The Refugees: Stories of Courage

What’s often missing from the copious media coverage of the Syrian civil war and the current global refugee crisis is any real sense of the people affected by these events. When we hear about “the refugees” we hear about numbers. 57,000 in Greece, over one million in Europe, and over 65 million refugees or displaced people worldwide. But what we don’t hear about is who these people are.

We rarely see their faces, hear their names, their stories, favorite films, and what they hope to contribute to the world. We rarely hear the unique pitch of their laughs, the catch of their voices when they talk about what they’ve survived and how they did it.

We weren’t reading about the people we met and worked and lived with in Greece. We weren’t reading about the people who’ve lost everything and choose to devote themselves to helping others. The people who love Shakespeare and Kafka (and Feirooz). The people who fall in love and have their hearts broken. The guys who cry at night because they miss their mothers.

We were not hearing about their courage, their humanity, and their incredible resilience.

So we interviewed refugees we met in Greece. We spoke to people who came from different countries for different reasons. Some to escape war. Some to escape forced marriage.

But they all left their homes, family, friends, and risked their lives to cross borders and seas. They have lost so much, and yet, they are eager to start again. They have hopes and dreams and they laugh and cry. They fall and they stand back up again, pulling others up with them.

We are inspired by these people and their stories. We wanted to share them with you.

About the project creators:

Batya Septimus
(Brooklyn, NY)

Spurred by the unending crisis reports on the war in Syria and the refugee chaos in Europe, Batya flew to Athens alone and with only the vague outline of a plan: find refugees and figure out how she could help. She spent her first couple of weeks distributing clothing, food, and pampers on the island of Chios. Inspired by the courage of the refugees she met on the island, she felt that it was important to share their stories and personalities with a broader audience. Even with her (minimal and admittedly rusty) Arabic skills from her stint as a Middle-East Studies major, Batya felt the project would best be served as a team.


Rafat 2.jpg
Rafat Makhoush
(Damascus, Syria)

A student of English Literature and self-proclaimed American film geek, Rafat fled the war in his native Syria in January 2016. After working a crazy job with crazy hours for crazy little pay in Turkey, he left with his friend and neighbor, Samer, to Greece. He now spends his time in Athens cooking for his fellow refugees, practicing his “southern” drawl, and thinking about his family back home in Syria.

You can read Rafat’s full story here.

And many thanks to:

Samer for his encouragement and help with Arabic interviews and translations.

Zeina for Arabic-English translating.

Sediq for Farsi-English translating.

Sufyan, Emad, and Khalid for helping to develop the idea for the project in the fields of Idomeni.

Philipp, Sonja, and Felix for everything.

JS Visuals for editing some photos and for providing us with the tools and technology that made this project possible.

Joey, Azriel, and David for their feedback and advice.

And thank you to all of the refugees and activists who have been our friends and community. Your courage, boldness, and humanity continue to inspire us.