A lesson in compassion and perspective on a train ride from Greece to Macedonia with Syrian refugees | The Mochilera Diaries
Greece, Macedonia

A Train Ride with Syrian Refugees: A Lesson in Compassion and Perspective

The train journey from Thessaloniki, Greece to Skopje, Macedonia, wasn’t a long one.

Our train departed in the late afternoon, and a day of wandering in the heat of mid-June (and perhaps a few shots of ouzo from friendly fellow passengers) had left me just sleepy enough to nod off not long after we pulled out of the station.

An hour or more must have passed before my eyes fluttered open and I slowly came to the realization that the train had stopped moving.  We were at the Macedonian border.  I grumbled my way into a seated position and gently kneaded my sleepy peepers back to a fully alert state.

“Welcome to Macedonia,” my phone jingled with the arrival of an SMS from my service provider, T-Mobile.  “Out of plan coverage.  CAUTION: Charges for web, email, & apps while roaming are $15/MB + tax.”

Damn.  My travel companion and I had both gotten used to having unlimited data usage in most of the countries we’d been traveling in, but it appeared that in Macedonia we’d have to make do without.

I switched off my data roaming before finally turning my gaze out the window to my right, and that’s when I first noticed them. Not one, not a few, not even a handful but a veritable mob of people making what looked like a rather hasty exit from the train. My brow furrowed deeply as I struggled to make sense of the situation I was witnessing as their numbers continued to grow.

There must have been hundreds.

They dashed across several rows of tracks, small children and duffel bags in tow; they hurdled whatever obstacle stood in their way–fences, cargo cars, shrubbery–and began disappearing into the expansive field to the east.  Where they were headed, we could only guess; we were certainly nowhere near any roads.

We quickly consulted other passengers and it didn’t take long for us to learn the truth.

“Syrians,” we were told, “trying to get to Serbia.”

And then I felt it.  Crack.  The first hairline fracture in a heart that was about to be shattered into a million little pieces.


Fleeing the violence and the terror of the raging civil war taking place on their home soil.  Looking for a better life–or at the very least, trying to stay alive.

The group of three traveling in our cabin–two men and a woman–seemed more determined to remain on the train.  But when the border official finally came around to collect our passports, he had different plans.  They didn’t have passports at all, for starters. He knew immediately they’d come from Syria.

“If you go to Skopje,” he told them, “you go to jail.”

How quickly their options had been whittled down to get off the train now, or go to jail.

One man pleaded, “But I cannot walk!  My leg is injured.  I was shot.  And my wife, she is with child!”

His plea fell on deaf ears.  This would be the end of their ride.

We watched helplessly as they gathered their belongings to disembark.  We wished them luck, but our wishes felt hollow.  They were in a fight for their lives, and we knew it.  And hadn’t it only been minutes earlier that I was complaining about not having access to unlimited cellular data?

My problems have never seemed so insignificant.  My words have never felt so insufficient.


Still reeling from the forceful expulsion of our cabinmates and the mass exodus we’d just witnessed, we slumped back into our seats, mouths agape, as our train began to amble onward.

The cabin now all to ourselves, all we could do was stare at each other in disbelief.  Not knowing what to say, we sat in quiet rumination instead.

Darkness was settling in as the train slowed once again, this time approaching a small town.  We could hear the yelling before we’d even reached a full stop.  This time, they came in droves from the left side of the train, from the boarding platform.

I couldn’t tell you how long our train planned to stop at that particular station, but the way these people were sprinting to get on would have you believe it was only a matter of nanoseconds.  As many Syrians as we’d seen before, if not more, were now filling the train from all entrances.  They were swift, frantic, scared.

Our cabin door burst open with a forceful thud; once just two of us in a cabin intended for six, we were suddenly nine altogether including two young children.

“We’re sorry!  So sorry!” they cried, over and over.  “Please forgive us, we’re so sorry!”

“It’s okay!” we cried in response.  “Really, don’t worry!  Come in!”

When in reality my train of thought went a little something along the lines of “Wait, you are apologizing to us??  WHAT THE F*CK ARE YOU APOLOGIZING FOR?  HOLY SH*T GET IN HERE.”

