· Vatican City ·


Different ways of seeing
The baby girl who came into this word on a humanitarian relief ship

My name is Miracle

 Mi chiamo Miracolo  DCM-011
02 December 2023

I was born by a miracle. A miracle that smells of diesel fumes, of sweat, and of fear. Miracles always stink before they smell of life. They stink of shit and vomit, of hunger and poverty. The first smell of my life was escape.

They say that being born, living and dying is a journey: I had two ships to come into the world.

The first is called Maman in French, Yaay in Wolof, Mom in English, Mama in Swahili, Ba in Bambara. Mamma in Italian. The “boat” is spelt bateau, meli.

In the ship I call “Mom” I was floating in the heat in silence.

I did not know, at first, that my ship was about to embark.

The bridge onto which she climbed was noisy, beaten by the wind and sun, swept by waves, thick with bodies and inhabited by fear, anger, death and hope.

Nevertheless, in my Mummy-ship I was alone and the world was just my Mummy and me.

I learned of hunger when she asked me to be patient. I ate; I ate from my sweet Mummy, though she had not had a meal for days.

She got thirsty and then it seemed to me, too, that there was not enough water. Can you drown on the ship that carries you? I knew of the fear and anger because they came, like thunderstorms, where I was hidden and cradled.

At first, however, the waves were no different from my usual life, with its swaying and rocking.

Though my ship creaks and groans and suffers, I am safe.

As I pass through the waves, I do not know that I must be born, though thunder announces a change and from a distant place, music has stopped coming, I hear not the voice that sings me stories but many cries, tearing my night, pink and black.

I don’t know when despair knocked. She had green eyes and small hands like a bird’s bones or fish bones. In her mud-colored voice, she said, “Your Mummy cannot save you, you know”.

What does it mean: save me, I asked?

She cannot promise you life, explained Despair. It may be that you and she will end up here, in the sea, on the bottom, among the shells and tuna.

Then I cried out, “I will save her, my Mummy”.

“You cannot”, laughed Despair - and she laughed as the glasses on the tray laugh when they bump into each other - you do not have the strength.

“What are you saying”, I insisted, as she feeds me and carries me, so I will feed her and she will walk on the bottom of the sea. I will be her oxygen, her mask, her diving suit.

Despair gurgled and turned all purple, she said, “Now my name is Illusion”.

Illusion was beautiful, like a jellyfish, like a mountain flower, like the sunset line. “Baby, you are right, surely you will save your Mummy, after all, she lives only for you. Now she is lying on a bridge, among bodies of old women, men and children, her eyes are turned upside down, she is thirsty and hungry, her mouth is split open, she has almost turned to rock but if she is alive it is only for you, still”.

So I cried out, “does she suffer”, I asked. “A lot, Illusion said, she dreams of you but can't sleep”.

“Go away”, I told Illusion, “go away”, I prayed. I did not want to know anything more about my Mummy.

However, at the bottom of the pink and black cave, something ran away with Illusion and everything began to get dark.

A push, like an earthquake, like water falling from the mountain in waterfalls, which threw me against the walls of my ship. I screamed but my voice was muffled.

And meanwhile, from that place where perhaps one lives, perhaps one dies, came smashing, startling, tugging.

Now and then an ugly silence.

I can’t do it anymore, my little one.

To do what, Mummy? To endure.

How many days Mummy have we been on this ship? So many, I’ve lost count.

And are we still alive? Maybe, but around us there are so many who have died. The boy who gave me water is dead, dead too is the old woman who held me.

Mummy, who carries the boat where we sail? Uncertainty, the door.

And why doesn't she help us? She doesn’t know how to, has never helped.

Thus, I saw the turned backs of women and men on the distant land. They believe the journey will never happen to them. Maybe it happened to their ancestors but to them, who feel safe, they say it is impossible for it to happen.

Am I being born, Mummy? Am I being born? Then, I do not know who it was, but someone cried out, “Miracle”.

by Antonella Cilento

Being born on the deck of a boat

“Protecting human life can never be a choice, it is an obligation and no excuse can justify not doing it, none what so ever”. So wrote, posting this photo in 2019 on social media, Oscar Camps, founder and director of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms whose main mission is to rescue people trying to reach Europe by sea.

The baby, whose name is Miracle, was born on the deck of the humanitarian ship; minutes after volunteers from the Spanish NGO pulled the young Ghanaian woman called Peace, with her baby bump and already in labor, and her partner Simon, up from a half-sunken dinghy. Antonella Cilento, an Italian writer and author of novels and plays, was inspired to write this short story.