your blog and your spirit from rather far away, I am very sorry for your loss and want to give my warmest condolences! Whatever comes now, I wish you manage to keep up the great spirit I have come to appreciate here! (whether or not you keep up this blog)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Klaas–thank you. The plan is to continue. I have several of Vlad’s drafts to post. and anticipate new adventures forthcoming. The photography, alas, will never be the same. But I shall do my best!! Thanks for following.

      Like

  35. How very lucky you are: To have been able to enjoy the companionship of a loved one while doing something together that many of us can only wish we were able to accomplish, and in so doing also bringing a great deal of joy and learning into our world. Only a fortunate few of us will ever be able to be remembered in that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks Louis. Right now it is hard to think of myself as “lucky” given what I’ve lost. But intellectually, I agree with you….

      Like

  36. Shocked and sorry, Johna. I have emailed, alas, same news of The Hub and Touch to Touch. My heart and thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Oh Johna I’m so sorry to hear this and for your loss!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Johna, I’m so sorry – I had no idea Vlad had cancer. I can’t imagine how difficult it is, and will be, for you. It’s been a tough year, incredibly hard for you I think, and my hope is that going forward, somewhere inside you’ll find a tiny spark of will that will move you to continue creating. In creativity and hopefully in kayaking, being outdoors and in friends, you’ll find the connection you need. Take care, Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      He didn’t want people to know, for whatever reason. I think he preferred having people remember him as the indomitable force of nature he truly was–which is how I remember him. Agree with what you’ve said, and have some confidence that your hope will come true. Thanks, Lynn!

      Like

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  40. Johna, I am so sorry to hear about Vlad. Your blog was one of the first I ever followed and your adventures always made me smile. And you both had such kind words for me always. Vlad had a unique way of seeing the world and responding to it, in both photos and in words – his “voice” came through so clearly. You will both be in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope that the joyful times will be what you remember most. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. I have no words, Johna. So very sorry for your loss. Wishing you the warmth of your memories on these cold winter days. Thank you for all that you and Vlad gave to this community ovee the years. Best, Babsje

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Such a wonderful person he was. He will be missed. Very sad and my heart is with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. So sorry for you loss. All my condolences :(

    Liked by 1 person

  44. You have my deepest sympathy. I lost my son to cancer. My heart goes out to you. I always followed Vlad’s stories online. Loved them! I was wondering why I didn’t see anything anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Heike, there are no words to express the loss of a child! All losses are painful, but a child, particularly so.

      There will be more stories. Vlad may not be there in life, but he will definitely be there in spirit. Stand by…

      Like

  45. Somber reflection, softened by reminiscence of the delightful paddle we shared, splendidly described in Boundary Conditions. A striking photo, “Late lunch with friends old and new,” brilliant impromptu composition even by Vlad’s standards, depicts six paddlers & seven boats on Middle Ground Flats, joined by a shadow edging into this goodly frame.

    Lordly men are to earth o’ergiven…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ah Michael… I can always trust you to come up with the poetry! I have a long-ish story for you about Vlad and Yeats… another day!

      Like

  46. My deepest sympathy Johna I had lost touch with your blog in recent times but it was a joy to catch up – Vlad was a regular visitor to my blog – your paddling together and how you blogged about it inspired me. When I came across the blog with you as the solo author – a shiver went down my spine and I dont no you guys either on a personal level nor have we met except in this virtual reality. I wish you the very best at this difficult time….

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Johna, I feared the reasons for the quiet blog were less than happy ones. Vlad had a wonderful eye and insights into our surrounding world. How wonderful you not only have your independent memory but a treasure of preserved images and stories in this blog to remember him by. I am so sorry to hear this news.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Kat, thanks for the kind words. Yes, unfortunately when a formerly prolific blog poster goes quiet, there are good reasons to fear the worst. Nothing can replace Vlad, but I have vowed to live out his legacy… so expect more in weeks and months to come from Wind Against Current! Thanks again for posting….

      Liked by 1 person

  48. Johna, I am just now getting the news. Like so many others who have followed Wind Against Current with you, I am heartbroken. Life has pulled me away from blogging for the time being and I haven’t been visiting WP much.
    You were always my first stop and always will be. Vlad did have an incredible gift for photography and writing and his posts always captivated me. You two pulled me in with your adventures and no matter where you went it seemed you guys were enjoying every moment. I could live vicariously through each post.
    May his spirit always be with you.
    If you are ever interested in paddling the Finger Lakes let me know, I would be thrilled to meet you in person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks Mountain Gypsy ! I am so sorry it’s taken me many months to respond. It has been a tough year, and continues to be. Thank you for your post, and the kind invitation to Finger Lakes!
      I may yet take you up on it.

      Like

  49. I am so sorry to hear this news many months after his death. I was in NYC last week and was thinking of contacting him to get together; searching the web for contact info, I came across this post. Clearly, I was too late….

    I took the Neurobiology summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA with Vlad back in 1985, and I would run into him at scientific meetings where his quiet, wry sense of humor and his acute observations would always shine in comparison to the others who were oh, so serious. We’d met once or twice for a beer in NYC when I happened to be in town, but my most memorable time with Vlad was back in the summer of 2001 when we were both attending the Neuroethology Congress in Bonn. It was the final afternoon of the meeting, I think, and there was a plenary talk by a senior scientist on some grand topic like “Neuroethology of Human Behavior.” Vlad and I looked at the topic and at eachother and promptly went down to the banks of the Rhine to a Bierstube where there were outside seating, plentiful Koelsch beer, and wurst and schnitzel. We spent a wonderful late afternoon and evening in that midsummer northern European sun, watching the barges going up and down the river, drinking beer, eating, and chatting about nothing in particular. About two hours later, some friends came down to the river after the interminable talk, passing by our table. We asked “How was the talk?” to which the reply was uniformly “Terrible!” at which we “high-fived” each other and ordered another round of beers.

    I’m so glad that I knew Vlad, but I’m also sad that I didn’t know him better. The world is a better place for his having been here, but I also share in your deep and abiding loss. My deepest condolences, Johna.

    Liked by 1 person

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