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Trekking With Refugees Across Europe: An Up-Close View

Anemona Hartocollis was in Greece in August, covering the economic crisis for the New York Times, when a clash broke out between police and refugees on the island of Kos. After learning that 1,000 refugees been locked in a municipal stadium without food or water, she set off to investigate. Over the next month, she traveled with migrants and refugees across the continent and – through daily online dispatches, video, photography and tweets – documented their journey.

Now back in the U.S., Hartocollis joined ProPublica editor Eric Umansky on our podcast to share from her experience on the front lines of the European refugee crisis.

Refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Ayhan Mehmet / Gety Images)

Highlights from their conversation:

  • Despite our ideas of refugees as impoverished, many of those journeying through Europe have considerable resources. Hartocollis was surprised to find herself traveling largely with a professional middle class of doctors, lawyers and engineers who used technology like Google Maps and WhatsApp to navigate and communicate with their families. “And yet here they are in very difficult circumstances…being chased by border guards and going under barbed wire.” (3:03)

  • Some refugees traveled at an incredible pace during the adrenaline-fueled trip. Constantly on the move, Hartocollis encountered young men who “didn’t like to stop” and would make it from the Greek island of Kos to Germany in a staggering six days. But for families like the Majids, who she mostly traveled with, staying together – through buses, trains, hours of walking on foot, at camps and waiting all night at borders – took them a little longer. (8:23)

  • Hartocollis struggled with the fact that she, unlike the refugees, could always take a break. While she and her team (a videographer and photographer) spent ample time on the ground, they could also retreat by checking into hotels. “I was constantly torn about this, thinking ‘Do I want to spend every minute of every day with them and really experience it?’” she said. “But I think I wouldn’t have been able to function as a reporter and do my job had I done that. It would have been too overwhelming and exhausting.” (12:50)

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For more on the European refugee crisis, read Hartocollis’ dispatches and ProPublica’s Can a Divided Europe Handle the Refugee Crisis?

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