I’ll never forget the look of fear in that little girl’s eyes as her father skidded into the seat next to mine, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.  I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what she must have been feeling in that moment.  To her, I was just another stranger, one she did not yet know didn’t wish her any harm.  Crack.

Outside of our cabin, more shuffling.  Others were still trying to find a place to sit–the laps of others, the collapsible seats in the hallway, the floor.  The cries of one man seemed more panicked than the others.  “He can’t find his daughter,” they translated for us.  “It’s okay, she is probably on the train.”


Our cabin now overflowing, they slammed the door shut and held the curtains closed.  Surely they still worried they’d be questioned and asked for identification.  This time, though, the only man who came around was a train attendant.  This time, they only had to pay the fare.

With tickets purchased and a sense of relative calm returning to the train, our new cabinmates once again turned to us to apologize profusely for bothering us.

The group to my left was a family of four.  The mother wasted no time in feeding us; she conjured up some savory snacks and chocolate-filled pastries and forced them into our hands, smiling and nodding enthusiastically.

At first, I resisted.  What little they have and they are giving it to us, I thought?

But the longer I refused, the more adamantly she insisted.  I shot a nervous glance at my friend; “Take it,” he said in a loud whisper, and I knew he was right.

“Thank you so much,” I finally relented, trying as best I could to convey my utter gratitude through facial expressions and gestures.

The three seated next to my friend were young men who looked to be close to our ages, perhaps in their mid or late twenties.  We couldn’t quite figure out their relationship to one another but they acted as if they were very close friends, arms around each other and resting their heads on each others’ shoulders.

They were dressed well considering they were traveling with so little–collared shirts, dark jeans, cool shoes.  One of them produced a small bottle of cologne from his bag to freshen up, and without skipping a beat offered both my friend and I a spritz as well–not because he thought we needed it, but simply for the sake of giving, in the same selfless spirit the older woman had previously displayed. This time, we didn’t decline.

Another one asked me, “Is that your phone charger?”  Indeed, it was.  “May I borrow it?” he asked, passing me his iPhone.  Of course he could, I said.

Finally, when we couldn’t suppress our curiosity any longer, the questions began to tumble out.

“How did you get all the way here from Syria?”

“Where are you planning to go?”

“Where do you sleep?” we implored.

“Walking, sometimes by train.”

“Serbia.  Maybe as far as Germany.”

“Wherever we can,” they replied.


Despite the language barrier between us, they were eager to tell their story.  The father seated next to me stroked his daughter’s hair as he patiently answered every question as well as he could.

Every so often I found myself captivated by the beauty of his young children, a boy of 11 and a girl no older than 8.  I shuddered to think they might lose their innocence so soon.  The daughter finally caught me staring and shrunk away bashfully, but soon softened and returned my adoring smile.  I wanted her to feel safe in our presence; I wanted her to feel safe, if only for a moment.

Our questioning slowly petered out and the overhead light was switched off as we began to succumb to sleep, first the little ones followed soon after by the rest of us.  My questions were far from exhausted, though, and as I nodded off with my head firmly against that train window, more and more continued to surface.

“What’s going to happen to them at the Serbian border?”

“Will they make it to Germany?”

“Which country is going to take them in?”

“Will they be sent back to Syria?”

“How will they survive?”

The train pulled into the station at Skopje just after 11pm.  Our cabinmates helped us retrieve our bulky luggage from overhead and did their best to make room for us to exit.

They wished us luck on our journey; with heavy hearts, we wished them luck on theirs in return.  In that moment, I knew that none of my remaining questions would be answered anytime soon.  Crack…crackcrackcrack…crash.

On the train to Skopje that day, I learned the true meaning of compassion.

Empathizing with others no matter what your own circumstances.  Putting the needs and feelings of others above your own. Selflessness in the face of great adversity.

I’ve always noticed how the people in this world with the least to give always seem to be the most generous; and now, I’m quite certain that the people in this world who have faced the greatest struggles have the greatest capacity for compassion.

