In the newest installment of a six-part series, Aboud and his brother Amer walk and cycle across Macedonia, toward Serbia.
THE JOURNEY FROM SYRIA, PART FOUR
In the last episode of “The Journey,” the group dynamics began to fray. More than a hundred refugees and migrants had left Greece together on foot, but the able-bodied among them had little patience for those unfit for the trek. Within two days, they had abandoned an old man by the side of the highway. (The filmmaker, Matthew Cassel, arranged for him to be picked up by an ambulance.) A group of young men insisted on splitting off from the large families and marching at their own pace. “The easy part was hard for you, and the real shit is yet to come,” one of them told a group of mothers and children.
As they walked across Macedonia, Aboud Shalhoub and his brother Amer felt unsure of how to respond to gestures of kindness and assistance. Should a smiling local be trusted when he says that he can arrange for the group to have bicycles by morning? Though he delivers, Aboud discovers that “the bikes cost thirty euros, but we’re paying a hundred and thirty.” So begins the next stage of the journey, with Aboud and Amer cycling to Serbia—the last country they must traverse before entering the European Union. “People on TV are pitying the Syrians for what we’re going through,” Aboud says. “We don’t want your pity. We just want you to let us travel.”
In Damascus, Aboud’s wife, Christine, and two children await news that he has reached the European Union, where he plans to apply for family reunification. Christine’s mother, Sabah, worries that abandoning a life in Syria could be a mistake. “People are leaving to Europe thinking it’s paradise,” she says. “They’re wrong. They don’t realize how much they’re losing when they leave.”
This week, The New Yorker, in collaboration with Field of Vision, is featuring “The Journey,” which documents Shalhoub’s travels in six episodes.