19 year-old Doaa is a Syrian refugee who decided to take a dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea hoping for a new life in Europe. Her family’s business was blown up by a bomb during the war, and once, a man on a motorcycle even tried to kidnap her. She lived every day in fear, and couldn’t take it anymore.
Eager for a new life, Doaa boarded a boat with her boyfriend Baseem and 500 other refugees. She was terrified to stay, but also terrified to go. Doaa had a fear of the sea, and she never learned to swim. It was August, and that same year 2,000 refugees had already drowned trying to reach Europe.
They were crammed on the old fishing boat. Doaa and her boyfriend sat with their knees against their chests, holding hands. The third day on the boat, Doaa had a premonition. She told Baseem she thought the boat would sink.
Then, on their fourth day at sea, another smaller boat approached the refugees and told them to leave their boat and board the smaller one. When they refused, the small boat began to ram them. Soon, the refugees’ boat had a hole in it. The crew of the other boat yelled, “Let the fish eat your flesh!”
The boat carrying the refugees sank. The 300 people below the deck were doomed. Initially, one hundred people survived and prayed together for help as they tread water. Baseem, who was a strong swimmer, found a life ring for Doaa to use to stay afloat as he held her hand. But with time, most of the remaining survivors grew weak and drowned. Two dying parents gave their children to Doaa to care for. Even Baseem drowned right before Doaa’s eyes. His last words were, “I have never loved anyone as much as I love you.”
Doaa floated for four days without any food or water, holding two children before rescue boats finally arrived.
Of the original 500 refugees aboard the boat, only 11 survived. Doaa and one of the children she cared for were two of the survivors.
While so many refugees’ horror stories go unheard, Doaa’s story won’t soon be forgotten. One of Greece’s most prestigious institutions gave her an award for bravery. The media love to tell her story of survival. But her struggle isn’t over. Doaa, like thousands of other refugees, still dreams of bringing the rest of her family to a safe place in Europe.
Can you imagine being forced to risk your own life to find a safe place to live?