Sad news

Some of you might remember an older post entitled “4.1 miles”, (read it here),  about ‘The hero of the Aegean’, captain Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who risked his life nightly in Lesvos rescuing refugees arriving on the island in unseaworthy boats. I am sad to report that he has suddenly passed away of a heart attack, at the age of 44, leaving behind a wife and two children. 

A man who worked tirelessly for months on end to save thousands of lives was stuck down in the prime of life. I do not know his medical history, but I have no doubt the stress of those long nights, his despair when he failed to save everyone, the awfulness of dragging out bodies, many of whom were children, had something to do with his demise. 


Papadopoulos was of refugee stock himself, his family  having come from Nikomedia, Turkey, in 1922. His father was an ironmonger and he grew up in a working class neighborhood, joining the merchant marine for a few years before moving to the coastguard. Due to his work, he became the face of the Greek Coastguard, was awarded medals for his exploits, and starred in the multi-garlanded documentary 4.1 miles. However, he remained a simple man, never forgetting that lives were constantly in danger on his watch. 

Papadopoulos did not like to talk about his experiences, but others on his boat have described the unbearable scenes of saving people who were severely handicapped, having lost all their limbs to bombs, along with heavily pregnant women, and others who were very ill. 

It is so unfair and cruel that his family was robbed too soon of someone who had saved so many other lives. And worst of all, it appears his efforts were but a drop in the ocean of misery that is the refugee crisis.



Greece made the New York Times front page (October 12, 2018) with a photo entitled Epidemic of misery. It shows Afghan refugees at Camp Moria, on the island of Lesvos. I quote from the caption: ‘Trauma, psychosis and suicide attempts have become common at Moria, which has around 9,000 people living in a space designed for 3,100. There are 80 people for each shower, 70 per toilet.’

It beggars belief that our presumably civilized western society can tolerate this. Refugee camps have existed since ever, for example in Sudan, but there it was possible to turn a blind eye. This is at our feet. Most Europeans dream of a vacation in the Greek islands, and many go there each year. 

I have no doubt the Greek authorities are not managing the situation or the funds available in the best possible way. But this cannot be only the fault of the Greeks, nor can it be their sole responsibility. Everyone should be pulling together. I know individual people, from many different countries, are doing whatever they can—donating money and time, taking in people, some even upending their whole lives to go and help. I find, however, that the authorities, people in power, governments, call it what you will, have woefully mismanaged the whole issue. 

And that is just one camp. 


(Photos from Google).


40 thoughts on “Sad news”

  1. I remember him well from your post. What a sad thing to happen indeed. I agree with you that the constant stress and hard work of his task must have undoubtedly contributed to such an early death.
    I am sure he will be missed by many, not just his family.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Of all the many thousands of blog articles I’ve read, your story about Kyriakos Papadopoulos has remained one I recall with great detail. Not only for the spotlight on the tragedy of the refugees, but also because of the valor of this man. My condolences to his family for the loss of a truly great man. He will be missed but he will be remembered by thousands upon thousands for his humanity and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have no words. Tragedy upon tragedy…just too unfair that such a hero has been cruelly struck down in the prime of life. You are right: Greece should not be the only country to bear so much of the brunt of the refugee crisis. I cannot understand why there is so little concertation at EU level.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We humans don’t have the capacity to understand the tragedy of this magnitude – for the refugees, the wife and children, for Greece and the world. Both kindness, self-sacrifice as well as cruelty ripple energy that envelopes us all. Thank you for the post and the reminder that we all need to do something within our own capacity to make this a more compassionate world

    Liked by 2 people

  5. All of us are poorer because of his death. We need people who respond with care and humanity.
    The Australian Government has off shore detention centres that include children. There are horrific accounts of the mental states of these little people. The good news is that it is looking like a shift in society’s attitudes to moving these children out of the centres.So hopefully the government will stop the inhumane practice of incarcerating these people who only seek a better life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It felt ‘wrong’ to press on like, but I am pleased to thank you for bringing this to our attention. Sad indeed, I’m sure his family would like to know there are many strangers who want to give their tiny tribute to a courageous and special man. X


  7. What sad, shocking, news. A good man gone too soon. I remember your original post about Captain Papadopoulos well. I shared it to my Facebook – not something I often do with posts – because I wanted to help draw attention to the burden carried by those (too few) who do what they can to help.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. People here collect clothing, food, anything that might be useful, and send it in truckoads. But as you say, it’s a drop in the ocean and the governments are turning their backs. What you’re doing in bearing witness is also a drop in the ocean, but it matters. Keep us posted.

    I mourn with you the loss of this good person.

    Liked by 1 person

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