I was also quickly reminded on that train ride that I’ve lived an extremely fortunate and privileged existence, and no matter what blip or obstacle I encounter in life, I am capable of facing it with grace and humility.

I must never live a day without gratitude.  I must not complain about the little things.  I must do better to put others first.

I must practice compassion.  Always.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, an estimated 11.6 million Syrians have been displaced.  While many have found refuge within Syria or neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, increasing numbers are fleeing to the European Union, whose member states have pledged varying amounts of aid in this crisis (with a large majority coming from Germany).

In recent weeks, the Macedonian border has been heavily protected by police forces, in some instances using barbed wire fencing and percussion grenades to thwart refugees from crossing.  Even more recently, however, the massive influx of people from Greece became too great and the blockade was removed, allowing hundreds to cross into Macedonia.

The strain on the region is palpable.  The less wealthy Balkan countries (Greece, Macedonia, Serbia) claim they simply do not have the resources to house these refugees; all the while, EU member Hungary is racing to build a fence at the border to prevent people from entering by foot.

According to the humanitarian group MercyCorps, the U.N. estimates $8.4 billion in aid is necessary to meet the needs of those affected by this crisis, described as the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.

For more information on the Syrian refugee crisis and to find out how you can help, please follow these links:

Quick facts: What you need to know about the Syria crisis

Donate to MercyCorps – Providing food, water, shelter and other support

International Rescue Committee – Syria Refugee Crisis – Providing medical and other critical aid, ensuring refugees have access to their legal rights, and helping women and girls who are victims of violence

Recent news on the Syrian refugee crisis: 

Hundreds of refugees breach Macedonia border

Germany opens its gates: Berlin says all Syrian asylum-seekers are welcome to remain

A Syrian family’s journey to a new life in Germany

Refugees race via Balkans in bid to beat Hungary fence

“I’m not a terrorist. We are humans. Where’s the humanity? Where’s the world? Everyone here, they are families.” –Ahmed Satuf, a refugee from Idlib in Syria

If you have a few dollars to spare, please consider donating to one of the humanitarian organizations mentioned above. This isn’t just a Syrian crisis, a Middle East crisis, or an EU crisis, it is a global crisis.  We are all in this together.

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  • Reply Justine August 27, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Ugh, this literally brought tears to my eyes. It is HEARTBREAKING to think of what the Syrian people are going through and to read about your experience offered a tiny glimpse into their reality. And I kind of want to cry. It does make you think about how privileged we are. Since I moved to Phnom Penh a few weeks ago I’ve complained countless times about not having enough money in my savings account, not having a stable job, the incessant construction noise. How small and insignificant my problems are. And what a great reminder that I need to always strive to practice compassion. I love, love that you wrote about this experience and are making the reality of the Syrian Refugee Crisis a little more real, a little more accessible to people like me.
    Justine recently posted…Moving to Cambodia…First ImpressionsMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, Justine! I wasn’t sure exactly how to bring this story to life, but I knew I had to in some way. It is indeed heartbreaking, and making it more real for those who only know what they read in the news is exactly what I was aiming for here.

  • Reply Rachel August 27, 2015 at 6:32 am

    Great writing, Leah. What an incredible experience to witness this crisis firsthand. This is so touching and intriguing at the same time. The generosity of people is amazing. I’m crying a little bit at work now.
    Rachel recently posted…Sailing, Snorkeling, and Booze Cruising in Puerto RicoMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Thank you so much, Rachel! These people deserve to have their stories told; they are human just like the rest of us and I hope more people will start to see and understand that.

  • Reply Isabel August 27, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Some months ago, I was taking Slovenian lessons with a couple who were Syrian refugees. The woman’s spirit captivated my soul. They went to Germany to visit her sister, because her husband had passed away. They are in my thought everyday.
    Isabel recently posted…The Spicy Tour: Imperio Mexicano ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Glad you enjoyed it Isabel. I hope your friends are safe and doing well.

