Award-winning Swedish Magnus Wennman captured a series of pictures for the newspaper Aftonbladet. In this collection of moving portraits, he wanted to pay tribute to all these Syrian kids living between the borders of Orient and Occident, whose daily life is a hell night and day. Magnus had to travel across Europe to meet all these refugee families and solitary children, when the night falls, to portray them during their sleep.
Lamar, 5 years old.
Horgos, Serbia. Back home in Baghdad, the dolls, the toy train, and the ball are left; Lamar often talks about these items when home is mentioned. The bomb changed everything. The family was on its way to buy food when it was dropped close to their house. It was not possible to live there anymore, says Lamar’s grandmother, Sara. After two attempts to cross the sea from Turkey in a small, rubber boat, they succeeded in coming here to Hungary’s closed border. Now Lamar sleeps on a blanket in the forest, scared, frozen, and sad.
Mahdi, 1.5 years old
Horgos/Roszke. Mahdi is one and one half years old. He has only experienced war and flight. He sleeps deeply despite the hundreds of refugees climbing around him. They are protesting against not being able to travel further through Hungary. On the other side of the border, hundreds of police are standing. They have orders from the Primary Minister Viktor Orbán to protect the border at every cost. The situation is becoming more desperate and the day after the photo is taken, the police use tear gas and water cannons on the refugees.
Abdul Karim, 17 years old
Athen, Greece. Abdul Karim Addo has no money left. He bought a ferry ticket to Athens for his last euros. Now he spends the night in Omonoia Square, where hundreds of refugees are arriving every day. Here, smugglers are making big money arranging false passports as well as bus and plane tickets to people in flight – but Abdul Karin is not going anywhere. He is able to borrow a telephone and call home to his mother in Syria, but he is not able to tell her how bad things are. “She cries and is scared for my sake and I don’t want to worry her more.” He unfolds his blanket in the middle of the square and curls up in the fetal position. “I dream of two things: to sleep in a bed again and to hug my younger sister.”
Ahmad, 7 years old
Horgos/Roszke. Even sleep is not a free zone; it is then that the terror replays. Ahmad was home when the bomb hit his family’s house in Idlib. Shrapnel hit him in the head, but he survived. His younger brother did not. The family had lived with war as their nearest neighbor for several years, but without a home, they had no choice. They were forced to flee. Now Ahmad lays among thousands of other refugees on the asphalt along the highway leading to Hungary’s closed border. This is day 16 of their flight. The family has slept in bus shelters, on the road, and in the forest, explains Ahmad’s father.
Shiraz, 9 years old
SURUC. Shiraz, 9, was three months old when she was stricken with a severe fever. The doctor diagnosed polio and advised her parents to not spend too much money on medicine for the girl who ”didn’t have a chance.” Then the war came. Her mother, Leila, starts crying when she describes how she wrapped the girl in a blanket and carried her over the border from Kobane to Turkey. Shiraz, who can’t talk, received a wooden cradle in the refugee camp. She lies there. Day and night.
Tamam, 5 years old
AZRAQ. Five-year-old Tamam is scared of her pillow. She cries every night at bedtime. The air raids on her hometown of Homs usually took place at night, and although she has been sleeping away from home for nearly two years now, she still doesn’t realize that her pillow is not the source of danger.
Ralia, 7 and Rahaf, 13 years old
BEIRUT. Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13, live on the streets of Beirut. They are from Damascus, where a grenade killed their mother and brother. Along with their father, they have been sleeping rough for a year. They huddle close together on their cardboard boxes. Rahaf says she is scared of “bad boys,” at which Ralia starts crying.
Fara, 2 years old
AZRAQ. Fara, 2, loves soccer. Her dad tries to make balls for her by crumpling up anything he can find, but they don’t last long. Every night, he says goodnight to Fara and her big sister Tisam, 9, in the hope that tomorrow will bring them a proper ball to play with. All other dreams seem to be beyond his reach, but he is not giving up on this one.
Photos by Magnus Wennman/AFTONBLADET/REX USA.