Every day thousands of refugees — most of them from Syria — are risking their lives on sea and land to reach the safety of Europe. Not all of them make it. The photo of toddler Aylan, who washed up on a beach in Turkey, has become a symbol of the pain and peril refugees face in search of a better life. Some goverments are trying their best to assist them and, in very special cirumstances, some individuals are going above and beyond to play their part too. One of those individuals is Swedish Eurovision queen Carola Haggkvist.
Speaking with Sweden’s web media DN.se, Carola has explained her emotional journey — and that of two Iranian refugees — that has taken her from Sweden to Kos and back again.
Touched by the news footage she has seen in recent months, Carola recently flew to the Greek island of Kos with several suitcases full of clothes and shoes to hand out to people in need. There she met two Iranian refugees and decided to help them get to Sweden. Once the men were there — and carrying all their worldly belongings and Carola’s phone number — they asked Malmö police to call her. Naturally the officers were skepitcal that these men knew the Carola…and that she had invited them to Sweden.
Carola explained what went down next to DN.se.
I got a phone call from the Malmö police, who were informing me that two Iranian refugees had asked them to call this number, and speak to me personally. The policeman didn’t believe, at first, that I was who I said I was, but after a while, I convinced him, and the men took a train to Stockholm, where I met up with them and helped them settle in the Refugee Center in northern Stockholm.
But what triggered this gesture of kindness?
“I just had enough,” she said. “The suffering of those poor people and their desperation just gnawed at me from the inside. I knew I had to do something, I just wanted to give love, clothes and money.”
Previously the picture of toddler Aylan had a profound effect on her. “I couldn’t sit around and do nothing anymore,” she said. “I booked the flight to Kos, where many of the refugees arrive from Bodrum.”
Carola witnessed hunger and thirst and horror on a thousand faces. She met up with shaken refugees, still recoiling from their experience of fleeing their homes and setting sail in leaking rubber boats.
“It was a lifechanging experience,” she said. “I look at life now in a completely different way. I’ve met so many people, who have told me their story, and I’ve cried with them. These people need help!”
And Carola means business. She, along with several other Swedish musicians, artists and athletes, organized the Hela Sverige concert to support the refugees. The concert took place in Globen — this year’s Eurovision venue — on September 29.
She understands that there are skeptics who question her motivation, but knows that helping those in need is more important than shade from cynics.
“Some said I was doing this to boost my career, and I understand the people who say that, me being an artist and all,” she said. “But I am also a human being with feelings, and it breaks my heart to see people suffer. If this inspires others to do the same, that is all that matters. Believing in kindness and doing good to others is the key to change the world.”
This is how you do it. wiwibloggs salutes Carola for her kind gesture and her big heart.