NEW DELHI: Humans Of New York’s Brandon Stanton is currently in Europe, turning his lens to refugees who are fleeing wars in West Asia, Africa and South Asia.

“For the next several days, I’m going to be sharing stories from refugees who are currently making their way across Europe. Additionally, I’ll be spotlighting some of the people who are attempting to help facilitate their immigration and asylum. Together, these migrants are part of one of the largest population movements in modern history. But their stories are composed of unique and singular tragedies. In the midst of the current ‘migrant crisis,’ there are millions of different reasons for leaving home. And there are millions of different hardships that refugees face as they search for a new home. Since the situation is constantly shifting, I'm still not sure of all my destinations. But over the next ten days or so, I hope to share as many of these stories as I can find,” Brandon posted on HONY’s Facebook page.

“My father loved children. But I was his favorite because I was the small one. Whenever we did something wrong, everyone else got punished except for me. When I was fifteen, he took us on a shopping trip to Baghdad, and he told us to wait in the car while he ran into a market. We heard a loud explosion. We got out of the car and ran toward the sound. Body parts were everywhere. My father’s body was lying on the ground with his head split open. Part of his brain was on the street. I was young and naïve. I remember thinking: ‘It will be OK. He just needs an operation.’” (Vienna, Austria)

“The army searched our house six times. The first two times they knocked on the door. The next four times they kicked in the door in the middle of the night. They hit my wife. They shocked me with an electric baton. And my children had to witness all of this. The psychology of my children changed before my eyes. I stopped getting hugs and kisses. They used to watch cartoons and play normal games. Now they only played games related to war. They’d chase each other around the house, shouting: ‘I’m going to kill you!’ I tried buying them an educational kit with cardboard squares and triangles and circles. When I left the room, they broke the shapes and turned them into guns.” (Hegyeshalom, Hungary)

“I work at the UNHCR, but I have a quite junior position. I have a desk job where I reach out to job candidates and try to get them to consider UNHCR. But whenever there’s an emergency, anyone who has a useful skill is sent to the field. This is my first emergency mission. My father is Iranian so I speak a little bit of Farsi. I didn’t realize how useful that could be. Yesterday I was helping an Afghan woman carry her child across the Serbian border, and I was explaining to her what she could expect when we arrived. She was so comforted by the little information I could offer. I’ve seen so many faces light up just because they heard “Welcome To Croatia” in their mother tongue. I'm thankful for my desk job, but this is why I joined the UNHCR.” (Tovarnik, Croatia)

“I saw the army burn my neighbor’s house. They set it on fire and took photographs while it burned. The next day I saw the same house on TV, except the headline claimed that it had been destroyed by ‘terrorists.’ The army began to arrest 300 people every day. They were arresting everyone. They came for me during Ramadan. I was eating with my entire family when suddenly we heard the sound of a car outside. Soldiers kicked down the door and they tied my hands behind my back. My children were screaming. The soldiers said: ‘We know you are working with the opposition! You are a terrorist!’ I told them: ‘Please. We are poor people. We have done nothing. We are trying to live.’ I never thought I’d see my family again. They brought me to the prison and blindfolded me. They made me kneel on the floor. They asked me questions about the opposition, but I knew nothing. When they asked me a question, I only had two seconds to answer before I was kicked. They beat me for hours while they questioned me. I begged them to stop. I kept promising that I would tell them if I heard anything. Then they attached cables to my body. They would run electricity through me for 25 seconds, then they would stop, and they would ask another question. When I said: ‘I don’t know,’ the electricity would start again. They kept me for three days. When they finally let me go, I couldn’t stand. I went home and hugged my family but I had to go straight to work. Because there was no food in the house and no one had eaten for days.” (Lesvos, Greece)

“I worked as a waiter in Saudi Arabia for seven years to save money so that I could build a house in Syria. It only had two rooms and a bathroom, but for me it was paradise. We lived there for about twenty years. We did not want to leave. We have young children and no money to travel. But it became impossible to live. Our house was situated between the army and the opposition. Every day the army knocked on our door, and said: ‘Help us or we will kill you.’ They came to the restaurant where I worked and accused us of feeding the enemy. We hid in the cellar while they beat the manager. If the opposition managed to capture our village, we would also be killed. They would accuse us of collaborating with the army. We had no options. Minding our own business was not a choice. We left with nothing but our clothes.” (Lesvos, Greece)

