But things didn’t work out as planned for the 53-year-old. He lost his job at an Orlando-area hotel, went to New York City only to be robbed of everything he owned when he fell asleep at the bus station, and ended up living between homeless shelters and on the streets of Manhattan for more than a month.
All Jaroslav (whose last name is not known) wanted was to get home to the Czech Republic and see his family again.
And then he met members of the YouTube comedy group Whatever in Union Square Park in early November. They were out with Brandon Levithan, the owner of clothing company Thread Society, handing out sweatshirts, blankets and hats to the homeless to keep them warm through the winter. (They were inspired by similar Good Samaritan videos like the help-a-homeless-veteran time lapse and Whatever’s own “Giving a Homeless Man $3,000.”)
Though Jaroslav speaks no English, his story resonated with the filmmakers, who not only fed and clothed him, but also got him a haircut and shave, put him up in a hotel and, ultimately, bought him a plane ticket back to his home near Prague.
“When we ran into Jaroslav, we were just won over by his composure and the fact that he didn’t ask for anything,” Levithan told Yahoo News. “He was just stuck all alone. ... As the day went on and we bonded with him we just decided that we needed to get him home. So we looked into flights, and they were expensive, but we just decided that it was the right thing to do and we sent him home.”
It wasn’t cheap. According to Yahoo Travel, a last-minute, one-way ticket from New York to Prague, as was purchased for Jaroslav, costs at least $684, not to mention the costs associated with the hotel stay in New York, the new clothes and the $70 taxi ride out to the airport. The filmmakers also gave him $100 cash for incidentals before he boarded his flight.
“Even though I couldn’t relate to him, I kind of thought about his situation,” Levithan said. “Like, if I was stranded in any foreign country, how many people I could call to say ‘Please get me home.’ And it wouldn’t really matter what the cost was. But he just didn’t have any support system to get him home. He tried contacting his family but he couldn’t get home. And his own country wouldn’t help him.”
It wasn't the first time that Thread Society has been involved in a charitable project. The company also runs a buy-one-give-one program called Shirt for Shirt, in which new blankets, sweatshirts, winter hats and gloves are given to children in need after every purchase on the company's website.
The video of Jaroslav was recorded about two weeks ago. The filmmakers are still waiting for an update. Levithan promises a follow-up will be posted once they know how Jaroslav's story ends.