As the Syrian War intensified in 2014, Mardini and her sister left their home in Damascus, travelling to Beirut, Istanbul and finally Izmir in Turkey, where they embarked on their journey across the Mediterranean to the Greek island of Lesbos.
During the sea crossing, the motor on their dinghy suddenly stopped. The tiny vessel meant only for six people was at risk of capsizing, with 20 desperate passengers huddled on board. Mardini, her sister and one other woman took to the water and pushed the boat until it reached the shore, saving the lives of everyone.
“Only four out of 20 on the boat knew how to swim,” says Mardini, who represented Syria at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships. “It would have been shameful if the people on our boat had drowned. I wasn’t going to sit there.”
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