Humanity off the Rhodes Shore; Inhumanity and Intolerance on The Pappas Post Facebook Page


Last week, I posted a video and story about the tragic accident that left dozens of desperate migrants from Syria and Eritrea stranded off the shore of Rhodes, swimming for their lives as the boat they were on hit rocks off Rhodes’ Zefyros Beach. The video sent shockwaves throughout the world as terrified human beings were left to the mercy f the waves— and thankfully, to the help of some locals.

Almost immediately upon posting the video on The Pappas Post Facebook page, comments started coming that not only shocked me— but embarrassed me. Embarrassed me to be Greek, embarrassed me to be a human.

Who were these people, I thought? And how could they be writing such words publicly? Were they raising their kids like this too?

My first thought was to disable the video and take it down. But I didn’t. I just sat back and watched in dismay— one after the other, disgusting comment coming from all parts of the globe— Melbourne, Australia, California. New York.

My first thought was one of irony… These same people commenting, with their Greek-sounding last names, were themselves immigrants, or their parents or grandparents were, atlas. Otherwise how did they end up where they are now?

Some people on the thread made the erroneous generalizing statements that Greeks arrived in the USA lawfully and were medically tested and became law-abiding members of society and were welcomed by American society because of this. No, ma’am… this wasn’t the case with Greeks arriving in America. They were not welcomed with open arms, many did not arrive legally and in may cases, they— just like the Eritreans and Syrians arriving in Greece now, were treated like scum. Entire Greektowns in places like Roanoke, Virginia and Omaha, Nebraska were burned to the ground when violent riots took place against the “subhuman Greeks” as they were called. Furthermore, thousands of young Greek boys arrived as indentured servants, lured by their own countrymen— men called Padrones, who forced teen-aged boys to work the streets as bootblacks, or shoe shine boys.

Others on the thread were just downright inhuman. “Sink or swim” wrote one twisted man named “Angelo Andrikos” from California

Harry Kalligiannis from South Africa wrote “Send them back to where they belong” and his comments garnered 13 likes from people with Greek-sounding last names from New York, Perth, Houston and elsewhere throughout the world.

How disgusting, I thought. How hypocritical that a Greek man— or of Greek descent, living in South Africa, could write such nonsense? How would he feel if South Africa all of the sudden told him— “Go back to where you belong.”

Fortunately, not all of the comments were like this and the majority of the people writing were equally ashamed to read such comments coming from fellow Greeks, fellow humans.

Fortunately for these poor souls, the locals in Rhodes responded as most sensible, compassionate human beings would. People stopped what they were doing to help.One man, Antonis Deligiorgis, became a hero of sorts, single-handedly and one-by-one, brought twenty people to shore from the sinking boat. In an interview with the UK’s The Guardian, he shared his harrowing experience.

“The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes,” the father-of-two recalled. “It was as if it was made of paper. By the time I left the café at 10 past 10, a lot of people had rushed to the scene. The coastguard was there, a Super Puma [helicopter]was in the air, the ambulance brigade had come, fishermen had gathered in their caiques. Without really giving it a second’s thought, I did what I had to do. By 10:15 I had taken off my shirt and was in the water.”

In the chaos of the rescue, the 34-year-old cannot remember if he saved three or four men, or three or four children, or five or six women, he told the Guardian in an exclusive interview. “What I do remember was seeing a man who was around 40 die. He was flailing about, he couldn’t breathe, he was choking, and though I tried was impossible to reach. Anyone who could was hanging on to the wreckage.”


Deligiorgis says he was helped by the survival skills and techniques learned in the army: “But the waves were so big, so relentless. They kept coming and coming.” He had been in the water for about 20 minutes when he saw a woman gripping the buoy. “She was having great problems breathing,” he said. “There were some guys from the coastguard around me who had jumped in with all their clothes on. I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea. They helped and then, instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.”

He was referring to Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old pregnant Eritrean woman who has become a symbol of the destitution and empathy these immigrants face, just as much as Deligiorgis has become a symbol of humanity and compassion.

