The emotion of a simple gesture

The emotion of a simple gesture | World Vision Blog

A Syrian refugee family walking along the Serbia/Hungary border. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

Right now, our writer/photographer Laura Reinhardt is on the Serbian border with Hungary among the refugees from Syria.

Meet with us this family of three that Laura met in passing yesterday, and hear why this father is making their long, difficult journey for the sake of his infant daughter.


Just before I left to come to Serbia, my husband and I strolled to a nearby grocery store. As we passed someone on the sidewalk, I moved ahead of my husband to allow room for the other person to pass. My husband put his hand on my back, a way to keep a connection even if we no longer walked side by side. Just a simple, but loving, gesture.

Today, I saw a man do the same thing with his wife, and in the circumstances, it broke my heart.

Today was my first day in the field witnessing the refugee crisis in Europe firsthand. Yesterday, we arrived to the news that Hungary was closing its borders. This morning, we heard that Kanjiza—where World Vision has been distributing relief supplies to refugees—was very empty. Everyone had moved toward the border to try to get across.

So we headed to the border, and confusion reigned. People were crowded at a border crossing and then suddenly they were marching away from the gate. They walked about 200 yards, and a few began cutting through a narrow pathway in a field, ducked under a wire fence, and headed for a different border entrance.

The majority of people moved 50 yards further down, where police directed them toward a more open route—an easier path to access because this space, covered in concrete, used to be storage for items awaiting customs clearance. Now weeds and tall grass crumble the concrete.

We continued down the main road and stumbled upon a path through an orchard where ripe apples practically dripped from the trees. The picturesque and peaceful scene felt incongruous with the mass of humanity we had just witnessed wandering from place to place, unsure of what to do next.

At the end of the road, we reached the main highway connecting Serbia and Hungary. There, Serbian police told us we could go no farther. It was there that we saw a young Syrian man, maybe in his early 30s. Beside him, his wife stood holding their 8-month-old infant girl. They had traveled all the way from Damascus.

The emotion of a simple gesture | World Vision Blog
(Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


Come with us, we told him. We can show you where most of the people were walking. He hesitated, looking at the fence to the apple orchard. Was this a place where they would be detained or fenced in? he asked. Would someone be waiting at the other end of this road demanding money to take them a little farther toward their destination? We are not rich, he told us. We don’t travel in a big group. The three traveled with a few new friends from Aleppo, who they’d met along the way.

We walked just a little way with them, not even getting their names because so many Syrian refugees are reluctant to give that information. Still, he did tell us that they came because he wanted a better life for his daughter, a chance for her to be educated—and a European country, he thought, offered that opportunity.

The emotion of a simple gesture | World Vision Blog
(Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


When we reached the road, they paused a moment for me to take a family photo. Then they crossed the road and headed toward the next step in their long journey. As they walked along the roadside, he put his hand on his wife’s back, and the familiarity of that gesture brought tears to my eyes. The pressure of his hand seemed to convey, “We’ll get through this. I’ve got your back. Don’t worry.”

And then they were swallowed up into the mass of refugees: gone.

War in Syria has triggered the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Of the 12 million Syrians affected, half are children. Since the beginning of the Syria refugee crisis, World Vision has helped nearly 1.8 million children and adults in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. In Europe, we are now also providing aid to refugees in Serbia. Together, we can help even more.

Though you can’t physically host a refugee family, you can care for their physical needs. Donate today to help refugees by making a monthly pledge of any amount to provide vital care to refugees in desperate need. Your gift will make a difference.

Leave a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.