A mother's tears

By Laura Reinhardt, Photojournalist with World Vision

This week many of us will have seen the images of refugees, tear-gas and razor-wire in the media. But what is less visible is the silent worry of many parents, desperate to see their children safe and in school but wondering what new obstacles each day will bring. Laura Reinhardt has been spending time in Serbia this week and speaking to the families. Mother of three, Kenaz, told Laura her story.

We came upon Kenaz as she was combing the hair of her nine-year-old daughter, Salam. The family were huddled in one of the few shaded areas out of the sweltering heat. Next to her sat Kenaz’s younger daughter, three-year-old Layel, who already had perfect pigtails.

In keeping their hair neat, I can tell Kenaz is trying to preserve a sense of normality and continuity for her children despite the fact that the life they’ve always known is gone, possibly forever.

After she finishes with her daughter's hair, they move back inside the tiny tent where they've been living for the past four days.

They had intended on getting a few days' rest following an exhausting journey from Syria before crossing into Hungary, but now, four days on, they are facing a closed border crossing. While the children play around them and they watch other families boarding buses in the direction of the Croatian border, they talk about what they’ll do and where they’ll go next.

Kenaz longs to reach Sweden, where her husband has been working to support the family. The distance between Damascus and Stockholm is more than 3,000 miles, and they’ve made it this far. But now stranded in Horgos, at the border between Serbia and Hungary, the family have been in limbo for four days.

As Kenaz sits inside the tent, a few tears slide down her cheeks. She wipes them away before more follow in a slow, steady stream.

Kenaz's husband has never seen their one-year-old son, Noor. He missed his first smile, first steps and first words. Until they get to Sweden, Kenaz can only dream of introducing her husband to their beautiful boy and reuniting their family.

Now that the family has made it this far, there’s almost no turning back. But it’s hard for Kenaz to accept that they’ve got no alternative but to get on a bus that will backtrack towards Croatia and add even more miles to their journey.

As I spoke with her, I can see all the emotions and worries occupying her mind - her heartache upon leaving her home, the fear for her children's safety and the uncertainty clouding their future. Where could she go with her children now? I'm sure she tries to keep her worries from her children but as we sat in the tiny tent, it all became too much.

It was also heartbreaking to see the serious expression on Salam’s face, and know that she understands some of her mother’s concerns.

After a few moments, Kenaz straightens her shoulders and the tears stop, at least for a time. I squeeze her hand, somehow trying to convey any comfort I can without words.

When we return to the camp later that afternoon, their tent is gone. I can only guess that they got on one of the many buses heading to Croatia that day. Did they make it across the border? If they did, what’s next for them? Are they stuck in another town in Croatia?

I hope that they can make it to Sweden one day so that Noor can meet the father he’s never known. And I hope that someday, Kenaz might shed tears of joy instead of pain.

We are continuing to respond in Syria and the wider region as the crisis reaches Europe. Thanks to donations to our Refugee Crisis Appeal, we have been providing baby packages, support to mothers and pregnant women in Serbia, as well as general hygiene items and clean water. Children, in particular, still desperately need support as humanitarian needs continue to grow and winter draws closer.

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