Nebiat’s parents paid $10,000 for her passage to freedom from the throws of her country’s civil war.

Thankfully, Deligiorgis and so many other residents of Rhodes who were the first responders— fisherman, doctors, average people— all rushed to help these pathetic people in need.

Nebiat survived— thanks to Antonis Deligiorgis heroism— something he falls short of acknowledging. There was nothing brave, he says, about fulfilling his duty “as a human, as a man”. But recounting the moment he plucked the Eritrean from the sea, he admits the memory will linger. “I will never forget her face,” he says. “Ever.”

In his honor, Nebiat said she will name her son Antonis.

Humanity and appreciation prevails after all— if not in the hearts and minds of all people— in those who count.



  1. Greg just keep going, I was glued to my screen with those images on Greek tv showing the poor immigrants that cannot swim.

    You will always find people that could very well be in these peoples unfortunate place, but have climbed so high that they are no longer human, do not see souls wanting life, to breathe, to live. These ‘people’ have lost their humanity. I have found more Greeks abroad that have this disgusting attitude than from Greeks at home. I believe it is a general hate of their own country or maybe envious that they cannot live in their country. They curse refugees from a ‘safe’ distance and safe place. Caring only for themselves of course, greedy, selfish etc. No respect for life or their fellow human.
    Unfortunately there are many who have lost of the feeling for ‘humanity’, filotimo.
    Obviously you have to turn your back to people like these types of people, you will never make them understand or change their feelings. You cant make a person ‘kind’. They either have it or dont.

    • Nick Koutsoukis on

      Not me. I live in the US and do NOT identify with those exclusionary attitudes. I hope I speak for many Greeks.

  2. Chris Papageorgiou on

    Dear Greg,

    I am one of the very first followers of the Pappas Post.
    I remember reading and commenting when very few did.
    I am also a HALC member from the very early days. What I see and read on FB in both, is very disturbing and intolerable ( Greek last names commenting).
    I often wondered if a professional propaganda organization is using Greek sounding names to trash our Rich Greek Heritage. I searched like you and found that the names were real people. Very shocking to see but real !!!
    I have to admit that I respect your effort but very often I do not read the comments. Some are unbelievably cruel, ignorant, very pessimistic,self destructive,annoying, egotistical …….
    Thank you for your courage !!!!!!

  3. Chris Siouris on

    These people absolutely should have been rescued and indeed I’m glad that they were. However, once it was determined that they were alright, they should have been repatriated back to their home countries on legal grounds. Greece is one remark away from a full-fledged bankruptcy/default and the last thing they need is the burden of more illegal immigrants in an already over-burdened economy. But truly, I’m glad that they were saved.

    • euterpe kombos on

      This would cost approx. 2 billion euros.

      At the same time, Greece does not have the money to tend to the Greeks starving on the streets. And, something you might not know – the middle class in this country is the most highly taxed in Europe.

  4. A compelling post. Thank you so much. We Greeks are subject to the same weaknesses and sins as are everyone else, I’m afraid. Sigh. Thankfully, the people of Rhodes are loving and strong. Suzanne Zannis Jenkins

  5. Dear Greg
    No surprises here. If you would be closer to the Greek blog reality, you would realize that a (thanks God) small percentage of Greeks have become known as the followers of the Nazi formation called “Hryssi Avgi”. These people were hiding before but have now come forward and give some cruel and fascist comments in almost all Greek blogs. It seems that there are also some Xryssavgites also around the world. As far as the ones commenting in Greek are concerned, we call them “paid trolls” and we try to isolate them as much as possible. We have to be aware of their existence and act accordingly. It is important to keep them isolated, not allowing them to spread their Nazi and racist poison around.

    Please continue your excellent job.

