Heroic Greek lieutenant who saved over 5,000 lives, dies aged 44

Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Greece is mourning the “hero of the Aegean” who is recognised for having saved more than 5,000 migrants fleeing in small boats across the sea at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos became the international face that personified the country’s battle to protect lives at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees were crossing from Turkey’s shores to the island of Lesvos.

An ordinary hero, the life and career of 44-year-old coast guard officer Kyriakos Papadopoulos, was highlighted in Daphne Matziaraki’s Oscar-nominated documentary “4.1 miles” about the refugee crisis in Greece – sadly ended when the young hero 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.

His tireless efforts and selfless acts, marked by a high sense of duty, which brought with it long hours of work and low pay, earned him accolades and honours 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.

Born and raised on the island of Lesvos, Papadopoulos “showed Europe what the values of humanity, solidarity, equality, and peace mean to Greece”, Greek Maritime Minister Fotis Kouvelis said.

“He showed and highlighted the value of human life.”

The mayor of Lesvos, Spyros Galinos also took to social media stating, “As of today, Lesvos is poorer.”

Papadopoulos is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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