Yusra Mardini 1
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The extraordinary story of Yusra Mardini hits our screens

The Swimmers debuts on Netflix next week

The Swimmers, which tells the remarkable story of Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, will launch on Netflix on Wednesday 23 November.

Yusra, who is also a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, hopes the dramatic new film will challenge attitudes towards refugees.

“This movie is going to put the conversation on the table of what a refugee is, of what we want to change,” says Yusra. “Being a refugee is not a choice. Our only choice was to die at home or risk death trying to escape.”

The Swimmers debuts on Netflix on Wednesday, 23 November.

The Swimmers stars Lebanese actors and real-life sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa, as Yusra and her older sibling Sara.

It covers their childhood in Damascus, their focus on swimming from a young age, and their escape from the war in Syria in 2015. When the overcrowded dinghy they boarded in Turkey began taking on water, Yusra and Sara jumped overboard and towed the stricken vessel through the Aegean Sea for three hours to reach the shores of Lesvos.

The filmmakers visited the Greek refugee camps where Yusra and Sara first stayed, as well as their home in Germany.

“We told them the whole story. We wanted it to be the actual story, the real story,” Yusra says. “They really invested a lot of time and energy into this, and we did not doubt for a second that they would do a great job.”

Since competing on the Refugee Olympic Team as a swimmer in both the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games, Yusra has emerged as a leading voice for refugees.

“The Olympic Games changed the way I think about being a refugee. I walked into the stadium in Rio and I realised that I can inspire so many people. I realised that ‘refugee’ is just a word, and what you would do with it is the most important thing.”

In 2017, Yusra became the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2018 she published her memoir, Butterfly.

Beyond swimming, Yusra plans to continue her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, establish a charitable foundation focusing on sports and education, undertake her own further studies, and perhaps even start acting.

Despite being in the Hollywood spotlight, Yusra has not lost sight of her calling.

“A lot still has to change for refugees,” she says. “This is not the end. This is just the beginning.”

Yusra Mardini
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini visits a UNHCR supported community centre in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. © UNHCR/Jordi Matas

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