PTHE EPEL wondering why Gino Strada made the life he did. With his skills as a cardiologist and lung surgeon, trained not only in his native Milan but at Stanford and Groote Schuur, in South Africa, he may have lived in a lovely village somewhere across the city, working comfortably flexible and grow loving roses. Instead he seems to live in theaters in anticipated, dragging, smashing, cutting and bruising the wounds that can be imagined. They are a serious wound, the result of mines and explosive explosions that pull bodies to tissues. Among the patients he would stand outside in his blood baths, a man with a bearded face with a dirty beard, drinking smoke.
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What’s worse is that his patients are rarely fighter. If they had eaten it all would have done the same, just as people whose faith or fellowship did not make any difference to it. But wherever he worked, in Iraq, Pakistan, Rwanda, Yemen and especially Afghanistan, where he spent seven years, the wounded were almost all civilians. They are women watering farmers, farmers digging, vendors in the market. What do they have to do with war? Nearly half of those injured, young enough to cry and yet stoically not crying, were children. In Afghanistan many have seized one of the “green vegetables”, dropped from Soviet small planes, beautiful foreign objects, which broke in their hands.
The fact of the war for ordinary people, the fact that they carried his fears, shocked him deeply. Similarly the fact that health care in war-torn areas does not exist. However this is surely a basic human right, an extension of the right to live. It is also, he believes, an equal right: it is not a matter of sophisticated high-tech treatment for some, and a couple aspirins and guns for the rest. The poor, and the rich, should receive the best medical care the world can provide. And, for the poor, it should be free.
He had worked after his training for the International Red Cross, but soon wanted to create his own way. His love affair, set with his wife Teresa Sarti and about 20 friends in 1994, balances care as his main foundation. So while its mission is often to replace the Red Cross as it pulls back from conflict zones, it also provides free medical care facilities in poor and unexpected areas. In Sudan he built a center for heart surgery, one of the best in Africa, where he regularly worked on his own. We set up pediatric centers in the Central African Republic and in Uganda, where he was designed by his friend Renzo Piano. In Iraq 300 artistic collaborations have been set up for veterans at its wound hospital, so they can start businesses when they leave. These hospitals are flawless, mainly equipped with new facilities and staffed by international and local teams. They are also quiet, surrounded by vineyards and gardens. In Italy, where Teresa received most of their money, some people complained about palaces in the desert. This makes you decide more. His hospital in Sudan, in a mango forest on the Blue Nile, would, he promise, be “ridiculously beautiful”. It was.
In Afghanistan, where his heart lay, a wound hospital was built in the Panjshir valley, as well as the best maternity hospital in the country; in 2018 more than 7,500 babies were born there. In Kabul in 2001 he opened another emergency hospital, the first in the city, and a network of first posts. It is a struggle. To teach in the Panjshir valley he had to urge the Tajik leader, Ahmed Shah Masoud, over drinking tea overnight, but in Kabul he had to meet with Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader then, to get permission and a place. He convinced both men that he was neutral in the war, as it was in fact, saw the American invasion as a disaster and knew all too clearly how it would end. At least as the westerners went there Emergency was still there, although begging in Lashkar-Gah to leave alone, removing patients from the windows and displaying the “hospital” banner specifically on its roof: do something able to provide health only- Afghanistan treatment program is, or is.
Not every place is acceptable to him. In Somalia and Chechnya there is nothing to do; the rebels set up a wall. In Libya he closed an emergency hospital because the wounded were local criminals shooting themselves. Meanwhile, the sheer tolerance of conflict seems to mock his efforts. Instead of constantly caring for the wounded, you want the wound to heal. There are no land mines or green vegetables and, in principle, no war anymore. It has to be deleted, for humanity.
Is this another crazy Utopian dream, Gino fantasy? He refuses to think so. The emergency was already managed, in 1997, to allow the production of banned anti-personnel mines in Italy, once the third largest manufacturer in the world. Negotiations work; it has worked for him even with the Taliban, when NATO think impossible. You can see a time when talking will replace fighting, and when war will seem unthinkable as a slave. You may not be allowed to see, but then people believe in all sorts of things they cannot see. Speaking of which, he thought Pope Francis could give his views on the war of mercy.
Meanwhile, it works on. His work seems to have been thrown into the sea, but he is a surgical animal, who tends to be as terrified when some new finger behavior confronts him. She was exhausted, and her voice sounded good with all those cigarettes, but in the theater she was relaxed and quiet, adjusting what she had to fix. There are compensations in the damaged one that starts pumping again, or a smile that returns to the child’s face; or on a visit from Soran, a boy whose feet have slipped in Iraq, is now a confident lawyer.
There are mines, many of them in their millions. Men continue to fight each other. But in the midst of it all he decided to establish beauty, not only himself, but because he respected the patients he cared for. Their lives have been counted in vain by enemies they do not know; thus they give them value. In his hospital garden in Kabul there are 200 varieties of roses. One day they may fill his chains, where the wounded of the war already exist. .
This item appears in the Obituary section of the publication under the heading “Blood and Roses”