Smiles in Exile

Tragedy and drama have so far been the images of the refugee crisis. When I went out there to document the situation I knew there would be more to it and I was not disappointed.

Smiles greeted me more than tears. Joy and gratitude for the small things that we take for granted; shelter, food, family and most of all security. I witnessed the smiles of people on their way to a new life.

Let me show you some of my favorite Smiles in Exile.

This smile broke my heart and always will. I know that whatever happens in my life, if he can smile, I also should. Syrian boy in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

A child smiling and playing, something we don't find unusual in our lives, it should not be unusual for them either. Tabanovce, Macedonia (FYROM).

All he had left was this cookie and his smile. He offered  both to me but I only took the smile and a picture.Trying to protect himself from the rain in the camp of Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece. 

Palia had so much fun trying to make soap bubbles and I must admit I put the camera down to make some bubbles myself. I could have been playing with one of my own little cousins just the same. Skala Sikamineas, Lesvos, Greece.

I don't have children but I try to imagine how hard it should be to bring the most precious person in your life on such a dangerous journey. What an immense relief it must be to watch the sunset over the beach after such a perilous moment is over. Lesvos Island, Greece.

I once fell in the water fully dressed when I was a kid. Soaked and cold, my family helped me getting into dry clothes. When refugees arrive on the island all wet and disoriented, they have nowhere to go and no dry clothes at the ready. These thermal blankets provided by volunteers have saved countless lives on the island and are still in high demand. Lesvos Island, Greece.

"Sawarini, sawarini, sawarini", the Arabic words I've heard most often when I was in the refugee camps in Lebanon. It means, "take a picture of me". It is incredibly nice to spend some time with the kids and play with them while taking pictures but it makes you realize how few entertainment and exterior visits they have. Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

Young, I had only to ask my parents for a pencil when I lost one, never realizing how precious it was. With a smile like this, it's easy to see that this Syrian child knew perfectly how precious a pencil can be.  UNICEF tent in Geveglija, Macedonia (FYROM).

Brave little man walking with his family from the Greek border of Idomeni to Macedonia (FYROM) takes time to wave and smile at the lucky photographer.  To this day, I can't help but smile just by looking at the picture. Since it was taken, Macedonia (FYROM) closed its borders to all refugees except Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Gevgelija, Macedonia (FYROM).

In the harshest conditions I met so far following the refugees, I thought no one could smile, especially not me. This boy had not given up on hope and his eyes were still shining and his smile radiating. There is always a way to smile, always. Moria, Lesvos, Greece.