If it is a man - By Emanuele Politi

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi (1947)

This poem has been learnt by heart in school generation after generation. By shaking the bored mind of millions of Italian students, each of these words reminded us that dehumanisation came about in the past. Primo Levi found the strength to witness what happened in concentration camps before committing suicide, and he warned everyone not to let these atrocities happen anymore. Few days ago I crossed the barbed wire fences of Moria. Wearing waterproof boots, I stepped on the same morass where refugees had to go everyday with broken slippers. It was raining cats and dogs and I felt uncertain whether such precarious tents were study enough to protect the hosts from the fury of the storm. Thousands of people were walking around, staring at me with empty eyes and hopeless souls. Blazing fires that smelt like melted plastic had been created against concrete walls and people trying to find shelter as much as they could from the driving wind. I don’t believe in heaven but I have seen hell, there is no better way to describe the betrayal of Primo Levi's admonishment. 
In Moria, everything is lacking, any fundamental need has been denied and people try their best to survive in the wildest jungle. Shower rooms exemplify the humiliating bleakness of this unwelcoming place. A dark hole in the dirty wall was leaking tears of humidity all the way down to the ground. On either side, rubbish was piled up to the weeping sky. Torn scraps of old clothes were stuck in the fence. Inside was as dark as the endless night and the water was as freezing as the sea during winter. I could not enter; I did not have the courage. 

Thankfully, even the deepest cave in the earth of darkness holds sparks of light. The same happened here, and that is the way I ended up finishing my first tour inside the Camp. Crouched on a wooden fire, a solitary man was making food for the wandering souls of Moria. Nothing more than a blackened frying pan, in which he was cooking Syrian Falafels. Armed with our uniform, marker of diversity and symbol of power, we approached him and he smiled at us in return. We asked him for three Falafels and his face turned into a ray of sunshine. He was happy because he felt useful; he was honoured because he felt noticed; he was proud because he felt recognized. It was the best Falafel I’ve ever tried in my life. 

By Emanuele Politi


  1. I love your humanism-activism!

    I have not the same courage, but I do like poems... So, let me share one with you wrote by a Salamineño in Manizales in 1978. Fernando Mejía Mejía.

    La Paz

    Paz es tener el pan sobre la mesa
    y el lecho tibio hasta la madrugada;
    paz es tener la voz esperanzada
    en todo lo que acaba y lo que empieza.

    Paz es tener en todo la certeza
    y la palabra desamordazada;
    paz es tener la vida desbordada
    sobre el amor, la lumbre y la belleza.

    Paz es tener la libertad segura,
    sabiendo que en los campos el labriego
    tiene la vida; ¡no la sepultura!

    Paz es tener la patria liberada
    del hambre, el crimen y el desasosiego,
    y sólo por el pueblo custodiada.

    1. Thank you very much my friend for sharing this wonderful poem. We don't need to be heroes to make the difference. Any small act of solidarity is meaningful, even just a poem can change someone's life


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