Kristine L Ming

A mother’s search for her son 3,000 miles from home

For refugees and migrants trying to reach northern Europe, the journey is fraught with risks. Families can become separated and reuniting them can seem like an almost impossible task, as John Sweeney found out when he met a Syrian woman in Hungary, desperate to find her son.

The sorrow written on the face of the old lady sitting by the train window set her apart.

Fakhria told me her story haltingly and in small, confusing packets so I only fully comprehended the danger she faced when she collapsed at Hungary’s border with Austria and, I feared, could have been dying. But I am getting ahead of the story.

I was travelling though Hungary, having followed the 1,300 mile (2,100km) route people take from the Greek island of Kos to Central Europe.

“In all honesty I regret making this journey,” said Fakhria. “If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have come.”

Fakhria was in her early 60s, I guessed, dressed in a black headscarf and simple frock. She didn’t have a bag or any belongings with her. She told me she was from Kobane, the Syrian town turned to rubble in the battle between IS and Kurdish fighters backed by American air power.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Much of Kobane is now in ruins

This summer, her whole family decided to leave and seek sanctuary with relatives in Denmark. Fakhria started the journey with her son, Mahmoud, and her brother and his family.

Their route took them through Hungary, but they heard a false rumour that if the Hungarians stamped their passports, they could only end up in Germany and go nowhere else.

Fearing a Hungarian stamp would thwart their goal of Denmark, the family slipped into the country and walked through woods for six hours in the middle of the night.

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