In December 2015 I received a call from documentary filmmaker Tamara Park, asking me to accompany her on a three week trek from north to south, starting in Finland and ending in Greece. So in early 2016 I quit my day job and volunteered to be her second shooter as we set off upon a faith-filled journey on a shoestring budget.
Our first stop was Finland, a winter wonderland with temperatures hitting -20. Helsinki’s austere buildings sparkled in the winter sunshine as we drove to a refugee transit centre. The first family we met was an Iraqi family of five, all sharing a room with two bunk beds.
Farah* fled from Iraq to Europe with her three toddlers.
My husband left 4 to 5 months before I did. If [the militia] caught my husband they would kill him right in front of my eyes. But he left.
Farah’s husband played with their son while she bravely told her story. Their life in Iraq was good before. Then the militia threatened her husband for being Shia and he had to flee. When they knew her husband was gone, they attacked Farah in her own home, so she ran with her babies to her parent’s home.
I crossed the sea and didn’t know if I could survive with me and my boys.
We waited in the dark. I had to come with my babies…no one talking. We took a car to the edge of the sea. After that we took our vests. We had to be calm. It was 20–25 minutes – then water came into the boat. The water was so cold and my babies…their clothes were wet and they were sick.
The island was very dark and no one was there. We used the flashlight. It was so dark. We had to walk 7 hours. We didn’t know the way. I carried two babies on my back to the police station to Greece.
The journey from Turkey to Finland took two weeks. We made the rest of the journey by bus and train… it’s such a hard time. We could not sit in the train, we had to stand because of all the refugees… we were very cold. All my baby sons were sick. Thank God we made it.
I left my big home, with bedrooms for me and my husband, and rooms for my babies. We left that all to be here in a small room. But we are safe here."
WE LOST OUR HOME. WE LOST EVERYTHING. I CAME HERE TO STAY IN ONE FAMILY AND TO LIVE IN PEACE.
It amazes me how resilient the kids are. This wee boy from Iraq was full of mischief and joy. He’s safe in Finland, but there are many other children like him who are not safe yet.
Please keep the refugees in your thoughts and prayers and if you live near a refugee home, consider stopping by and visiting for an hour or two.
For further reading, check out this article from the Irish Times on the Christian response to the refugee crisis. / FROM NORTH TO SOUTH • Part 1
*names changed to protect people’s privacy
Photographed and written by Talitha Brauer