“When I joined the Syrian army, there was no war yet. I just wanted to serve my country. But now everyone is forced to do horrible things. One time we were marching and a single bullet came from a village. Our commander told us to go into each house, one by one, and kill everyone inside. The village was a Sunni village, so our commander ordered all the Sunni soldiers to lead the attack. Anyone who disobeyed would be killed themselves. We did our best to aim over the heads of the people who were running away, but forty people were killed. A few nights later I fled in the middle of the night.” (Lesvos, Greece)

“I’m working as an interpreter. I know what these people are going through. My family fled Afghanistan because the Taliban wanted to kill my father. I arrived in Greece fifteen years ago. We came across a river from Turkey. We tried to walk at night but we knew that we’d been caught because we kept seeing red lasers pointed at us. We saw the glow of night vision goggles through the trees. But nobody approached us, so we thought that maybe we had been mistaken, and we kept walking. Eventually we came upon a car along the road that had driven into a ditch. The lights were on and the doors were open. We thought somebody might be hurt inside, so everyone ran toward the car. But it was a trap. The police came swarming out of the trees. I’d been told many times that they’d beat us when they found us. But it was even worse than I imagined. They treated us like animals. They wore masks and gloves because they were afraid to even touch us. It was like we weren’t human.” (Kos, Greece)

“This is the man who inspired us to begin helping refugees. We met Father Stratis back in 2008, when refugees began arriving on the island from Afghanistan. We ran a minimarket at the time, and every day this priest would come in to buy juice, croissants, and other supplies to hand out. Eventually we began to follow his lead, and soon we were working side by side. I always joke that God punished me for my atheism by sending a priest to be my best friend. He was always pushing us to do more. The phone never left his hand. He was always looking for new ways to help. He died last month, but even in his final days, he was searching for diapers from his hospital bed. His final post on Facebook said: ‘God is love, without asterisks.’” (Lesvos, Greece)

“In the past four months alone, we’ve had twelve thousand refugees stop here. We know because we’ve counted the sandwiches that we’ve handed out. They show up battered and beaten. We set up this rest area along the road to hand out sandwiches, juice, and water. One night we had one thousand people here. You could see nothing but heads. We’re not professionals, just volunteers. The families break our heart the most. They show up with no money, no papers, and no hotels. Sometimes it’s raining and they have nothing but cardboard over their heads. They have nothing for their children, and we know how hard it is to raise kids even in standard conditions. Our son hasn’t seen very much of us recently. Even when we are together, the phone is always ringing and we are absent in mind. Recently he asked if we could build a big boat and send the refugees somewhere that there is no war.” (Lesvos, Greece)

“A friend called me at work and told me that a sniper had shot my youngest brother. I rushed to the clinic and he was lying there with a bandage on his head. I unwrapped the bandage to help treat the wound with alcohol, and small pieces of brain were stuck to it. The doctor told me: ‘Unless you get him to Damascus, he will die.’ I panicked. The road to Damascus went straight through Raqqa and was very dangerous. It took ten hours, because we could only take back roads and we had to drive very far out of the way. My brother was in the back seat, and after a very short time he started to vomit bile. Water was pouring from his eyes. I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared. I thought for sure he was dying. But somehow I got him to the hospital. He’s paralyzed now and his speech is slow. His memory is OK. He can remember old things. He needs an operation in his eye. We used to do everything together, and now he can’t do anything. He can only move his hand. I’m trying to get him to Germany because I hear that maybe the doctors there can help him” (Lesvos, Greece).

The extent to which refugee children have been conditioned by their environment is heartbreaking. We wanted permission to take this young girl’s photograph, so we asked if her mother was nearby. Her eyes filled with the most uncontrollable fear that I’ve ever seen in a child. ‘Why do you want my mother?’ she asked. Later, her parents told us how the family had crouched in the woods while soldiers ransacked their house in Syria. More recently they’d been chased through the woods by Turkish police. After we’d spent a few minutes talking with her parents, she returned to being a child and could not stop hugging us, and laughing, and saying ‘I love you so much.’ But I went to sleep that night remembering the terror on her face when we first asked to speak to her mother.