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The Swimmers

USA for UNHCR is excited to feature The Swimmers, directed by Sally Horsaini. The Swimmers is an inspiring film about Yusra Mardini and her sister’s harrowing journey fleeing Damascus, Syria and the dangerous sea crossing they made to seek safety in Greece.

Dear Refugee Allies,

The Swimmers is about the long and dangerous journey my sister Sara and I took when we were forced to flee Syria, and the hardships we faced before finally reaching safety. From dealing with smugglers, going days without food and water, to swimming alongside a sinking dinghy on the Aegean Sea, my journey is just one of the millions made by refugees in the hope of reaching safety.

I was inspired to tell my story and participate in its film adaptation so that more people could understand what refugees go through. Refugees face so much loss, trauma and hardship when they are forced to flee, and everyone in this situation has the right to seek safety—whoever, wherever and whenever. Ensuring this most basic protection is at the heart of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR’s) work and it is why I am honored to partner with UNHCR as a Goodwill Ambassador.

I am very proud of this film and the way it conveys not only the difficult and dangerous decisions refugees face, but also the love, bravery and hope that we have for our futures. This is what motivated me to fulfill my dream of participating in the Olympics—something that allowed me to fully embrace my identity and represent refugees everywhere.

I am excited for people around the world to see The Swimmers.  Please watch the movie, and check out all the ways below that you can get more involved with supporting and uplifting refugees through USA for UNHCR’s Culture Collective.

With gratitude,

Yusra Mardini

The Swimmers

For people who are forced to flee, the journey to safety can be life-threatening and terrifying. From going days without food and water, to swimming alongside a sinking dinghy on the Aegean Sea, Yusra’s journey depicted in The Swimmers is just one of millions made by refugees in the hope of reaching safety.


Before Yusra Mardini’s heroic story was adapted into film, she wrote an autobiography about her journey of fleeing war-torn Syria to reach her dream of swimming at the Olympics. Read Butterfly to learn more about how Yusra’s courage and determination continue to inspire millions of displaced people around the world.

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Learn More

After more than a decade of conflict, Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis. Since 2011, more than 14 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including 6.8 million people who remain internally displaced. Read our explainer to learn more. 


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Listen to a Playlist

The Music of Syrian Exile is a playlist organized by Syrian American Ethnomusicologist, Dunya Hadash featuring music by Syrian refugee artists who are using their art to process their experiences and to celebrate their culture. 


Share on Social Media

Enjoying Culture Collective and want to share what you’ve been reading or watching? Share this content using our social media kit and invite family and friends to join the Culture Collective with you!


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Sign an Advocacy Petition

With a record number of people forced to flee their homes, we must work together to give refugees more hope and more opportunities while they are away from home. Join USA for UNHCR and add your name in support of including refugees in our communities – and welcome them as they restart their lives.

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Ask an Expert

Do you have a question about a refugee emergency around the world? Send your question to us and receive an answer from a UNHCR expert.

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Cook Syrian Cuisine

Soup for Syria is a cookbook featuring soup recipes contributed by chefs and food writers who are working together to raise awareness and funds for Syrian refugees.

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Watch a Musical Performance

UNHCR collaborated with The Kennedy Center for a special performance on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage featuring Syrian musicians Mariela Shaker and Riyad Nicolas. Mariela Shaker found refuge in the United States after fleeing Syria and is now an award-winning violinist, refugee advocate and UNHCR supporter. Watch the performance!


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Visit a Museum

The Mirath Initiative’s Virtual Museum of Syria highlights the numerous and most important artifacts and antiquities in Syria’s Museum collections. Visit the Virtual Museum of Syria to learn more about Syria’s heritage, art and culture. 


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Become a UNHCR Young Champions for Refugees!

Join UNHCR’s Global Network of Young Champions — students or young professionals between the ages of 15 and 25, who are motivated to take action and help refugees in their communities and around the world.