Gino Strada is the upright man who unites two bloody points of the globe. As per the textbook the shortest distance, the hieratic geometric figure, the final suture point. He stares at you with deep-set and severe eyes, very deep, like a falcon of the plains of Central Asia, and you have no escape: for a few seconds you understand Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and the abyss into which the surgeon and founder of Emergency has descended for years .
On the other hand, re-emerging from makeshift field hospitals in the desert, while missiles – often from your Western friends – are flocking is not a common undertaking. It takes guts while the flesh is open, but above all infinite hold, mental and spiritual, when the eyes are closed. Loading onto himself all the evil in the world is a feat that not even Atlas, who in fact carried the whole world on his shoulders, including beautiful things, and perhaps having to look for a precedent, an icon of absurd but necessary work, like saving lives human in situations and contexts where everything conspires towards the opposite, one should resort to Albert Camus’s Sisyphus. To his stone transported with difficulty to the top and every time ready to roll downstream.
In the case of Gino Strada, downstream, unprepared for the systematic avalanche, we are all there. Imperfect, distracted, idle, concentrated in occupations of secondary importance. “In Italy – said the founder of Emergency during a train journey from Milan to Rome with Vittorio Zincone – there are those who try to do something, those who don’t do shit, and then the worst: those who don’t do shit and want tell others what to do “. Here, you decide which group to be in. He chose it with precision, obviously surgical.
Even if in spite of the determination that emanates from all pores, one should not believe in an enfant prodige path. Far from it. Born in Sesto San Giovanni, the red Milanese stronghold – then conquered several times in the years to come – the young Luigi known as Gino was a boy like many others. “My father and my mother were workers but as a kid I never took part in the political-cultural life of Sesto”. Then he thought “to do well in school, to play football and to take a look at the girls”. Among these was 17-year-old Teresa Sarti, who will share Emergency’s dream, whom she will marry in 1971 and who will have to let go in 2009. “She was extraordinary in her ability to involve people”. The commitment would have been born at the Statale, Faculty of Medicine, which to tell the truth the student Strada does not devour with particular fury and from where he will come out in his thirties in ’78. There is another to which to give the remains, the Sixty-eight in Milan, the Student Movement. The politics that “swallowed you up: every Saturday a procession to organize”. Only after “I started studying seriously”.
Getting serious for someone like Strada is not just a saying. The medical career is a dart thrown against the system: each step prepares the next. Eight years at the Rho hospital to move towards trauma surgery and the treatment of war victims. Specialization in cardiopulmonary surgery in the United States, in the UK and at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, that of the first heart transplant, by Christiaan Barnard, “very elegant, with his Mercedes, but by now he did little to do for arthrosis to the hands “. Then comes the war surgery, five years between Pakistan, Ethiopia, Peru, Afghanistan, Somalia and Bosnia with the International Committee of the Red Cross. That of Geneva, however, because according to Strada “the Italian one does not exist”.
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So we arrive in 1994, Italy has just entered the Second Republic and in the warm coils of the Knight. Emergency, founded in May with about twenty friends, needs funds to finance the intervention in the genocide in Rwanda, just to start low. A dinner at the Golden Temple, in the Viale Monza area, collects 12 million lire. They’re not enough. 250 would be needed. Unexpected help arrives, right from the heart of the Biscione. “Luckily I was invited by Costanzo, and, poof, TV is this thing here: in a couple of months, 850 million arrived. People who rang me at the doorbell … “. Puf, an episode on Canale 5 with stage mates such as Cesare Previti, then Minister of Defense, the journalist Mino Damato, the sociologist Francesco Alberoni … and the dream of Emergency kicks off. And never mind if the genesis is a bit impure, at least in the eyes of the doc left. “Money does not stink, when it comes from crime. And when those who donate pretend to decide who to operate and who not ”, the only stakes of Strada. Who is used to dealing with dictators like Bashir, thirty years of raids in Sudan. “Those we call dictators are presidents in Africa. If a regime is oppressive, people are sick ”.
And by dint of getting your hands dirty, Emergency from an adjective becomes a noun of a certain reality. 25 years and seventy-nine projects in seven countries, but not in Somalia and Chechnya, where they “pull up a wall”, or among the opaque Libyans and Palestinians. 120 employees, 9 million people treated, a new office near Sant’Eustorgio, the oldest church in Milan. A hospital in Uganda, designed for free by Renzo Piano. The last of the “lifelong friends”. And what friends: De Andrè, Eco, Chomsky. A trio of aces, to be placed side by side with three other great but priests: Don Gallo, Father Alex Zanotelli, Don Ciotti. He, an atheist, who would like to meet Pope Francis to talk about the abolition of war.
