Israa, like millions of other Syrians in recent months, saw her home destroyed and must now leave her country to find safety and continue her education. She and her family are featured in a BBC News documentary called “Exodus: Our Journey to Europe,” airing this week.
“When we were in Aleppo, it was full of toys,” the 11-year-old girl tells the camera. “A missile destroyed everything. It’s all gone.”
In the documentary, Israa behaves like most preteen girls, skipping through grassy fields and playing with other children. But when she encounters the other families traveling to Europe for asylum, she becomes emotional and quiet.
"She loves everyone," her father, Tarek, says. "She wants everyone to live safely and peacefully. She doesn't want anyone to experience her loss."
Israa explains how important it is that her family remains together during their journey, particularly because of her sister Shahed, who has mental and physical disabilities that confine her to a wheelchair. Their 50-year-old father insists on being the only one to carry her.
“Walking takes so much effort, and I’m pulling a wheelchair,” Tarek said. “It was hard labor for me. I am not young anymore.”
The family travels more than 2,000 miles on foot, bus and train across Europe. Along with walking through miles of mud, the family must spend hours in the cold waiting for borders to open between Serbia and Croatia.
According to Amnesty International, more than 4 million people have been displaced in Syria, and 150,000 refugees are hoping to be granted asylum within the European Union, including Israa and her family. They are currently in Germany waiting to learn if whether their applications have been approved.
“This journey has taught us everything: courage, strength and patience,” he said. “Although we’ve suffered a lot, we’ve weathered the storm.”
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