  • Reply Elizabeth August 27, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Wow, incredible post. Impressive storytelling.
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    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

  • Reply Flora August 27, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Good lord, this is heartbreaking, Leah. Thank you so much for writing such a passionate and emotional piece about this awful crisis; there aren’t nearly enough personal responses online and the refugees need as much positive journalism as possible to enlighten those who don’t yet understand how bad it’s getting. Sharing this immediately <3
    Flora recently posted…The Tiny Latvian Town with Eight Hundred Years of HistoryMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Aw Flora, thank you so much! I agree, more people need to start thinking of these refugees as human beings and families just like the rest of us. The media doesn’t exactly do a great job in portraying that, thus making it easier for people to feel removed and apathetic. Thank you for sharing x

  • Reply Katelyn August 27, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Beautifully written Leah! You certainly have a way words that left me with a few tears in my eyes. Unfortunately there are way too refugees in this world, Syrian, Thai, or Central Americans. It’s truly heartbreaking. You’re completely right, it’s not a Syrian issue, it’s a global issue! Thank you for sharing this personal story.
    Katelyn recently posted…The Bath Culture of BudapestMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Thanks so much, Katelyn! Glad you enjoyed the story. It’s true, there are far too many people in this world with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Heartbreaking is the only way to describe it.

  • Reply Rachel August 27, 2015 at 8:10 am

    This is so beautifully written Leah, it’s so hard to comprehend what these refugees are going through from our comfortable lives and you have seen it first hand. It’s heartbreaking to hear their individual stories, and heartbreaking for them to leave their beautiful country for such terrifying, devastating reasons.
    The media seems to mass them together, as ‘migrants’ (birds migrate, these people are fleeing), but they are individuals, just like you and me.
    We met some wonderful, generous people when we travelled through Syria in 08, I often wonder where they are now. It is desperately sad.
    We are so very lucky.
    Rachel recently posted…I Went to a Birding Festival and it was Awesome!My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Thank you very much, Rachel. Indeed, the media are often confusing and/or lumping together ‘migrants’ (people leaving their home countries on their own volition) and ‘refugees’ (people who have been forced to flee and cannot return safely even if they wanted to) and the fact that there are so many of both types of people entering the EU is only complicating matters more. I really hope that more countries start to follow Germany’s lead and open their borders to those in need.

  • Reply Ashley Tippins August 27, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Leah, great job with this post, thank you for writing it. This story is absolutely heartbreaking. Travel gives us many opportunities, usually fun and happy and exciting. Every so often it gives us something more, something that wakes us up. I met 34 asylum seekers from India and Nepal who unintentionally ended up in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in November. They are still stuck under a hut in the harbor today as they don’t wish to return home for fear of persecution and the small island nation of FSM just wasn’t equipped to deal with them. It’s heartbreaking to hear their stories, but the one thing that impacted me the most was their spirit. Despite having been duped out of their life savings by human traffickers, detained for months and just barely provided basic necessities, they are so full of hope despite all the odds. I wrote about them on my blog (thanks CommentLuv for letting me link to it). We can’t do much, but we can tell their story. You never know who this post might impact in a big way. Thank you again for writing it.
    Ashley Tippins recently posted…Save the Green Boat Asylum Seekers in YapMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Ohh thanks for sharing your experience, Ashley! I’m excited to read your post. I’m with you, these people had a spirit that just seemed unbreakable. Smiling and giving and sharing in the midst of some of the worst struggles they will hopefully ever face. Perhaps resilient is the word. Anyway I’m really glad you appreciate me telling their story. I only hope more people can read it and understand what these families are going through–maybe even do something to help. x

  • Reply Rachel August 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

    I almost never comment on blogs I read, but I just have to say how fantastic I think it is that you wrote this. Not only is this a beautifully composed, brutally honest piece of writing, it is an important reminder of how privileged we are, and how tough some people have it. Thank you for using your voice to bring more attention to the plight of some of the millions of people displaced from Syria. Blogging is at its best when it touches people, and I think that’s something you’ve achieved here, so thanls

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Aw wow Rachel, this comment made my day. Thank you so much for feeling compelled to respond to this post, I am so happy to know that my words have moved people in such a way. 🙂

  • Reply Natasha August 27, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Such a beautifully written piece Leah! And such a moving account of the situation of Syrian refugees. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Thank you so much, Natasha. Really happy to know you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca August 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Lovely storytelling – especially tough when it is such a hard story to tell. I see this on the news all the time, it’s far different to experience it in person. Thank you for the reminder to always be compassionate and remember that we are all human and deserve respect.
    Rebecca recently posted…Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires!My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Really appreciate that, Rebecca. Thank you for taking the time to read.

