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Syrian girls swim three hours to reach Lesbos

10 November 2015 / 19:11:57  GRReporter
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This is the incredible story of two sisters from Syria who have been able to fulfil their dream thanks to their talent and to already be living safe in Berlin. At the same time, however, their story reveals something else, namely the drama of refugees who are trying to escape the war and a ruined country amidst risks and exploitation and to start their lives again.

Two months ago, 20-year-old Sarah and 17-year-old Ysra were in the same situation as they were forced to jump into the sea from the inflatable boat that was taking on water to reach Greece.

Because of the conflicts in their homeland, their family began to move in search of more security, always trying to provide opportunities for the girls to continue to swim, as they were among the best swimmers in their country.

Ysra Mardini and her sister Sarah

"We were 40 or 50 swimmers and now we are maybe 10 or 7 swimmers in Syria," Sarah told the Associated Press. "We want to have a future. I want to go to college. I want to be an international swimmer and my sister too. If we stay there, however, we will not succeed, because the situation in Syria is not at all good," she adds.

The two sisters were on a long journey. From Damascus in early August they found themselves in Lebanon, and from there in Turkey, where they had to pay smugglers to take them to Greece.

As explained by the two girls, the Turkish coast guard thwarted their first attempt and brought them back. In the second attempt, however, the boat began to take on water while transporting refugees, some of whom could not swim. The night was coming and the wind was rising, and the two sisters found out that nothing helped, even though they were forced to throw their stuff overboard. Then they jumped into the sea together with a few people to allow the boat stay afloat.

"I was not afraid of dying because I knew that I could swim to the island whatever happened. The problem was that another 20 people were with me. In Syria I had worked as a lifeguard and I would never forgive myself if any of those people were injured," says Sarah. The two sisters spent three hours clinging onto the boat ropes until they reached the island of Lesbos. Then they were able to go to Austria and from there to transfer to Germany, where a swimming club received them warmly.

Ysra Mardini posing in the Berlin pool where she is training

"Maybe when I learn German, I will start school. I want to be a pilot," says 17-year-old Ysra. Meanwhile, her sister is struggling with bureaucracy to bring all her family to Germany.

Tags: SyriaRefugeesSwimmersLesvosStory
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