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“I learned that I was among the lucky ones on this planet”


Lisa is currently onboard Ocean Viking on her second search and rescue mission at sea. She is a 28-year-old Italian seafarer who decided to join SOS MEDITERRANEE in the beginning of the year, to understand better the situation in the central Mediterranean.

“In my first mission last April, I heard with crude details what people trapped in Libya are facing. We can read a little about it in the media, but hearing it first-hand had a very different impact on me. I’ve heard so many people describing how they had endured all sorts of abuse and violence. I learned that I was among the lucky ones on this planet.”

Before joining SOS MEDITERRANEE, Lisa travelled the world for nine years, from Australia to South America, eager to see the world and learn on the way. “When I finished high school at 19 years old, I decided to travel for a year to see different places and meet with different cultures. I loved backpacking so much that I’ve not stopped doing it and until today I don’t feel the need to settle down. I would feel like I am missing too much out of the world”, she smiles. On the road, Lisa has been doing all sorts of jobs, from farming to seafaring. “I started working on sailing boats four years ago. And one day I met an SOS MEDITERRANEE rescuer. When she told me I had useful skills to be part of a rescue team onboard SAR NGO ships, I immediately applied.”

Lisa now knows that, at the time, she had no understanding of the hardship teams onboard SAR NGO ships may face in the central Mediterranean. On April 22, she and her team onboard Ocean Viking witnessed the consequences of a tragic shipwreck that claimed up to 130 lives. “I think that I managed to overcome the trauma because I can talk about it now, but the feeling of anger and frustration remains and will probably never leave me. It’s not a shocking photography I’ve seen on a website that I can forget. I saw a raw, ruthless part of humankind with no filter. It opened my eyes. After seeing this, you cannot go back and ignore the situation anymore.”

During that mission, the team also rescued 236 people. “I think that I saw the worse and the best in one mission. Rescuing people in distress contributed to bringing some hope and strength back. As I am Italian, a survivor asked me to teach him a few words. Eventually, I ended up teaching to all those interested on the deck, while awaiting authorisation to disembark in a place of safety. I remember laughs and smiles. It was such great moments.” Caring for survivors onboard the Ocean Viking, listening to them, also taught her a lot. “Immigration is an important political topic in Italy, particularly in Sicily. Every day, we read and watch TV programs and newspapers talking about so-called “migrants invading the country – while the numbers are very low in comparison of the population in Italy or Europe. We hear and see a lot of hate and discrimination. Having met and spoken with women, children and men who took the risk to die at sea, learning to know their plight, I feel that I understand better the situation.”

As she is preparing to leave for her second mission at sea, Lisa remains prudent when it comes to her involvement in such lifesaving operations. “I don’t know how long I can keep doing it. I don’t want to end up feeling always angry and hopeless but as long as European members states fail their obligation to render assistance at sea and as long as I feel that I can contribute to save lives at sea, I will be there.”

Portrait der Seenotretterin Lisa

Credits: Flavio Gasperini/ SOS MEDITERRANEE