Two journalists went beyond simple empathy and literally walked thousands of miles alongside Syrian refugees seeking safe havens in Western Europe.
Sophia Jones and Hiba Dlewati, journalists for the WorldPost, spent 21 days with refugees, walking with them through seven different countries: Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany.
Their journey was published early Tuesday morning in a beautiful expose on the Huffington Post called, “A Thousand Miles In Their Shoes: ‘We Have Stories Bigger Than The Sea.’”
Calling the trek a “modern-day underground railroad,” Jones reflects on the widely compassionate people that she and the refugees met throughout the journey, while also calling out the stark contrast between that kindness and the horrible government inactivity that has “inflicted many countries amidst the worst refugee crisis since World War II," according to Yahoo News.
“At times, it was difficult to maintain journalistic distance and make sure our presence didn't harm the refugees with whom we traveled,” Jones said to Yahoo News via email. “We made sure to back off when they met up with smugglers, or when close to borders where authorities were looking for refugees.”
Jones also commented on the fine line between being a journalist and helping the refugees smuggle themselves into countries — in essence, being a smuggler.
“Even simple things, like telling them about a path we heard other refugees were taking, could determine whether or not they would make it in the end,” Jones said. “It was difficult to withhold such potentially life-changing information.”
Weeks before the trip, a Syrian-American named Dlewati, who worked as Jones’ translator throughout the journey, monitored social media to get in touch with refugees.
“We spent several weeks beforehand researching, mapping out the route and reaching out to refugees making the trip as well as volunteers helping out along the way,” Jones said to Yahoo News via email.
She said that they met up with many others along the way, some waiting alongside the road and walking with their families. When they finally arrived home 21 days later, they reached out to some of the refugees they met along the way to see how they were doing. One of the young men said that he was applying for college in Paris, while another woman they met had reportedly given birth to a baby daughter in Germany.
“I was constantly in awe at how resilient people were. These are people who have left everything behind to risk death and humiliation to live in a place they've only read about,” she said. “Many people left behind entire families in hopes they would be granted asylum and bring over spouses, children and parents. And yet, when in situations of extreme duress, I often found people cracking jokes and focusing on the things that really mattered — life and love.”
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