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I saw my son in each of them

by Costantino Baratta

Costantino Baratta at the Garden of the Righteous of Milan

Costantino Baratta at the Garden of the Righteous of Milan

Following we report the remarks delivered by Costantino Baratta during the ceremony of 14 March at the Garden of the Righteous of Milan, in which he was honoured for rescuing 12 Eritreans by wrenching them from the sea during the terrible shipwreck in Lampedusa of 3 October 2013.

Good morning everybody,

I have lived in Lampedusa for 30 years. It is an island, pearl of the Mediterranean, which has always been a symbol of acceptance and hospitality for those who came by the sea, and in this piece of land see landing and hope.

I am really moved and honoured for being a part of the Garden of the Righteous and being symbolically a branch of this tree.

I would like to tell you anyway that I would do again what I did, together with my friend Onder, on that dawn of 3 October 2013. That experience still lives inside me... I still remember those young people's stares, their hands lifted seeking help... while we were still in order to help them, many of them, who were still in the water stared at us in awe. I understood they were scared we would leave them in the deep sea. I then tried to calm them down, saying: “Be quiet, we are taking you all, we are not going to leave anyone behind”.

Helping my neighbour, I should say my brother, in distress, is part of me. I have a son, whom I adore, and I see him in every young boy. I can say that all the eleven boys and the girl have given me much. Nothing material... but they have enriched me… even just a smile can suffice to fill one's heart with joy and inner peace.

Many years have gone by and I have kept in touch with some of them. We still talk to each other via Messenger. Robel already has a son, whose name is Nathan, and so has Adamon. We are happy because, after such suffering, they have eventually find their way.

We will never forget them. To my wife and me they belong to our family. Also Luwam, who in September came for the wedding of my son Francesco, who is like a brother to her. Luwam is the only girl that I rescued, we were about leaving them at sea because they had told us to think also of those who were alive... We thought she was dead, but she had the strength to raise her hand and say with a whisper of voice help me, help me”…

Tadesse, instead, a tall guy of 1.90 cm, I hoisted him by taking from the belt of his blue jeans when he laid face down in the sea and seemed as already dead. I do not know where I found the strength to lift him...

Our greatest wish would be to get to Sweden one day to go and see them. Our fiercest regret is instead not to have gone out earlier that morning, as we usually did, at about 6, not 7. We would have saved twice as many

I am really honoured about your honours. And I am also glad you decided to honour Vito Fiorino, too, who on that day was close to us in the sea and shouted at me: “Go ahead with your boat, which is speedier, in the meanwhile I go on here...” The world would need many more Righteous people, people eager to lend a hand... it costs nothing to help those in need.

Thanks a lot

Costantino Baratta

Analysis by Costantino Baratta

14 March 2018

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