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11 October
2015

Lampedusa: Meeting with dr Pietro Bartolo

The meeting with doctor Pietro Bartolo, who cared for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees on the Italian island Lampedusa will take place on the 15th of October at 1:30 PM in De Revolutionibus bookstore (Bracka 44). The interview will be conducted by Jarosław Mikołajewski, author of Wielki przypływ [The Great Influx], where the fascinating interview with the heroic doctor can be found among other reports from the island. During the meeting, the guests will talk about their experiences, life on Lampedusa and the humanitarian crisis connected with the issue of refugees, which already involves the entire Europe. They will ask important questions about the responsibility of the inhabitants of Central Europe for the fate of thousands of people running away from war and famine, looking for freedom and safety.

Pietro Bartolo is currently in Krakow to participate in the International Conference “The Return of the Fallen Empires”, and the accompanying event – the 12th edition of the Polish Prize of Sergio Vieira de Mello, organised by The Villa Decius Association.

Because when I’m talking, everything hurts. Badly. And I agreed to talk only because I want someone to hear my words, otherwise we are wasting our time. I’m talking to you because I want you to tell people what happens here, on the Mediterranean Sea, and thus, make a change.

– P. Bartolo, from J. Mikołajewski Doctor Bartolo Welcomes You to a Better World

The City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, the Villa Decius Association, the Consulate of Italy in Krakow and the Italian Institute of Culture in Krakow are partners of this event.

Lampedusa – a silent witness of dramatic events

Passage through the Mediterranean Sea on a primitive rafts, overloaded past its limits does not always end well. The refugees, often at the mercy of the smugglers, arrive at Lampedusa dehydrated, hypothermic, often burned. Pietro Bartolo, a local doctor, witnessed some of the most dramatic moments of the humanitarian crisis. He had to care for hundreds of thousands immigrants who required help. Bartolo saw the faces of people he could not save. Mikołajewski talked with him at Lampedusa, and because of that he could look at the events on the island from a particular perspective – perspective of a man, fighting for dignity of people who flee from terror to the world, which often does not want to accept them.

According to TripAdvisor – the biggest tourist portal in the world – the most beautiful beaches in Europe are there, on Lampedusa. It is a small Mediterranean island, located only 100 kilometres from the African shores, with an area of only 20.2 km2. The turquoise water, white sand and idyllic sights do not, however, attract crowds of tourists any more. Over the last few years, Lampedusa has become a symbol of the desperate efforts of immigrants who want to get to Europe, as well as the place where the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe is taking place. The influx of refugees and fugitives, primarily from Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Mali, Nigeria and other countries of Sub-Saharan Africa is beyond the capacities of Lampedusa and the six thousand people who live there. Europe either does not comprehend the true scale of this problem, or knowingly distances itself from it. Given that background, the efforts of Jarosław Mikołajewski – a reporter, poet and a translator – are extraordinary. He gathered his experiences from the island, giving voice primarily to the inhabitants, who need to find themselves in the new reality. His newest book, Wielki przypływ [The Great Influx] is a shocking reportage from the borderlands of Europe.

I’m reading [Mikołajewski’s] story from Lampedusa. It is the best, the most prominent proof that reportage may also be poetry…

– Michał Nogaś

Krakow – City of Literature, City of Refuge

The event will take place as a part of the Krakow – UNESCO City of Literature programme. The efforts to sensitize people about the human rights, freedom of speech and expression are an important part of the City of Literature strategy. For six years, the Villa Decius Association, the City of Krakow and the Krakow Festival Office have been carrying out the protection program for the writers who are persecuted for their beliefs, known as ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network).

The International Cities of Refuge Network offers refuge to the writers and defenders of human rights who cannot live and create in their own country because of the persecution. It was created in 2006 in Norway. The goal of ICORN is to promote the inalienable values of the freedom of speech and expression by building a network of international solidarity and cooperation. During 10 years of the network’s operation, the participating cities offered a temporary refuge for hundreds of writers, intellectuals, bloggers and human rights activists. ICORN coordinates the Shelter City initiative, and is an important organisation, cooperating with the governments, European Commission, the UN, UNHCR, and the International PEN Club, fighting for human rights and the implementation of protective policies for the authors who are persecuted due to their activity.

ICORN is a dynamic network of over 50 cities, and its activity is one of the strongest voices in defence of the freedom of convictions and speech, as well as international solidarity. Since 2006, 130 writers and artists found shelter in the ICORN network cities.

In 2011, Krakow joined the International Cities of Refuge Network, by virtue of the Resolution No. XVI/171/11 of the City Council of Krakow adopted on the 25th of May 2011. Since that day, Krakow hosted four writers as a part of the residency programs: Marie Amelie (Madina Salamova, Northern Ossetia / currently in Norway), Kareema Amera (Egypt / currently in Norway), Mostafa Zamani Nia (Iran), Lâvon Barščèŭskì (Belarus) and Aslı Erdoğan (Turkey), currently in Krakow on a scholarship. City of Krakow, Krakow Festival Office and the Villa Decius Association are responsible for the organisation of the International Cities of Refuge Network in Krakow, the latter is responsible for the grants and provides care and a place for creative work.