  • Reply Michele August 27, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    What an amazing life experience for you all your article is well written and really shows this experience has made a change to your life. Well done on being so compassionate and caring we need more like you
    Michele recently posted…Goodbye England Bonjour FranceMy Profile

  • Reply Kay Dougherty August 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I guess I’ll quit complaining about how I had to take money out of savings to buy a new air conditioning system for my home. What a luxury problem. It’s amazing that there’s so little compassion towards these people (in general, obviously not from you). I think it’s a combination of them fleeing to very poor countries that are already overwhelmed and other countries being afraid there will be some radicalized current or future terrorists among them. I’m close to broke but will make a donation because what I think is very little could maybe help someone more than I can imagine.
    Kay Dougherty recently posted…Porto with (and without) Viking River CruisesMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I think you’re on point with some of the issues preventing Europe from welcoming these people with open arms. They may not have the resources to take all of them and they may not truly want them to stay forever, but I hope they start to treat these refugees with more respect at the very least. Thank you so much for donating! You’ve made this post more than worth my time 🙂

  • Reply Michelle August 27, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I almost didn’t comment because I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said by the commenters above, but I just wanted to add my thanks for this impactful reminder about perspective. Beautifully written.

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:34 am

      What a lovely compliment, thank you so much, Michelle! I appreciate you taking the time to comment 🙂

  • Reply grasya August 27, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    i hope these refugees can find a place to feel safe.. thank you for sharing this story..
    grasya recently posted…FREE accommodation and travel allowance in Chiang Mai, ThailandMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 28, 2015 at 11:35 am

      I hope so too. With all of my heart <3

  • Reply Nina Travels August 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I was struggling to read your post to the end as I got tears in my eyes… I traveled to Syria just 3 months before the first fights and bombing started. Before even coming home from Syria I knew this is my favorite country ever. Not so much because all the magnificent and historical sights but because its people. I never felt so welcomed there… Everyone help me, hosting me, just because they wanted to… they never even though of me giving them anything in return… When reading your post all their faces came alive… I often think about them and hoping they are safe… I cannot imagine what they are going through…
    On the other hand, I was also traveling (roadtrip) from Slovenia to Greece 3 weeks ago and seen lots of refugees walking from Greece up north along the highway…. I cannot even find the right words to describe my thoughts, my pain… Seeing young men, women, and children walking having NOTHING because the war took them everything is something no one should go through….
    Nina Travels recently posted…Belopeska Lakes (Fusine Lakes) – a nice half day cycling trip from Slovenia to ItalyMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:41 am

      Hey Nina! Wow, that’s really amazing to hear you had such a great time in Syria. I don’t know many people who’ve traveled there but the few who have also loved it. The locals really are what make a place special. I hope the Syrians you became friends with in your travels are safe…sending my thoughts to them and everyone else fighting for their lives after losing everything to war.

  • Reply Mandy August 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Wow, thanks for sharing this story, Leah! It gave me goosebumps reading about this situation… It’s heartbreaking to see what is going on in this world currently.
    I’m trying to help refugees coming to Germany, even if it’s just a small gesture.
    Mandy recently posted…Jetzt reicht’s! Laut werden gegen Fremdenhass!My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

      Thank you Mandy, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. That’s so great that you’re willing to help when so many others are turning their backs on these people. Even small gestures can go a long way.