Yes, the war. Here no exceptions are allowed. “Just don’t do it”, Strada repeats over the years, with no ifs and buts. There are no exceptions. Not even in September 2001, against Afghanistan, to avenge the still smoking Twin Towers. “When I saw the faces of those running away from the horror of Manhattan on CNN, I thought they were the same ones I had seen in Sarajevo … For me the concept of war is already a blasphemy against humanity, and even worse when it comes to war just, of war conducted with surgical precision ”. War on the street is madness, period. As in February 2003, when in the streets against the attack on Saddam, he did not hesitate to speak of “a political choice made by a gang of oilmen who want to get their hands on Iraqi crude oil”.
Positions that put him at the forefront of the pacifist front, he who doesn’t even declare himself a pacifist. And that put him in the awkward position of defending dangerous equations like Bush equals Bin Laden or of denying justice to the victims of 9/11, as claimed, one for all by Giuliano Ferrara. To which Strada, not too concealing his fighting nature, replies: “This is not a reasoning, but a product of the gallbladder”. (The director of the sheet marked it and threatened to blow himself up in the event of our rise to the Quirinale).
On the other hand, that ours has no respect for politics confirms it on other occasions. As in the objective fall in style with which he defines Brunetta as “aesthetically incompatible” with Venice, who chose the mayor in 2013. Or as when he defines “a gang of balls” the 5 stars flattened on Salvini’s positions on migrants. Precisely those 5 stars who had voted him second to the Quirinarias, also in 2013, and who 5 years later had proposed him a ministry. Invitation declined on the merits: “I pointed out to them that Emergency is one of the associations that they define as ‘sea taxis'”. And speaking of verbal bellicosity, the “Minniti cop” must certainly be recorded, who the then owner of the Interior Ministry took for responsibility in managing the detention centers in Libya. Not to mention the “infamy” of Romano Prodi, guilty of having abandoned a collaborator of Emergency in Kabul in the hands of the men of Karzai.
In short, they are slapped for everyone. In addition to the aforementioned, there are D’Alema, Monti, Letta, Renzi, Gentiloni, for which to apply the maxim of Giulio Andreotti: “The wickedness of the good is very dangerous. The others distribute it in daily doses, while those who concentrate it make explosive instruments of it ”. Even if with age the surgeon softens a little and, after thirty years of desertion at the polls, nourishes a little confidence in the Tsipras list, which includes Andrea Camilleri, Barbara Spinelli and Marco Revelli. Or in the orange revolution of Antonio Ingroia, “an honest person worthy of the utmost trust”. Sometimes it takes us as well, like when at the Milan regional authorities in 2013, he clamored for the expulsion of the “gang that devastated school and health care”. “We are pure business, here there will be work for lawyers for the next twenty years”, he prophesies, and despite his long gaze he could not come to think that the dirty work would have made a pandemic.
Despite all this, the yes to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the commitment in Calabria, where the surgeon, after some hesitation, agreed to collaborate on the field with the Civil Protection should not surprise too much. It will not be like managing hospitals in Africa, as the chief prosecutor of Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri reminded him, but it is in line with what Emergency has already done in Palermo or Marghera. “For years – Strada argued in 2011 when launching the Italian campaign – I realized that the needs are not only across the border, in other countries”, but “increasingly here, at home”. Thirteen projects. “An unknown Italy. Castel Volturno, Polistena, how many beautiful places. Poverty, degradation, slavery, situations that I have not seen mine even in Sudan ”.
Wanting to give in to feelings, slip into carnage Calabrese is something very similar to a gesture of love, and therefore, as the philosopher said, beyond good and evil. A desperate undertaking, but within the reach of someone who for the greater good of the mission does not look anyone in the face, as his daughter Cecilia learned on her skin, deleted from the Emergency family photo like a humanitarian Lev Trozky. Only one thing is certain, if it goes wrong in the complicated land of the Spirlì and Morra, the surgeon will not be able to take refuge in the asteroid 248908 that bears his name. Eight million light years is too many even for the righteous.