When you hear “refugee crisis,” you might envision photos of small boats afloat on dark waters and packed with people wearing neon-orange life vests. You might think of hands reaching for loved ones across fences, of borders being guarded by men with machine guns, of makeshift tent settlements teeming with homeless families. The pictures we think of are high-energy, chaotic, and full of movement.
The photographs of Greek photojournalist Myrto Papadopoulos are different. They’re quiet, still, and intimate. Each of these women is a mother, sometimes pregnant, sometimes holding her child.
Papadopoulos has documented the refugee crisis since 2010. As she spent time in refugee camps in Greece, she noticed that women would often be left behind with the children while their husbands forged ahead to find new lives for them in Europe. “I felt the women were left out and were the ones who were really suffering,” Papadopoulos says. “And on the other hand, I felt that they would keep these people moving, and they were the reason to continue the journey. Their children were the reason to continue the journey.”
And for these women, the journey is incredibly difficult. Some give birth while traveling. Papadopoulos says she’s seen women walking while carrying newborns as young as ten days old. Some mothers miscarry due to the harsh physical conditions, others have abortions, and still others suffer the deaths of their small children. There are NGOs in some refugee camps that help with pre- and post-natal care and provide forms of birth control when available. But as a whole, being pregnant or being a mother to young children compounds the hardships that all refugees face.
She asked each of these women to share their experiences. Their stories (edited for length and clarity) accompany their portraits...
Image: ©Myrto Papadopoulos