  6. euterpe kombos on

    No Greek would ever leave a person to drown. Surely you noticed who was in the water saving, or trying to save, these people from drowning. You are obviously in total ignorance of the situation in Greece.. We have over 2 million illegal “immigrants” in our country today. Do the math – 20% of our population. Thousands more are coming every month at a time when Greece is going through the worst economic crisis in its recent history. Last week the northern European countries decided that no illegal “immigrants” would be allowed into their own countries. You use the old, worn, and insulting reference to Greek migrants to other countries in the past. These Greeks were invited to countries such as Australia, they were subject to strict medical tests both before leaving Greece and on arrival in Australia, they had to have a clean criminal record, etc. etc. etc.

    We have absolutely no idea who most of these people are. A former Turkish prime minister has stated that the way to destroy Greece is to send it millions of Muslims – no need for war – thus allowing this country to rob us of the only natural resource we still have. Surely you know the history of your own country and its battle against Muslim aggression.

    Our boys in the coast guard daily rescue “refugees” putting themselves at risk for serious diseases that Greece has managed to eradicate in the last fifty or so years. You are aware that TB has made an appearance again, together with hepatitis and lots of other diseases, some of which we had no experience.

    Don’t criticize Greeks. I have lived in this wonderful country for about 40 years now and know these people. We opened our homes and our purses to the illegal immigrants from Albania when this nightmare first started. We were rewarded with the murders of mostly defenceless elderly people who were tortured and murdered in their homes for a few euros. It’s easy to be misled by the media and believe the BS they serve as news.
    Greece is forbidden to process these illegal immigrants and then issue papers giving them the right to travel to other European countries – I have already mentioned the decision made last week.

    Are you seriously comparing Greeks with the Anglo Saxon race? Greeks were considered “subhuman”? What about the Irish who were forced to live in caves in Central Park. For God’s sake!

    We have taken a lot of insults from a lot of people. we don’t need this from people who are of Greek descent. Be proud of your heritage. I am. I know Greeks and I know what kind of people they are.

  7. As a Greek Australian it saddens me to see these racist attitudes from Greeks or from anyone. Here in Australia refugees have been demonized by politicians who unfortunately represent a huge part of the general community. Hundreds of asylum seekers including children have been sent to off shore camps and treated like criminals. The efforts of those individuals of Rhodes to rescue these immigrants makes me proud to call myself a Greek.

  8. I think it is time for all Greeks to re-read, “Eleni,” by Nicholas Gage. Zealotry in times of trouble is common with passionate people, including the Greeks. But finding compromise and common ground is so much more productive. The people of Rhodes did not analyze their political beliefs. They went swiftly to their hearts and acted upon those feelings. That’s the Greek way, and I’m so proud of that and of them. And all the others , να πάει στην κόλαση (go to hell). This woman pictured here, pregnant with a son and nearly drowned, will name her first-born child, Antonis, culturally foreign to her heritage, but the name of the man who saved her. What can I say????

  9. euterpe kombos on

    THIS is what Greeks are : Last night on TV I saw two wonderful things – an elderly woman distributing clothes to the young children who washed up on Rhodes, Greece with their parents illegally. When asked why she did what she did, she replied that it was what she wanted. The wonderful part? She is paying for these clothes in installments because she has only a small pension. As most of us have.

    The second incident : A middle aged man helped many people ashore – in this case the rubber boat the illegal immigrant were travelling in was slashed just before coming into contact with the coast guard. The Turks bringing these people over from Turkey were wearing life jackets and trod on small children in their haste to save themselves. The scenes we watched were horrible. The aforementioned Greek was given a talisman by a small child in gratitude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When asked how he felt he told the reporter that he was proud to be Greek.

    Stop trashing us.

  10. I live on the island of Rhodes, from Britain I was shocked and saddened at the way so many people reacted at home and elsewhere when the human tragedy that has been escalating in Greece over the last couple of years was brought to the attention of the international media.
    Locals here did what you would expect and help people in a time of need. But where is the international help for human beings in a time of need? The last time huge numbers of people where crossing the med in boats to escape they were running from Europe during the Second World War. How soon we forget?
    You can’t stop this mass movement of people they are running for their lives, risking everything, women, children, young and old… Running from war, persecution and famine.

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