Logbook # 78: “This ship has the most precious cargo in the world: the lives of the people we rescue”

Logbook # 78: “This ship has the most precious cargo in the world: the lives of the people we rescue”

Dragos recently joined the SOS MEDITERRANEE Search and Rescue (SAR) Team on board of the Aquarius. Previously working as an engineer for a few years and as a reporter, especially in Egypt during the Arab Spring, he decided to become an active driver of change and join the Aquarius in the Central Mediterranean.

Dragos used to build bridges, in a previous life, in Romania where he was born, when he was still a civil engineer. Today he is a rescuer with SOS MEDITERRANEE on board the Aquarius, in the Central Mediterranean Sea, building different kind of bridges. “After high school I became a civil engineer and I was a project engineer for a couple of years” he says. “But soon after, I switched to journalism. I really had something to write, I wanted my voice to be heard”. Dragos has had indeed another life before becoming a rescuer. “I worked as a journalist for 12 years, I was mainly interested in foreign policy, I covered many stories, and I was a reporter in Egypt during the 2011 revolution.”

When Dragos first heard about SOS MEDITERRANEE from a friend of his, who was already part of the team on the Aquarius, he remained impressed. “I thought that it was amazing. As a journalist I try to always have my eyes open to have a clear view on what goes on in the world. What is happening here in the Mediterranean at the doors of Europe is something that cannot just be ignored.”

As a journalist, his first thought was to apply to come on board in order to report about the situation and write a story about it. He wanted to be a witness and to be the instrument through witch other people could understand the stories of despair that the rescued people carry with them. But coming from a family of seafarers in Costanza, as soon as he realized he could join the Aquarius as a rescuer, he changed his plan: his place was on the RHIB with the rest of the SAR team.

Sometimes when you hear about big humanitarian missions, and you don`t have that background, you think of it as something far away from normal life. That the people who are part of it are some sort of superheroes, and your normal you could never be part of it. And I do see it here, I work with people who have been in Iraqi hospitals or have started big humanitarian projects in Lesvos, but it all changes when you realize that they are just ordinary people who have decided to do something extraordinary, and to be the change. And that is what I want to be.”

There is a technique that seafarers use that is called splicing, which is the forming of a semi-permanent joint between different parts of different ropes by untwisting and then interweaving their ends, which is the perfect metaphor of life on the Aquarius.

What amazes me about the people on the Aquarius is that no matter how different we are, we all work in harmony because we are here for the same purpose. On the Aquarius you don’t just work with your muscles, you also work with your brain and with your heart. This ship has the most precious cargo in the world: the lives of the people we rescue. And all those who work here realize it. Even journalists, when they come here, they become part of the team and help.”

When discussing the importance of the role of NGOs in continuing their search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean after this summer, he said: “I will never forget the first time I saw a rubber boat. When I joined I knew I was going to save the lives of the people on rubber boats. I had imagined how that was going to go a hundred different times. But when you see it and those words are suddenly turned into reality everything becomes scary. You see their faces and tell yourself that if you weren’t here, these people would have died. You are their only chance and their only hope. Seeing this for the first time was the most powerful and haunting image I have ever seen. Thinking that not only are we giving them back hope, but that we are probably the first smile or kind word that they have received in months or years is just incredible.” For as long as there will be departures, our duty in the Central Mediterranean will remain the same. “If we didn’t do this, an incredible amount of people would have died and continue dying. The Mediterranean would be just a huge graveyard, and this would be a shameful page of European history.” And Dragos would rather be part of building bridges of humanity at sea onboard a rescue ship, than being a silent testimony of a huge humanitarian and moral crisis at the doors of Europe.

 ***

Interview and text : Isabella Trombetta
Photo : Anthony Jean