If you lost everything, would you give up on life?
On Nov. 23, the Mardini sisters’ story finally hits the screen as The Swimmers on Netflix.
Who are the Mardini sisters? What is their story? Why is it interesting?
– If you lost everything – your home, your family, your country… Would you quit on life?
– Would you lay low and rebuild?
– Or would you – like Yusra – go all in and make a stand for your greatness?
In 2012, Yusra’s family home was destroyed in the Daraya Massacre, when Assad’s forces killed hundreds of his own citizens in their homes.
For the next three years, Yusra and her family tried to return to normality, but shooting and bombing was a part of daily life. Death was all around.
They lived every moment in fear.
In 2015, Yusra and her sister Sara, made a bid to escape – getting smuggled to the Turkish coast to board a dinghy heading to Greece.
As Yusra remembers, “There were 200, 300 people on the coast. Everyone was waiting until there are no police in the sea so they can go.”
They went up against the chilling waves of the Aegean Sea, when the motor on the overcrowded dinghy carrying
18 other asylum seekers suddenly died within 20 minutes of leaving.
Facing death like so many who had failed to make the trip, she and her sister jumped in the water and
swam the boat all the way to land, saving everyone on board (almost all who couldn’t swim).
Only four in the boat could swim, but the two men who jumped in with Yusra and her sister soon gave up.
Yusra says “I am thinking, what? I’m a swimmer, and I’m going to die in the water in the end?”
That day, their 45-minute boat ride turned into a three-and-a-half-hour swim.
They made it to Lesbos. Then they were smuggled through Serbia to Hungary, Austria and finally,
Germany – where she spent the winter queueing for days at a time to get asylum papers.
The story could end there but – incredibly – Yusra, representing no country,
with no flag and no National Anthem, entered the Olympic Stadium in 2016
Rio Games to compete as an Olympic Athlete as part of the very first Olympic Refugee Squad.
So how did she end up at the Olympics?
Yusra says “Crying in the corner, that’s just not me.”
She continued her passion for swimming, and joined a local swimming club in Berlin. Here, her talent was seen by the National Team and IOC.
She decided to make a bid for the Olympics despite having no country to compete for, and qualified for the 100m Freestyle & 100m Butterfly.
She came first in her heats.
One year after her swim across the Aegean Sea – Yusra competed in the Rio Olympics as part of 10 athletes in the very first Refugee Olympic Team.
She was in the Stadium for the opening ceremony, saying “I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days. I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.”
Yusra became the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N refugee agency in April 2017, while Sara returned to Greece in August 2016 to provide life-saving aid to other refugees.
However tough things get, remember it’s the tough times that make you tougher.
So when you’ve got the option to sink or swim, keep on swimming.
Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympics, said about the Games: “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.”
Yusra adds to that: “My message to all who are struggling. Never give up.”
Next time you are struggling, think about Yusra and Sara Mardani in the Aegean Sea,
swimming in chilling waters, pulling a dinghi of 18 more people to safety for 3 and a half hours.
You wont give up after that!