Two Romanian refugees stow away on a stateless container ship, in a tale based on horrifying true incidents of cruelty and salvation.
Hough (The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, 2003) puts the novel to noble use in this well-researched treatment of the real-life rescue of one Romanian out of the thousands who fled the ruins of Ceausescu’s hideous regime. Relying on sketchy information from compatriots who have made it from Eastern Europe to North America, college-educated Daniel Pacepa teams with ex-miner Gheorghe Mihoc on the dangerous journey through Yugoslavia to the free West until they reach the Spanish port of Algeciras, where they hope to sneak onto a freighter that will take them across the Atlantic. It is their understanding that once discovered on board, they will be taken care of and dropped safely off at the next port. The reality is that many crews see stowaways as too troublesome to deal with. Indeed, the captain of the ship they board has recently forced a pair of refugees to leave the ship for a leaky improvised raft, and the Spanish shore is littered daily with the bodies of other stowaways. The multinational crew members of the Maersk Dubai are divided in their sentiments. The Chinese officers are capable of murder, the Filipino crew can’t stomach the official cruelty. Before the trusting Romanians can expose themselves to the officers, the Filipinos secrete them below-deck and feed them on the sly. The safety of the stowaways depends on a desperate message describing their wretched state sent by one of the crew to a sympathetic priest in Houston, but, in mid-ocean, Houston is removed from the itinerary.
A hair-raising story well told with sympathy and respect, particularly in the treatment of the heroic Filipinos, modest men with very big hearts.