  • Reply Sean August 28, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Incredible post, thank you so much for sharing it. And yes, of course, I teared up while reading it.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:43 am

      Aw, thank you Sean. Thanks for reading and letting me know you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Ashley August 29, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Beautifully written, Leah! This was heartbreaking to read, but thank you for sharing, and for bringing the Syrian refugee crisis to light. It’s frighteningly easy to become indifferent to the reality of situations like this one, especially if you only see snippets of information on TV, or read the odd article online. I can’t imagine coming face to face with Syrian refugees and witnessing their suffering first hand. This was a poignant reminder that I have the power to make a difference – albeit a very small one – and I’m grateful for that reminder.
    Ashley recently posted…Couchsurfing in Budapest: The Good, The Bad, and The AwkwardMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:45 am

      Exactly Ashley, that’s why I chose to tell this story–to make it a little more real, and a little more human than the media does. It was a poignant moment for me to live through and I’m glad I was able to convey that here.

  • Reply Ryan August 29, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Beautiful story telling Leah, you’ve really got a way with words. Thanks for sharing your stories with all of us 🙂
    Ryan recently posted…Big Travel, Small Budget – How to Travel More, Spend Less, and See the WorldMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:45 am

      Thank you Ryan, I really appreciate that. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Camels & Chocolate August 30, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Crazy. One of my earliest train rides was helping to smuggle a couple of refugees from Austria to Italy (they just happened to be sleeping under the bed of my train car when I boarded). It was terrifying but also, like you said, an exercise in compassion.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Embracing the All-Inclusive Experience in ArubaMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:47 am

      Wow, that is a crazy story. At least in this case, there was no risk involved for me–I can’t imagine how scary that must have been for you. But it’s always important to take away the lessons, which you obviously did!

  • Reply Marie @ To Europe And Beyond August 30, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    That’s the most beautiful thing I read in months. What a poignant, eye-opening recount.

  • Reply Britt September 1, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I cried reading this. The plight of refugees is something that breaks my heart everyday- especially given I live in a country that treats them as subhuman because of a few rascist fears and a bad government.

    This is written beautifully and thank you so much for sharing this story. It is posts like this that really tell the story of refugees rather than the numbers splashed across headlines.
    Britt recently posted…My First Aid Kit For TravelMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 2, 2015 at 12:49 am

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, Britt. It is truly heartbreaking and I’m happy I’ve been able to bring it to the forefront of people’s consciousness, even just a little bit.

  • Reply Rashaad September 2, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t paid as much attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees as I should have. But I certainly vow to a better job so thank you so much for sharing that story.

    That story is also an example of why I like train travel – the opportunity to meet people.
    Rashaad recently posted…Home Sweet Home – GraduationMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Thank you so much for reading, Rashaad. My hope is that this article can bring it a little closer to home for those who only know what they hear through the media. And I agree, train travel is great for that 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…Month in Review: August 2015My Profile

  • Reply Dan September 2, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Wow. This killed me. So well-written.

  • Reply Jerredz September 7, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Hello. I just wanted to say that I found you on Instagram, and this post hit me in the chest. I am also a high school journalism adviser, and I am sharing this post with my students as a way to illustrate something going on in the news with power not possible in a regular news report. You provided personal experience to provide context to an unbelievable situation that is hard for us to grasp. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2015 at 7:31 am

      Hi Jerredz, I’m so happy you found me through Instagram! And I’m also very happy to hear that this post will prove useful to people in a way I hadn’t even imagined! Thank you so much for reading and sharing

  • Reply Manu September 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Beautifully written and touching, more than many who wrote about it in the news these days.
    And thanks for sharing the lesson you learnt. We should all practice compassion nowadays.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 8, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you Manu, that means a lot. So glad you liked the article.

