The Swimmers is a movie released on Netflix in November 2022, presented as an “incredible true story.” The facts that inspired the film are taken from the life events of the Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini and her sister Sarah, who always dreamed of becoming professional swimmers and had to pursue their dream against the complicated situation related to the Syrian Civil War. In this article, we will discover the true story of these two brave girls.
You can find The Swimmers‘ official trailer here on Youtube.
The Swimmers: the true story of Yusra and Sarah Mardini
Yusra Mardini was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1998. She started training as a swimmer at a very young age, and her talent was immediately evident: she had already participated in official international competitions at 14, when she represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships held in Istanbul.
The outbreak of the Civil War, especially after the 2012-2013 escalation, made life impossible in the area where the two sisters lived. Yusra and Sarah then became one of the many refugees who fled Syria, looking for a place where to live normally. They managed to escape the country, reaching Lebanon first and Turkey later. In 2015 they paid smugglers to board a boat directed to Greece. The boat was supposed to bring 7-8 passengers, but 20 people ended up crowded in it. And already half an hour after it left Turkey, the boat started taking on water.
In an extreme attempt to prevent the boat from sinking, Yusra Mardini, her sister Sarah and another person who could swim jumped off the boat and pushed it through the sea. It lasted three and a half hours, then finally, the group reached the Greek island of Lesbos. NPR told the astonishing story in this article.
Yusra and Sarah traveled through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria before finally reaching Germany. Once there, they started training again. Their dream was untouched: Yusra wanted to swim at the Olympics, and Sarah was supposed to join her team. Years of dedication, under the supervision of Coach Sven Spannenkrebs in Berlin, made the dream possible: Yusra participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and then in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The story of Yusra and Sarah Mardini represents one of the few happy endings among the community of Syrian refugees, marked so heavily by horrible stories of pain and suffering. In an interview with Forbes, the director of The Swimmers, Sally El Hosaini, said that the movie implied a lot of research directly with Yusra and Sarah’s families, to keep the story real. But she also said that some elements of fictionalization have been introduced “to represent the 99% of refugees that don’t have that happy ending or that outcome.”