Meet Mahmoud

Mahmoud and his wife, Reem, weren't seeking help for a friend. They were mourning the death of their daughter.

Mahmoud and Reem holding a picture of their 6-year-old daughter, Rand. Photo © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis.

The family of six had crossed from Syria into Greece and had been without sleep or food for two days. While walking for hours along railway tracks, they didn’t hear the train as it hurtled toward them in the darkness. Their six-year-old daughter, Rand, was struck and killed.

Already heartbroken at leaving their home in Syria, Mahmoud and Reem now had to contend with the death of their daughter in an unfamiliar place, terrified at seeking help in case they alerted the authorities. Clutching their three small children and in terrible anguish, Mahmoud and Reem left Rand’s body and followed the sound of barking dogs until they saw lights from a nearby village. They had to take the risk.

But their risk-taking was rewarded, as they found solace in the kindness of two strangers: Akis and Sia Armpatzianis. “Our daughter, our daughter!” was all that Mahmoud could shout in Arabic, through tears. Despite the significant language barriers, the couple comforted the grieving family, organized an Islamic burial for Rand in a nearby mosque and paid for the funeral. The two families gathered for the ceremony.

Mahmoud and Reem slowly began to rebuild their lives, waiting patiently for a permanent home through the European Union’s relocation scheme. They cried with happiness when they learned they would be relocated to France, and they called Akis and Sia to thank them and say goodbye before leaving for the airport.

The Al-Hayeks are just one of thousands of families who have made similar perilous journeys. They suffered the tragic loss of their daughter, but they were still luckier than many to make it across the border.

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The Al-Hayek’s story is courtesy of UNHCR’s ‘Tracks’ (Tania Karas). Full details in the credits.