It was very good for me, this experience…

We met Michael in a church in Helsinki. He patiently waited while we interviewed two other men, and then he shared his story with us, clearly and deliberately.

One year ago I decided to leave Syria, and it was not an easy decision for me, because my wife had to stay there. I had a small apartment, which I had to sell. I left from Syria to Lebanon, from Lebanon to Turkey. In Turkey, I found a person who was helping people leave Turkey for Greece. It was very difficult, especially because we had to go by boat on the sea to Greece. It was scary to work with a trafficker, but I had no other option.
He brought us to a boat that could take about 70 persons… but they put 170 on the boat. I was scared to get on. There were three decks and I was afraid to be on the bottom one. There were windows and because of the pressure, I could see some water coming in. The captain told us, “Some of you will have to leave — this boat cannot take anymore, we will go down.” So 20 people left and went back to the beach. 
But still, water was coming in, and we left anyway. It took us 2.5 hours to arrive at the island we were going to. Of course, 2.5 hours seems like 2.5 years, it was a very long time for us. All the time I was praying. It was very good for me, this experience...
…I was praying to my God. The God who I know. And He promised me that He would bring me safely, alive. This is what I did the entire way to the island. Once I arrived, I called my wife. She had been waiting for my call. I informed her that I had arrived on the island and we prayed together on the phone and thanked God. 
In my life with Jesus — before leaving Syria, when the bombs were coming down in Damascus — I took my wife’s hand and we said — we are walking, and Jesus Christ is walking before us. He was opening the way for us and he was taking care of us. 

And it happened too in the boat — the hand of Jesus Christ was taking care of us.

Photos and story by Talitha Brauer

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. We met and interviewed Syrian and Iraqi refugees who had fled their homes in hopes of beginning a new life in Europe.

This is part 2 of From North to South, a photo essay account of their stories.