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World Refugee Day: What Would You Take With You?

Imagine being forced to leave your home without warning. What would you take with you? Something essential to your survival? A sentimental object? A beloved pet? The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, is putting these questions to the public as part of its 1 Family campaign in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. But for many families, such painful choices are an actual part of life. In this UNHCR photo series, refugees living in Central Europe share the most important thing they brought with them when they left their homes.

Magbola Alhadi, 20, and her three children fled the village of Bofe in Sudan when it was stormed by soldiers. She brought a pot that was small enough to carry but large enough to cook meals for her daughters during their journey.
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Magbola Alhadi, 20, and her three children fled the village of Bofe in Sudan when it was stormed by soldiers. She brought a pot that was small enough to carry but large enough to cook meals for her daughters during their journey.

Somarst and Nur lost their one-year-old daughter to the fighting in Syria. When they and their two remaining children sought refuge in Bulgaria, the most important thing they brought with them was a framed family portrait.
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Somarst and Nur lost their one-year-old daughter to the fighting in Syria. When they and their two remaining children sought refuge in Bulgaria, the most important thing they brought with them was a framed family portrait.

Wais was 15 when he had to flee Afghanistan because of growing feuds between local warlords in his home province of Parwan. Now he lives in Warsaw. "My mother gave me a ring and some family pictures. They are my most precious souvenirs from home," he says.
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Wais was 15 when he had to flee Afghanistan because of growing feuds between local warlords in his home province of Parwan. Now he lives in Warsaw. "My mother gave me a ring and some family pictures. They are my most precious souvenirs from home," he says.

Lina fled Gaza in 2010, traveling through Egypt, Libya, and Jordan before reaching Romania. The most important things the single Palestinian mother brought with her were letters and drawings from her four children -- Alia, Lana, Adam, and Ragheb -- whom she had to leave in Jordan for nine months until she got refugee status in Romania and they could reunite.
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Lina fled Gaza in 2010, traveling through Egypt, Libya, and Jordan before reaching Romania. The most important things the single Palestinian mother brought with her were letters and drawings from her four children -- Alia, Lana, Adam, and Ragheb -- whom she had to leave in Jordan for nine months until she got refugee status in Romania and they could reunite.

Syrian refugees Maryan and Ahmed fled Yemen where they had previously found refuge to avoid conflicts between the local groups. The most important things Maryan grabbed were some clothes and her favorite scarf. "I have to cover my head, and I like the colors of this scarf," she says.
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Syrian refugees Maryan and Ahmed fled Yemen where they had previously found refuge to avoid conflicts between the local groups. The most important things Maryan grabbed were some clothes and her favorite scarf. "I have to cover my head, and I like the colors of this scarf," she says.

Varvara from Georgia says she had to run when she read in a newspaper that her only brother had been killed. "The most important thing? For mothers the choice is easy. I took my children. Without them I would not have left anywhere."
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Varvara from Georgia says she had to run when she read in a newspaper that her only brother had been killed. "The most important thing? For mothers the choice is easy. I took my children. Without them I would not have left anywhere."

Mbela fled Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 with her husband, whose political views had put them in danger. The most important thing she brought with her was a traditional dress. "This dress reminds me of my mother, who said that a real African woman should know how to wear a traditional dress to promote our culture and values," Mbela said. She is now a TV presenter in Bucharest, Romania.
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Mbela fled Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 with her husband, whose political views had put them in danger. The most important thing she brought with her was a traditional dress. "This dress reminds me of my mother, who said that a real African woman should know how to wear a traditional dress to promote our culture and values," Mbela said. She is now a TV presenter in Bucharest, Romania.

"It was too dangerous to waste time on packing. When rebels entered my village in southern Somalia, I just grabbed my jacket and ran out," says Abas, a Somali asylum-seeker in Poland. "The jacket is a bit worn, but I don't mind; it's the only thing that reminds me of my previous life."
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"It was too dangerous to waste time on packing. When rebels entered my village in southern Somalia, I just grabbed my jacket and ran out," says Abas, a Somali asylum-seeker in Poland. "The jacket is a bit worn, but I don't mind; it's the only thing that reminds me of my previous life."

Ali Reza Durani was a social worker in a community center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that was operating with the help of foreign institutions. He fled Afghanistan after he was attacked by people whom he suspected were linked to the Taliban. The most important thing he brought with him to Hungary was the phone number of his family, which he memorized during his flight.
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Ali Reza Durani was a social worker in a community center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that was operating with the help of foreign institutions. He fled Afghanistan after he was attacked by people whom he suspected were linked to the Taliban. The most important thing he brought with him to Hungary was the phone number of his family, which he memorized during his flight.

The most important thing Jean Louis brought with him to Romania was an album with photos of family members and friends he left behind. He fled Brazzaville, Congo, in 1996 when the country was sliding rapidly into civil war. He remembers the day he rescued the photos from the ruins of his family home. "My brother died shortly after I left Congo. This picture is all I have left of him."
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The most important thing Jean Louis brought with him to Romania was an album with photos of family members and friends he left behind. He fled Brazzaville, Congo, in 1996 when the country was sliding rapidly into civil war. He remembers the day he rescued the photos from the ruins of his family home. "My brother died shortly after I left Congo. This picture is all I have left of him."

Sayed fled Afghanistan after a narrow escape from the Taliban. He had been taken hostage on his way to work for a local company that was a contractor for the U.S. military, and witnessed torture and killing firsthand. The most important thing Sayed brought with him to Hungary is an old ring his mother gave him. "I always think of her when I look at it," he says.
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Sayed fled Afghanistan after a narrow escape from the Taliban. He had been taken hostage on his way to work for a local company that was a contractor for the U.S. military, and witnessed torture and killing firsthand. The most important thing Sayed brought with him to Hungary is an old ring his mother gave him. "I always think of her when I look at it," he says.

When Mahad had to escape from Somalia, the first thing he thought about was the Koran. Now he hopes that with the help of the Koran, he will see his family again.
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When Mahad had to escape from Somalia, the first thing he thought about was the Koran. Now he hopes that with the help of the Koran, he will see his family again.

Farahnaz fled Afghanistan after a series of threats to her children’s lives for being a divorced woman and a journalist who worked with foreigners. The most important thing she brought with her was her youngest son, Ali, who was six at the time. "He was still small and couldn’t take care of himself," she says, describing the dangerous trudge across Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Serbia before they reached Hungary. She has since reunited with her other children.
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Farahnaz fled Afghanistan after a series of threats to her children’s lives for being a divorced woman and a journalist who worked with foreigners. The most important thing she brought with her was her youngest son, Ali, who was six at the time. "He was still small and couldn’t take care of himself," she says, describing the dangerous trudge across Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Serbia before they reached Hungary. She has since reunited with her other children.

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