© UNICEF/UNI197652/Gilbertson VII

Refugees in Europe: Then and Now

Seven decades after World War II, refugees fleeing conflict continue to seek safety beyond their homelands.

Photography and social change
5 min readDec 24, 2015


UNICEF’s humanitarian work began in the aftermath of World War II — and by the mid 1950’s millions of children were receiving aid. Seventy years later, refugees and migrants are entering Europe at levels not seen since World War II. Nearly 1 in 4 are children and the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum is growing.

© UNICEF/UN04764/Gilbertson VII

In Greece circa 1949, children peer out of a makeshift hut. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a girl refugee, huddled under a blanket to ward off the cold, stands outside a tent. Many children are on the move, and all are in need of proper care and protection.

© UNICEF/UN04767/Gilbertson VII

Two children sleep on a wooden bed in the middle of a street in Italy circa 1945. In Croatia, an adult and a child refugee sleep outdoors on makeshift bedding at a transit centre in 2015.

© UNICEF/UN04765/Gilbertson VII

In 1949 in Italy, a girl smiles as she has her measurements taken for a new dress at the Santa Genoveva Institute, an orphanage in Naples. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi refugees collect winter clothes distributed in Tabanovce.

© UNICEF/UN04766/Gilbertson VII

Circa 1945 in Greece, families occupy small partitioned spaces as their temporary living quarters in a displaced persons bureau. In 2015 in Germany, a refugee shelter at Templehof Airfield, used during the 1948 Berlin Airlift, now houses 2,000 refugees.

© UNICEF/UN04762/Georgiev

A young boy holds a crying child in a camp for displaced persons in Kavaja, Albania circa 1945. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a crying child is comforted near Gevgelija. Long and uncertain journeys leave children frightened and vulnerable.

© UNICEF/UN04763/Gilbertson VII

In Greece circa 1950, a boy wears socks held up with string and men’s shoes many sizes too large. In 2015 in Gevgelija, Jamal Majati ties his son Basher’s shoelaces, after stopping to change their clothes in a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space, as they flee the Syrian conflict.

© UNICEF/UN04768/Gilbertson VII

Circa 1946 in Greece, girls peer through the window of a schoolhouse where a medical clinic has been set up. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a small child refugee stands with adults at a wire fence in Gevgelija, stranded at the main entry point to the country.

© UNICEF/UN04774/Gilbertson VI

In Greece circa 1946, children orphaned by the war, wait in a truck journeying to adopting families. In 2015, a boy tries to sleep on a crowded train travelling toward the Serbian border from Gevgelija. Both then and now, integrating refugees into new communities is critical.

© UNICEF/UN04773/Gilbertson VII

Circa 1950 in Greece, girls receive provisions. Greece both contributed to and received aid from UNICEF for relief distribution to Palestinian refugees. In 2015 in Greece, a volunteer aid worker places an emergency blanket over three newly arrived child refugees eating bananas.

© UNICEF/UN04778/Gilbertson VII

Circa 1946 in Germany, a displaced girl wrapped in blankets, sits atop her belongings, waiting to continue her journey home. In 2015 in Serbia, a boy refugee rests on a suitcase at a reception centre in Preševo. He’ll travel further after receiving his travel papers.

© UNICEF/UN04771/Georgiev

A boy refugee reads a book in Greece circa 1955. Children draw in a UNICEF-supported child friendly space, equipped with educational materials and toys for children passing through Preševo, exhausted from their long journeys, in Serbia in 2015.

© UNICEF/UN04769/Georgiev

In 1946 in Poland, a refugee family rests on their belongings during their travel to the farm that awaits them in the Lower Silesia region. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a boy wrapped in a blanket rests beside a railroad track heading further north to Serbia.

© UNICEF/UN04770/Georgiev

Circa 1946 in Greece, displaced girls enjoy a ration of ‘halva’, a nourishing mixture of semolina flour, olive oil or margarine, and sugar. In 2015, a child refugee eats a snack standing on a railroad track near Gevgelija, on the border with Greece.

© UNICEF/UN04772/Georgiev

A humanitarian worker conducts a nutrition survey with a family in an outdoor kitchen area, in the heavily war-damaged village of Lika in Yugoslavia, circa 1945. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a UNICEF translator dries the tears of a crying girl in Gevgelija in 2015.

© UNICEF/UN04775/Gilbertson VII

In Hungary circa 1945, children sit with their feet wrapped in cloth, outside a children’s hospital where supplies of clothing and slippers are almost completely exhausted. In 2015, women warm their children’s feet next to a stove in a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space in Serbia.

© UNICEF/UN04776/Gilbertson VII

In 1945 in Albania, a woman holding a baby stands in the doorway of a camp for displaced persons, in Kavaja. In 2015, Fatima Marge holds her 18-month-old son, Hassan, with her husband, Ali beside her, inside a tent in a temporary camp near Idomeni in Greece.

© UNICEF/UN04777/Gilbertson VI

Circa 1950 in Italy, children with disabilities play football. In 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, teenagers play football at a refugee and migrant reception centre. Children need access to safe spaces where they can rest and receive emotional support.

Learn more about the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe. #FightUnfair



Photography and social change

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