Kyr­i­akos Pa­padopou­los’s fear

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

At one point in “4.1 Miles,” a doc­u­men­tary on the ef­forts by the crew of a Hel­lenic Coast Guard boat to save peo­ple on a sink­ing dinghy in the stormy strait be­tween Turkey and the is­land of Lesvos in the mid­dle of the refugee cri­sis of 2015, the cam­era fo­cuses on the face of the boat’s com­man­der. He is si­lent, his eyes sad. Af­ter all the shout­ing and the ten­sion of the res­cue, af­ter the board­ing of panic-stricken, soak­ing peo­ple, af­ter his own anx­ious ef­forts to give the kiss of life to an un­con­scious child, as he heads back to port, Lieu­tenant Kyr­i­akos Pa­padopou­los seems to be think­ing that noth­ing is enough; that what­ever he and his crew and all those who were tak­ing part in the res­cue of refugees and mi­grants could do, lives would be lost. “It’s a night­mare. This agony… Ev­ery­where we went, there were peo­ple in the wa­ter,” he says at the end. “And I hope that there is no one miss­ing.” In 2015, some 850,000 peo­ple crossed the sea to Greece, with an es­ti­mated 805 deaths, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion. Pa­padopou­los reck­oned that he had taken part in the res­cue of about 5,000. His ef­forts, along with those of his crew, were recorded by Daphne Matziaraki in her Os­car-nom­i­nated short doc­u­men­tary (4.1 miles is the breadth of the strait be­tween Turkey and Lesvos) for The New York Times. This small group rep­re­sented the strug­gle of other mem­bers of the Hel­lenic Coast Guard and other se­cu­rity ser­vices, of fish­er­men and other res­i­dents of the is­lands, of the NGOs and vol­un­teers from Greece and the rest of the world. Pa­padopou­los, with his great em­pa­thy, his strong phys­i­cal pres­ence and gen­tle words, his pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ded­i­ca­tion that went be­yond the call of duty, be­came a sym­bol of all that is best in what the Greeks have to of­fer. His was the face of sol­i­dar­ity, of re­spon­si­bil­ity, of the un­der­stand­ing that we all have the right to life, to se­cu­rity, to hope. How many chil­dren and grand­chil­dren who are not yet born will know that they owe their be­ing to Pa­padopou­los and the other men and women like him? Will they know of the Greek of­fi­cer’s sor­row for the lives that were lost in the “peace­ful wa­ters of Greece,” as he called them? Will they learn that this man died at the age of 44 on Tues­day, leav­ing be­hind a wife and two chil­dren? And we, who bow our heads in re­spect, how can we feel pride for those who bring honor on us while ig­nor­ing the things that con­cerned them? How can we tol­er­ate the wretched “re­cep­tion cen­ters” at Mo­ria and else­where? Kyr­i­akos Pa­padopou­los was afraid lest even one per­son be lost at sea. When so many are lost on land, do we worry?

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