  • Reply Caroline September 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for sharing your story, and telling it with such dignity and sincerity. The stories, photos, and statistics of this crisis is remarkable and it leaves you with a broken heart and feeling helpless and almost ashamed to live such a privileged life while others are suffering for survival at no fault of their own. Thanks for those resources on how to help and donate as well.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Glad you liked it, Caroline. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Reply Emily September 9, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Leah, you did a wonderful job articulating such a complex situation here. The world needs to hear more stories like yours, so that people can remember that they’re just that – people. For the life of me, I can’t comprehend how anyone can frown upon these humans and the difficult and unimaginable choices they’ve been forced to make. They didn’t choose this and they’re only doing for their families what I’m certain my own would do for me. I think it’s much simpler than the media initially portrayed it, and I’m thrilled to see a fellow American travel writer proving exactly that. Travel blogging is often fun and sometimes even (happily) thoughtless. But this is the stuff that counts. This is the stuff that matters. Thank you for taking on such an important and heartbreaking issue. Bravo, lady.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 9, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Emily, thank you so much for this lovely comment. It made my day. And I completely agree with you–the people in circumstances like this need people to speak out on their behalf and remind us all that they are human, just like you and me. It’s easy to detach when you know them as statistics through media reports and nothing else. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
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  • Reply Veronika September 10, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Beautifully written, Leah. This is an experience like no other.. Thanks for spreading the word about what it’s like to actually really meet the refugees.
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  • Reply Bettina Tynan September 10, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Oh my gosh reading this in a packed Starbucks was a bad idea! Absolutely brought me to tears. This is so well written… Definitely sharing and forcing everyone I know to read it… Especially those who say things like “Why should I care about Syrian refugees when there are homeless to look after?” Thanks for the post <3
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  • Reply Claudia September 10, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Beautifully written post. You have given a face, a name, a personal story to all the thousands of people fleeing war, poverty, uncertainty. We are bombarded by images that at times mean close to nothing to the viewers. You should share this piece with a bigger publication: your voice could be heard by many, to give a message of compassion. Thank you so much!
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  • Reply Frank September 10, 2015 at 5:52 am

    Great post, beautifully written.
    We’re in Budapest and seeing the migrants coming in. The best thing I can say is that it’s a mess that the EU has handled terribly – what was a trickle has become a deluge that nobody appears to have foreseen. I just wrote about it today from the Hungarian perspective.
    Again, great post and really heartbreaking.
    Frank (bbqboy)
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  • Reply Michelle September 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It brought tears to my eyes. Compassion must be universal. If we can’t learn that, I’m terrified to see what will happen to the people fleeing for their lives.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you, Michelle. I agree with you 100%. We’re all capable of compassion.

  • Reply Joella September 13, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Leah- this was wonderfully written and had me in tears. It feels like the world is just finally noticing the plight of these refugees and the more stories like this- that show refugees as humans fleeing a desperate situation- the better. I feel so helpless- I’ve donated to many charities over the last few months but I wish I could do more. Thank you for writing this and for encouraging others to donate and learn more about the crisis.
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  • Reply Francesca @onegrloneworld September 18, 2015 at 12:51 am

    I can’t imagine what that must have felt like in person. I can tell you were deeply moved, as all of us who read this are!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 18, 2015 at 1:25 am

      It was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.

  • Reply Jackie September 19, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    This post is so well-written and on such a difficult topic. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It ‘s so important for the world to understand the human face to this and not just the snippets seen on the news. I was so emotional reading it. I can only imagine what it felt like to be there.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 20, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Thank you, Jackie, that means a lot to me. So glad you enjoyed the post, it was a story I felt needed to be told.
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  • Reply Jane Clements September 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    What an amazing and moving article Leah.
    I was due to travel into Syria but had my trip cancelled just 3 weeks before leaving the UK because the war broke out. I wanted to go to Syria because I had read that the Syrian people are some of the most welcoming and friendly in the world, not to mention the history and the natural beauty of the land.
    I have also worked with refugees in the past and I am fully aware that nobody undertakes this sort of journey lightly, especially with vulnerable children in tow.
    I have been moved to tears by the recent news reports and the desperate plight of the people. This first hand experience makes it even more real, and more sad.
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    • Reply Leah Davis September 22, 2015 at 3:24 am

      Thank you Jane, and thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve done some digging to find blog articles by people who traveled to Syria before the war, and they all say the same–that Syrians are SO welcoming and kind. I really hope this tragic mess gets sorted sooner than later.

  • Reply harideep shetty July 23, 2016 at 4:36 am

    wow thats a heartfelt reaction, i almost felt like i was living the experience, especially your observation about compassion irrespective of what our own situation is. that is something we learn only when we travel, thanks for sharing, will try and make an attempt to inculcate it.

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