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Creative Corner

Creative Corner: Who Do You Swim For?

Person writing in book against pink background with the title 'Creative Corner'
Creative Corner Logo by Roar News

Creative Corner is a space to share your creative writing at Roar! We hope you’ll enjoy the short stories we publish, all of which are written by current KCL students.

There are two sisters who crossed the Aegean Sea to escape the ongoing crisis in Syria in 2015. This piece is about them, but it’s also about the millions of refugees around the world who had to unwillingly go through heartbreak and displacement. The reality I will share echoes this, and it will furthermore echo how brave and admirable these souls are, and how they deserve nothing but the best. 

In 2015, sisters Sara and Yusra Mardini left Syria for Berlin, Germany. They first travelled by plane to Turkey before getting to Greece on a boat. Because this boat contained about 20 people, its engine stopped working. When this happened, Sara jumped off the boat to lessen the load; Yusra followed suit along with two individuals. At this point in time, it is important to note that Sara and Yusra are professional swimmers, having been coached by their father in Syria. Within “several hours”, they swam through the Aegean Sea and “guided the dingy to safety”. When they arrived in Lesbos, Greece, they – “partly by foot” – walked through the Balkans before finally reaching Berlin. When they reached Berlin, Yusra decided to continue training in swimming.

She founded a club called “Wasserfreunde Spandau 04” and trained under the watchful eye of Coach Sven Spannekrebs. Throughout her training, she was “selected to compete” as an athlete of the first Refugee Olympic Team in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and when it was time to finally swim, Yusra dove headfirst into the pool, winning with a beautiful 100M butterfly heat. 

When Yusra won, it was a moment which showcased a dream having finally come true. It was a reality, and it was more than just a singular, individualised win for her. This wonderful person said: “After the Olympics, I realised that it’s not just my story anymore. I realised that my responsibility is to raise awareness and bring hope to millions of refugees around the world and speak for all of those who do not have a voice”. In that moment, Yusra thought of every refugee undergoing the same crisis she experienced; displaced and without a home. She wanted to share her story continuously, and has bravely done just that.

Sara Mardini won in another powerful way. For this incredible individual, she headed back to Lesbos around 2016 to help refugees arriving by boat. She worked with a search-and-rescue organisation passing out “blankets” and “water” to the individuals. Even though she was doing this out of the kindness of her heart, she – along with other human rights workers – was wrongfully arrested in 2018 under the false grounds of “numerous crimes”, some of which include spying “and fraud”She was released on bail after spending 108 days in jail but still faces heavy charges from the Greek court, some of which are said to have been dropped. 

Though Sara has faced a difficult number of years, she still says regarding the journey she faced with Yusra: “I would never have it any other way. I would do the same journey, and would do it with my sister, and would risk everything as we did because we found safety at the end”.

Reading this moved and broke me, because imagine how much courage it takes to find light in the heart of something so dark, and imagine how – alongside Sara and Yusra – dozens and dozens of refugees risked the same safety to find some other form of peace elsewhere, somewhere unknown to them. Imagine leaving behind your own home to go elsewhere. The fact that Sara and Yusra still have so much light and continuously aim to share that light with many people is a testament to how resilient they are. We can truly learn from them. And this is the reality I want to speak of. 

Here are two sisters who – in spite of the adversity they faced – stand tall, shouting for freedom, love and bravery. Can we shout with them? Can we swim for the same freedom, love and bravery they swim for? Can we also swim for listening and sharing? An act of solidarity doesn’t always have to be vocal; it can be something as impactful as listening to the experiences of those who have suffered, and relaying what they shared.

So, who do you swim for?



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