Sometimes your purpose in life is way bigger than you can ever imagine,” says Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee and Olympic swimming champion whose life story forms the basis for the new Netflix film, The Swimmers.
Growing up in Damascus in Syria, Yusra dreamed of competing at the Olympics. She remembers watching the games with her father, who was a professional swimmer, and began training when she was nine years old. But after civil war broke out when she was just 13, her life changed dramatically. “Our house was destroyed, so we had to live with my grandma, and sometimes with my aunt,” she says. “We went to school, but it was dangerous; it was the same with swimming.”
After four years of living in fear of shelling and sniper attacks, she and her older sister Sara made the difficult decision to flee in search of safety in Europe. “We had to risk everything for our basic human rights and start a new life. It was really hard for me, because I was abandoning everything: our belongings, my family, my friends, my home, everything.” They had heard stories about friends who had made the sea crossing and found information on smugglers and the routes they took from a Facebook group, so in August 2015, they embarked on the treacherous 25-day journey.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK