NEWS

Samina disaster survivors speak of recurring nightmare

The morning of September 11 may now be regarded by many as the day that changed the world, but for many Greeks there is another day that is engraved on their minds: September 26, 2000. The images from that tragic night outside the port of Paros, when the ferryboat Express Samina ran onto the Portes – twin rocks off Paros – and sank within minutes, have become a recurring nightmare for those who survived, a memory which they feel they will carry with them eternally. One year after the accident, the scars that the shipwreck left on their minds appear to be indelible. I haven’t got over it. I still feel the same as I did at that moment. I frequently have nightmares. There are times when I feel that my psychological state is getting worse, said 26-year-old Dimitra Kastani, who was aboard the Express Samina that fateful night, in an interview with Kathimerini. How can I forget the people who drowned right before my eyes? I can’t feel secure and I no longer trust anyone. I may have got out alive from this story, but I am not OK. My life has changed dramatically. I have lost valuable opportunities. I wasn’t able to sit for my college degree exams. After the shipwreck, I saw a psychologist, but I stopped because I felt that there was no improvement. The only thing that helps me are the conversations I have with those who were also there, because they’re the only people who can understand me. As for my fears about traveling, I am trying to overcome them. I have been on a boat again out of necessity because I have a house on Samos and travel often. Stamatis Kotsornithis, 33, who survived the sinking that night after swimming for three hours in the stormy sea, hardly needs to make great efforts to recall every second of the frantic moments that he lived through, as no day goes by without them coming to his mind. He is not afraid of traveling, but when he is on a boat, he always takes a pair of flippers with him. As soon as I board a boat, my eyes impulsively turn to the places from where I can jump into the sea if necessary. At one point after the shipwreck, I needed a psychologist. Not because I was feeling lost, but because I had become hypersensitive and irritable. I also wanted, of course, to soothe my parents who were completely panic-stricken. When looking at what happened to me, I think that it was very little in comparison to what others suffered who were traveling with their families. The truth is I probably stayed… calm by accident because I didn’t believe that it (the ship) would sink. I thought that the ship had merely scratched a tiny reef. Moreover, I could see the lights of Paros very close and that gave me courage. I think the fact that when I was swimming I had other people around me was very important. If for a moment I had been left alone, even for a few seconds, I believe that I would have drowned. I haven’t developed any phobias, but I still have the same nightmare: that I am on a ship that sinks but I always survive… Zoe Kolyda, 42, struggles to get through one day at a time, in spite of the boundless support of her parents and the sedatives that have been prescribed by the doctors. I’ve stopped traveling alone. I am scared. After the shipwreck, I constantly wanted to talk about it. I had jumped into the sea and I was swimming while holding the hand of another woman. At one point, a trawler approached us but it couldn’t take us on board. The waves were too high. Then came the sailing boat Akis Mellas, but it had a mechanical problem and almost sank. At that point, we had come very close to the rocks and we thought that it was the end of us. Fortunately, the sailing boat returned and took us on board. That’s how we survived. Asked what it was that she desired more than anything, she replied without thinking twice: I want my peace back. To stop depending on sedatives… Yesterday and today, a large number of survivors and the relatives of the victims are traveling to Paros for the memorial service for the 80 passengers who died that night. The survivors who spoke to Kathimerini noted that they felt the need to express their utmost gratitude to the fishermen and residents of Paros, who stood by them during those hours of danger. They are waiting in anguish for the findings of the experts’ probe, so those responsible are held to account.