A man has been swimming and swimming and swimming… for more than 13 hours. He is exhausted. He keeps moving his arms and legs to stay afloat. He wears a life vest and keeps swimming. He is in half fainted state. He is a Syrian refugee.
A small group of young Greek holidaymakers is sailing around in the same area off the small island of Pserimos between Kalymnos and Kos in the Dodecanese. Dimitris Dellis, Sandra Tsiligkeridou and a friend sail careless and enjoy the sun and the sea, when they see the man.
“At first, we thought it was a diver and we passed him by carefully in order not to injure him. But then we saw that he was not wearing a divers’ mask. When the man saw us started to shout and wave his hands. Then we understood that he was a a castaway.”
“We approached him, I pulled him to the boat by the hand I was crying with sobs. We gave him first aid because he had hypothermia and alarmed the port authorities,” she added.
The name of the man is Mohamed. Together with another 39 Syrian refugees he had set sail from Turkey to Greece, to the island of Kos. 40 people on a small boat, two paddles.
Due to bad weather, the ‘sailors’ lost one of the paddles. Mohamed jumped into the sea to catch the paddle so that the boat can continue its route to Kos. But Mohamed was never able to get back on the boat. His travel companions barely managed to throw a life jacket to him. The waves and the strong currents dragged him away from the boat. For 13 hours, Mohamed was swimming and swimming and swimming to stay afloat.
“We rescued a man who was in the water for 13 hours, in half-fainted state. He had sacrificed himself to save his friends and we came across him in order to rescue him. Feeling blessed,” Sandra Tsiligkeridou wrote on her Facebook page and posted a picture and the short story of Mohamed’s rescue.
“I didn’t stop crying all the way to Kos,” she said and added that “at one point the man asked me ‘why are you crying’ and I told him ‘For you! I am from Pontos*. I have the refugees’ pain in my DNA.”
Upon arrival in Kos, his companions informed the port authorities about missing Mohamed. A search and rescue operation that lasted for 5 hours ended fruitless.
*Pontus Greeks, genocide and refugees in 1922-1923.