Heroic Coast Guard Officer Papadopoulos, Who Saved Thousands at Height of Refugee Crisis, Dies at 44

October 12, 2018

LESBOS, Greece – He became the face that personified Greece’s uneven battle to protect lives and human dignity at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015-2016, when hundreds of thousands of refugees were making the perilous crossing from Turkey’s shores to the island of Lesvos on their way to Europe.

An ordinary hero, the life and career of 44-year-old coast guard officer Kyriakos Papadopoulos – immortalised in Daphne Matziaraki’s Oscar-nominated documentary “4.1 miles” about the refugee crisis in Greece – was abruptly cut short on Tuesday night when he died of a heart attack.

As the captain of the coast guard patrol boat PLS 602 based in Mytilene, Lieutenant Papadopoulos was personally responsible for rescuing thousands of refugees and migrants from the waters of the Aegean. An ordinary man plunged into the midst of the refugee crisis that erupted in 2015-2016, he rose to the challenge and became a symbol of the country’s collective determination to value human life, wherever it may come from.

His tireless efforts and selflessness, marked by a high sense of duty undismayed by long hours and low pay, earned him accolades in Greece and even saw him walking the red carpet at the Oscars and visiting the United Nations, where the film was screened in 2017.

His actions had inspired Matziaraki to come to Lesvos and make her film, among others capturing the harrowing moments of a shipwreck in which large numbers drowned on October 28, 2015 and the desperate efforts of the coast guard officers to save as many as they could.

“Moments of personal weakness are a luxury we cannot afford. A few miles away are people that need our help. We will have time to weep,” Papadopoulos had said in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) in 2017, describing his experiences. Himself a child of a refugee family uprooted from Asia Minor, an ordinary working-class boy that joined the coast guard, Papadopoulos and his crew were behind every press release referring to search and rescue operations in that part of the Aegean in that crucial two-year period.

Papadopoulos’ 5,000-plus rescues in the Aegean, which earned him awards from the Greek state and the Athens Academy, had also amazed the former Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann during his visit to Mytilene, who thought he had misheard when he asked the father-of-two how many lives he had saved.

In a statement of condolence for his death, Shipping and Island Policy Minister Fotis Kouvelis said that Papadopoulos had been an officer the coast guard was proud to have among its ranks and one that demonstrated how Greece perceives the values of humanism, solidarity, equality and peace, “how in the midst of the economic and social crisis, [Greece] remained faithful to the humanitarian values of its culture, which must also be the values of Europe.”


KALAMATA, Greece (AP) — A Greek judge dismissed a case Tuesday against nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants last year and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations, after a prosecutor told the court Greece lacked jurisdiction.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


Sour Patch Kids Oreos? Peeps Pepsi? What’s Behind the Weird Flavors Popping Up on Store Shelves

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream usually draws customers with gourmet takes on classics like vanilla and pistachio.

Artificial Intelligence will provide us with one surprise – hopefully mainly good ones – after another far into the future, but for some people, especially writers and readers of science fiction, some of the news will be old news.

NEW YORK – Teatro Grattacielo presents The Young Artists Series: G.

NEW YORK – Effie Lazaridou, CEO of New Agriculture New Generation (NANG), spoke with The National Herald about the organization which she has led since it began in 2018 and which aims to create employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people in the agrifood industry in Greece.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti  — Haiti’s main international airport reopened Monday for the first time in nearly three months after relentless gang violence forced authorities to close it.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.