The Swimmers

What do you do when you are parents, and your daughters want to embark on a perilous journey in order to have a future?

This is a film recommendation: The Swimmers tells a true story, of sisters Sara and Yusra Mardini, who were normal teenagers in Damascus, training to be professional swimmers. They left Syria because bombs started falling, and practically ‘swam’ to Greece.


This is the story of their journey; eventually Yusra fulfilled her ambition to swim at both the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. As for Sara, her story is ongoing—but I will leave you to discover it for yourselves.

I had followed the sisters’ saga via The Worldwide Tribe Instagram feed and Podcasts. You can listen to an interview with Sara, here.(highly recommended)

Often biopics can ring false, striving for a heroic bias, but I found this well done, and the actors are excellent. The two are played by real life sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa, which gets the sibling chemistry across really well. The film has its flaws, depending on different points of view—for example, it annoyed some people that the actors spoke mostly in English instead of Arabic—but I thought it gave a good insight into the wider humanitarian crisis facing migrants, and what it means to be labelled a refugee.

It is also a story of family, determination, guts, human frailty—and never giving up on your dreams.

Here is a trailer.

Footnote: See what you think about the traffickers—they are the villains in this story.

7 thoughts on “The Swimmers”

  1. There’s so much contempt for migrants, and even [“fake”] refugees, many of whom are rightfully despondent, perhaps enough so to work very hard in cashless exchange for basic food and shelter.

    These human beings don’t willfully/contently become permanent financial/resource burdens on their host nation. And they do want to pull their own weight through employment, even if only to prove their detractors wrong.

    And, by the way, what happened to our ‘Christian charity and compassion’?

    Migrant laborers should be treated humanely, including timely access to proper work-related bodily protections, but too often are not.

    Also, conveniently ignored is the fact many are fleeing global-warming-related extreme weather events and chronic crop failures in the southern hemisphere widely believed to be related to the northern hemisphere’s chronic fossil-fuel burning, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.

    If they feel they must, critics of such refugees/migrants should get angry at the politicians who supposedly allow in ‘too many’ migrants; but please don’t criticize the desperate people for doing what we’d likely all do if in their dreadful position.

    But then all that no longer matters when the migrants die in their attempt at arriving.

    Last winter a young family of four from India froze to death trying to access the U.S. via sub-zero southern Manitoba. And I wonder how many have died or will while trying to access Canada.


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