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!”
The journey was long. We transferred trains twice; the second train was so crowded it was almost unbearable.
It was the first time the family felt safe since leaving Syria.
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.