How I Met My Syrian Family

The largest movement of refugees since WW2 is not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a massive demographic change.

I wanted to see it with my own eyes, to try to comprehend what was going on. I packed my bags and took a night bus to Budapest. Bleary-eyed and adrenaline pumping, I arrived at the central station.

Thousands were making their way through Budapest with one aim in sight: Germany.

Gathered by a pillar in the metro station was a Syrian family who had traveled together with others from their village. I asked if they needed anything, but before I knew it, they were the ones inviting me to join them for a breakfast of bread, butter, and jam. I told them I was an artist and asked if I could take their photos. They said I could. But they would soon be on their way to Vienna. I asked if I could travel with them and they answered, “Yes! You are family!”

My Syrian family traveling on the train from Budapest to Vienna.

The journey was long. We transferred trains twice; the second train was so crowded it was almost unbearable.

Emotions ran high when we arrived in Vienna.

It was the first time the family felt safe since leaving Syria.

We were able to rest on makeshift cots in the station, with sheets draped on dividers to give some small semblance of privacy.

I met a bright young Egyptian-Viennese student at the train station, who was translating for the refugees.

With her help, this corner became a safe space for the Syrian mother to tell her story: the family’s journey from Syria to Turkey, on a treacherous boat to Greece, and then through unknown and often unfriendly territory in Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary.


Originally published at

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