With a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, a Libyan rebel fighter dragged Italian video reporter Andrea Bernardi out of a car wreck, with one hand under his blood-drenched head and the other pulling his dislocated leg.
There was no space in the hospital... But only because all the people of the city were there waiting to donate blood
“I was shouting in pain and telling him to stop but he just kept using the only words he knew in English: ‘No problem, no problem’.”
Mr Bernardi, 28, had spent weeks running all over Libya following the frontline and reporting for news agency AFP. But it wasn’t a bullet that put him out of action... it was a high-velocity car accident.
“My mother is always worried that I’m going to get killed but I could have been involved in the same accident anywhere else,” he says from his bed at Saint James Hospital in Sliema, where he is being treated. Mr Bernardi is a war correspondent who has worked in Gaza, Kabul and Bangkok.
The accident happened shortly after he fled a makeshift hospital close to Sirte together with other journalists because there were rumours it was going to be shelled.
They fled in a car driven by a “frightened” Libyan driver who sped uncontrollably down a sandy desert road. Suddenly, another vehicle popped out from the side of the road and before the driver could brake, it drove straight into the passenger side where Mr Bernardi was sitting.
Sure enough, after the crash, he was taken back to the same hospital to be treated for his injuries. And just as the doctors began nursing his wounds, the shelling began.
“I was hearing boom, boom, boom, boom all around me and getting closer. I told the doctor we are going to die if we stay here.”
Mr Bernardi then remembered that the hospital was built next to a petrol station, so his chances looked even dimmer. But eventually, he was transferred by helicopter to the safety of Misurata.
“There was no space in the hospital... But only because all the people of the city were there waiting to donate blood. They would stay there all day and night, ready to help anyone who got injured.”
He smiles as he recalls their community spirit, but this poignant memory makes his eyes well up and he wipes away a solitary tear before the saltiness stings the fresh grazes on his face.
“The Libyans are amazing people. If they can help you they will. They were even nicer to me because I am a journalist. They all came to my room with gifts... food, T-shirts... They were telling me sorry, as if it was their fault that I got hurt.
“I remember one man, in his nineties, who lived under Italian occupation and spoke Italian, hanging around my hospital room in case I needed anything. And the doctors... They are the heroes of this battle, apart from the fighters, of course.”
Soon, he is back to recounting his adrenaline-fuelled story with Italian gusto. Mr Bernardi began his journey in Benghazi and was in Misurata during the worst part of the siege in April. After a short while away from Libya he returned to Tripoli in August and witnessed its liberation. There he saw a big improvement in the level of military organisation. But as he made his way towards Sirte, with soldiers from Misurata, he began to feel unsafe.
“The fighters are really nice guys. But they had no military strategy... They don’t know Sirte because they all come from different places,” he says, highlighting the problem that has stalled the takeover of one of Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds.
After a day witnessing fierce fighting around the city and speaking to other rebels who were firing from a different direction, he remembers realising that the rebels were shooting at each other.
Another problem is that many civilians are stuck inside the city, caught in heavy crossfire, with no food, electricity or information.
“I spoke to one civilian who managed to flee (from Sirte). He was very pro-rebel but he had no idea Tripoli had fallen,” he says, as he recalls the bleak feeling he was left with before his crash.
Now far from the action, Mr Bernardi was evacuated to Malta together with another journalist and 14 seriously injured Libyans, many of them with sniper wounds and unconscious.
Although he is extremely happy with the service he is receiving here, and intends to come back on holiday, he looks forward to going back home to meet his girlfriend and family.
But will he go back to Libya?
“I hope that by the time my leg is fixed, the Libyan war would have finished... It is a massacre,” he says, thanking Malta for all its help but stressing that more is needed.
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