KatalystProductions

Filming This Syrian Family Broke My Heart

In Refugee Crisis on April 4, 2016 at 22:16

By Sharron Ward

It’s his eyes that I can’t forget.

It was Thursday August 27 2015, just after dawn on a beach on the northern coast of the island of Lesvos.

An inflatable rubber dinghy heavily weighed down and overloaded with Syrians was making its way precariously across the rough sea.

As soon as it neared the rocky shore, dozens of orange lifejackets rose up and disgorged themselves hurling unceremoniously out of the boat, some falling into the sea as they did.

Anonymous arms reached out from the shore to take the bedraggled babies and small children, who appeared disoriented and traumatised, staring into space.  A cry rose up.

And then I saw her.

An older Syrian woman wearing a white hijab stumbled to the shore.

No longer able to contain her grief she fell to the ground, her hands clasping her face as a wave of anguish, tears and relief swept over her.

1 Alma on shore

A Dutch volunteer comforted her.

And then he came to her side.

A middle-aged Syrian man still wearing his orange life jacket.  He held her as she sobbed.

He was her son.

They were soon joined by her daughter who was wearing a blue velour track suit.  Seeing her mother’s distress, she too cried.

5 daughter cries

And then he cried.

Visibly shaking from the cold and the fear, this grown man cried.  He shed tears at his mother’s distress.

And then he held her.

I saw the whites of his eyes as he bit down on his lip, trying not to completely break down.

3 Bites lip

It’s his eyes that I can’t forget.

And then the mother looked at the Dutch volunteer, as she hugged her.

She kissed the volunteer and then she looked at me, her eyes full of despair.

7 mother hug

Tears welled up inside me and I stopped filming and reached out to put my hand on hers.

He looked longingly back at Turkey, at the Middle East, and beyond to Syria their home they had fled, perhaps forever.

He bit his lip.

6 son looks

Her name was Alma.  They were from Damascus.  There was bombing every day.

Their Grandfather was a doctor in Germany, and so they would try to get there.  They had to leave their father behind in Syria – Alma’s husband, no doubt compounding her despair.

Ziad her other son laid out their water damaged identity documents to dry in the sun – they belonged to their Grandfather and were written in German.

11 documents

We gave them a lift in our car, but there was only room for the mother and Ziad.  The distressed son still wet had to join the others on the long walk back to the makeshift transit camp.

It’s his eyes that I can’t forget.

They followed me along the road as we drove past.  They haunt me even now.

You can watch Sharron Ward’s short film on the refugee crisis for Channel 4 News here.

10 we made it

 

 

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