HOPE: OUR UL­TI­MATE RE­SIS­TANCE Inspiring tales

Times are trou­bled, the news is bad and our world can seem like a very scary place to be. But the hu­man spirit is not eas­ily ex­tin­guished. Good House­keep­ing speaks to three ex­tra­or­di­nary women help­ing to build a bet­ter fu­ture for us all

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‘No one leaves their home un­less they have no choice’

Work­ing as a for­eign correspondent, Christina Lamb has re­ported on wars and geno­cides. But the migrant cri­sis has left the deep­est im­pres­sion on her heart, and she is de­ter­mined to open ev­ery­one’s eyes to the tragedy...

The first Syr­ian refugee I met in Europe was Dr Ay­man Mostafa, a 40-year-old sur­geon from Aleppo. He had lost his wife and three-year-old daugh­ter when their smug­gler’s boat cap­sized try­ing to get to Italy. His phone was full of pic­tures of them, which he couldn’t bear to look at. ‘It would be like look­ing at the sun,’ he told me. ‘It would burn my eyes.’ Meet­ing Dr Ay­man made me look dif­fer­ently at the sea. Un­til then, I’d thought of the Mediter­ranean as some­where for hol­i­days and fun. Now I looked out, pic­tured him in the water calling ‘Fa­tima!’ and ‘Joud!’ over and over again, and it seemed a treach­er­ous place. His story also brought home that the refugee cri­sis is about peo­ple. Back in Aleppo, he told me, they’d had a nice house with pet rab­bits. He

seemed like some­one who might live next door.

Af­ter years of cov­er­ing for­got­ten wars in far-off coun­tries, when refugees started flood­ing into Europe in 2015, I thought at last peo­ple would have to take no­tice and do some­thing. But as more than a mil­lion refugees flooded into the EU, it be­came a ma­jor cri­sis. Gov­ern­ments failed to deal with them, even though the num­ber who ar­rived that year was less than 0.2% of the EU’S pop­u­la­tion – the vast ma­jor­ity of the world’s refugees are in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Fol­low­ing the refugee trail as a jour­nal­ist for The Sun­day Times, I saw the best and worst of hu­man­ity. I watched gov­ern­ments erect­ing fences, bor­der guards us­ing tear gas and trun­cheons on fam­i­lies, and peo­ple-traffickers earn­ing for­tunes by cram­ming refugees into old patched dinghies and sell­ing life jack­ets that didn’t float. But I also saw vol­un­teers com­ing with food, drink, dry clothes and charg­ers for smart­phones, which are es­sen­tial refugee kit. I will never for­get the old wid­ows on Les­bos, whose own cup­boards were bare, turn­ing out on the beaches with tea, bis­cuits and hugs.

No one leaves their home un­less they have no choice. See­ing politi­cians use words like ‘swarm’ and ‘plague’ made me de­ter­mined to show that refugees are not just num­bers, and ev­ery­one has a story. Imag­ine aban­don­ing ev­ery­thing you ever worked for, ev­ery­one you know, and tak­ing your chil­dren on a boat you know might cap­size.

It’s a dan­ger­ous jour­ney for able-bod­ied peo­ple. So I was as­ton­ished to meet a girl in a wheel­chair who was be­ing pushed across Europe by her sis­ter. Her name was Nu­jeen and she spoke English flu­ently, which she told me she had learnt from watch­ing Amer­i­can soap op­eras while trapped in a fifth-floor flat in Aleppo. De­spite be­ing bumped around, she had a huge smile and made me laugh by telling me she was dis­ap­pointed that the food in Europe didn’t look like it did on Masterchef.

It’s peo­ple like Nu­jeen who make my job worth­while – oth­er­wise the re­lent­less diet of death and de­struc­tion would be too grim. I wouldn’t do this job if it wasn’t for in­spi­ra­tional peo­ple like her.

Some­times it’s hard. In the old days, at the end of an as­sign­ment, I’d just go on to the next story. Now, with What­sapp, we stay in touch. One of the peo­ple who mes­sages me is Tuba, 16, an ex­quis­ite Afghan girl whose fam­ily had to flee be­cause the Tal­iban threat­ened to kill her for learn­ing English. We met in Greece where they are stranded. When she saw the piece I had writ­ten with the photo of her, she mes­saged me; ‘What dif­fer­ence does it make?’ Sadly, I can see she has a point. All I can do is keep writ­ing and hope that it will make a dif­fer­ence. Christina Lamb is chief for­eign correspondent at The Sun­day Times. Her most re­cent book is The Girl From Aleppo; Nu­jeen’s Es­cape From War To Free­dom

‘I’ll never for­get the old Greek wid­ows who turned out on the beaches with bis­cuits and hugs’

Christina:‘the refugee cri­sis is about peo­ple, not just num­bers’

Hu­man­ity at its best: Vol­un­teers and refugees come to­gether at a camp in Greece

Christina keeps in touch with Tuba, the 16-year-old Afghan girl she wrote about

For some, the mes­sage is clear – and this of­fers hope to those seek­ing asy­lum

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