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09/29/2015 05:06 am ET Updated Oct 12, 2015

'Humans Of New York' Shares Stories Of Refugees In Poignant Series

"Together, these migrants are part of one of the largest population movements in modern history."

A man whose brother was murdered by ISIS, a woman whose husband died in the harrowing sea journey, a child who cried out "kill me instead!" when she saw her mother being crushed by a throng of people struggling to board a boat: These are the emotional stories of refugees in Europe that were captured this week in a poignant photo series.

Humans of New York has made a name for itself documenting the stories and photographs of random people living in the Big Apple. But on Friday, Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the project, announced a shift in focus.

"For the next several days, I’m going to be sharing stories from refugees who are currently making their way across Europe," Stanton wrote on Facebook and Instagram. "Additionally, I’ll be spotlighting some of the people who are attempting to help facilitate their immigration and asylum."

"Together, these migrants are part of one of the largest population movements in modern history," he added. "But their stories are composed of unique and singular tragedies."

Stanton shared several tales of refugees who traveled many dangerous miles to arrive in Europe. One was the story of Muhammad, a Syrian man the photographer met in Iraq last year.

In a series of six photographs, Stanton shared Muhammad’s retelling of his last few months, the struggles he faced trying to raise enough money to buy fake papers, his father’s beating at the hands of police and his brother’s murder by ISIS.

"My brother had been killed by ISIS while he was working in an oil field," Muhammad is quoted as saying. "They found our address on his ID card, and they sent his head to our house, with a message: 'Kurdish people aren’t Muslims.' My youngest sister found my brother’s head. This was one year ago. She has not spoken a single word since."

Muhammad currently lives in Austria, where he was recently granted citizenship. His life in Europe, however, hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The island we landed on was called Samothrace. We were so thankful to be there. We thought we’d reached safety. We began to walk toward the police station to register as refugees. We even asked a man on the side of the road to call the police for us. I told the other refugees to let me speak for them, since I spoke English. Suddenly two police jeeps came speeding toward us and slammed on the brakes. They acted like we were murderers and they’d been searching for us. They pointed guns at us and screamed: ‘Hands up!’ I told them: ‘Please, we just escaped the war, we are not criminals!’ They said: ‘Shut up, Malaka!’ I will never forget this word: ‘Malaka, Malaka, Malaka.’ It was all they called us. They threw us into prison. Our clothes were wet and we could not stop shivering. We could not sleep. I can still feel this cold in my bones. For three days we had no food or water. I told the police: ‘We don’t need food, but please give us water.’ I begged the commander to let us drink. Again, he said: ‘Shut up, Malaka!’ I will remember this man’s face for the rest of my life. He had a gap in his teeth so he spit on us when he spoke. He chose to watch seven people suffer from thirst for three days while they begged him for water. We were saved when they finally they put us on a boat and sent us to a camp on the mainland. For twelve days we stayed there before walking north. We walked for three weeks. I ate nothing but leaves. Like an animal. We drank from dirty rivers. My legs grew so swollen that I had to take off my shoes. When we reached the border, an Albanian policeman found us and asked if we were refugees. When we told him ‘yes,’ he said that he would help us. He told us to hide in the woods until nightfall. I did not trust this man, but I was too tired to run. When night came, he loaded us all into his car. Then he drove us to his house and let us stay there for one week. He bought us new clothes. He fed us every night. He told me: ‘Do not be ashamed. I have also lived through a war. You are now my family and this is your house too.’” (Kos, Greece) (5/6)

A photo posted by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

On Monday, Stanton shared the story of a woman whose husband died after their boat sank en route to Europe.

He also posted a photograph showing a father and daughter in Lesvos, Greece.

The HONY photo project offers just a glimpse into the lives of migrants who are seeking refuge in Europe. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece this year.

For more on this photo series, check out HONY’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

 

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