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Lampedusa: Gateway to Europe; Dr. Pietro Bartolo

Dr. Pietro Bartolo has worked with refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa for the last twenty-five years.  In this book he  narrates their stories – alongside his own.   It is a harrowing narrative of “man’s inhumanity to man”[i]  juxtaposed with man’s ability to share compassion and kindness with each other in the face of adversity.  It can be a harrowing read.  We hear about the mother whose unborn child died at 36 weeks gestation as a result of the stress of the journey; the father who had to choose which child to save when the boat capsized; the brother who carried his paralysed brother on his back from Syria.

Dr. Pietro Bartolo has worked with refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa for the last twenty-five years.  In this book he narrates their stories – alongside his own.   It is a harrowing narrative of “man’s inhumanity to man”[i]  juxtaposed with man’s ability to share compassion and kindness with each other in the face of adversity.  It can be a harrowing read.  We hear about the mother whose unborn child died at 36 weeks gestation as a result of the stress of the journey; the father who had to choose which child to save when the boat capsized; the brother who carried his paralysed brother on his back from Syria.

Bartolo entwines the narrative against his own life.  An ordinary life with the trials and tribulations that most people in Europe have come to expect as normal.  His adoration for his father, his love for his mother, the joy of meeting his wife are just some of the experiences that sit alongside the wretchedness and despair that Lampedusans see arrive on their shore on a daily basis.  Many of the island’s fisherman have found themselves in Court because of their unwillingness to leave other humans adrift because Italian law dictates they should.

With quiet dignity Bartolo uses literature to convey the truth of the migrant crisis’ [or humanitarian crisis, depending on your viewpoint] as tales of pain and hope, stories of those who didn’t make it and those who did. Lampedusa is an intimate portrait of a remarkable man whose inspiring message rings clear: “We can’t and we won’t be governed by our fears.”  Bartolo’s belief in his God is unshaken by the reasons for his work and his explanation for this is just so simple and eloquent that it would be hard to argue against his standpoint.

“An urgent, wrenching dispatch from the frontline of the defining crisis of our times . . . Bartolo is at once the saviour and the coroner to boatload after boatload of migrants who risk everything to cross the deadly seas. It is also a damning indictment of the broader, collective indifference of humankind to both the drowned and the saved”. (Philip Gourevitch)

 

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Language: English

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[i] “Man’s inhumanity to man” is taken from the Robert Burns poem Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge (1784) and so for fluidity I maintain the use of the word man.  The intention for this is dramatic licence and is not intended to preclude women or offend equality.