Based on a true story “The Swimmers,” is a biographical drama film that follows the struggle of Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer who fled her country during the Syrian civil war with her sister, Sara Mardini. Both Yusra and Sara were trained by their father, who dreamed of watching his daughters compete at the Olympics. But their dream was soon dismantled by the Syrian civil war. Even though the Mardini family wanted to carry on with their lives, as usual, the daily bombings and attacks forced them to rethink their lives. Sara, the elder sister, was adamant about moving out of their country. After learning about the friends and what they were losing as a result of the war, Sara could no longer sit comfortably in her house. The two sisters, starkly different from each other, embarked on a journey that is a testament to what can be achieved through sheer determination and some luck.
‘The Swimmers’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
While her family celebrated Yusra’s birthday, Sara watched YouTube videos about the war in a corner. She was always quite a rebel and refused to believe in the sugarcoated world that parents often try to portray. Their father, Ezzat Mardini, rightfully described Sara as the headstrong leader and Yusra as someone who had discipline, strength, and perseverance. As the sisters danced at a nightclub, they could see bombs landing from afar. According to Sara, living her life the way she wanted was the goal, even if that meant breaking some rules. But Yasra was dedicated; even though the world around her was collapsing, she could not give up on her swimming practice. It was never Sara’s dream to represent Syria at the Olympics; it was a dream that her father forced on them. She was instead busy searching for ways to get out of the country. When she came across a friend who had reached Germany and was applying for a family reunion, she believed that was the way to go. Yusra was not yet 18; therefore, they could apply for the same and bring the rest of the family to Germany. Ezzat was initially not on board with the idea. Knowing how dangerous the routes were, Ezzat could not imagine sending his two daughters to figure out how to survive all alone. But Sara was hellbent, and she was confident that she could take good care of Yusra. When the arena where a swimming competition was taking place was bombed, Ezzat realized the gravity of the situation. He agreed to send his daughters with their cousin, Nizar.
Sara and Yusra headed out, hoping to embrace freedom and be the people they wished to be. The three took a flight to Istanbul, and the moment the flight took off, they realized that they were now refugees. Sara was not yet ready to call herself a refugee because she still had a home and a loving family she wanted to hold onto. After reaching Turkey, they went to the refugee ghetto and figured out a way to reach Lesbos. While Yusra stated that their father had warned them not to take the boat, Nizar explained that the Bulgarian walking route would be extremely long and tiring. They agreed to take the easier route. After traveling for ten hours on a bus, they reached the point from where they would board the boat to Greece.
The refugees bonded as they waited for the boat. The group consisted of people from Somalia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Sudan who were heading to Sweden, Germany, and the UK. Sara became friends with Edan from Afghanistan; he, too, was planning to go to Germany. The smugglers boarded the refugees on the boat, and they were left all by themselves to figure out the journey. Only a few people knew how to swim, so Sara requested that they help the ones who did not if they faced any danger. Soon, water started to fill the boat, the engine stopped functioning, and panic started to spread. As the day faded into night, the situation got worse. They removed every item that was unimportant, and in that situation, Yusra threw away all the medals she had won. In the terror-struck situation, achievements seemed insignificant; all that one thought of was survival.
How Did Yusra And Sara Manage To Reach Germany?
With no assistance, the refugees were about to sink into the sea. Sara decided that they needed to reduce the weight on the boat, and she was determined to swim her way to Greece. Sara jumped into the sea, and Yusra followed; she could not allow her sister to risk her life alone. Sara’s idea worked, and the engine started again. The sisters refused to board the boat, knowing that the weight would ultimately sink it. They swam all night and reached the shore in the morning. It was Sara’s selfless nature and Yusra’s love for her sister that saved many lives. The shore had thousands of leftover life jackets, indicative of the innumerable refugees who had been there and had lived the struggle just like Sara and Yusra.
The hostility toward refugees was evident from the moment they stepped into Lesbos. They were refused water even though they had the money to pay for it. Residents shut their doors and windows at the sight of the refugees. Thankfully, they were greeted by UNICEF workers who handed them the bare necessities. The refugees were united; they did not belong to any land, but they mattered to each other. Shada was impressed by Yusra and Sara; as women, these girls were inspiring. She looked at Yusra in awe as she described her dream to represent Syria in the Rio Olympics.
As the refugees walked following railway tracks, a man offered to help them cross the Hungary border safely. But as it turned out, it was a scam. Refugees are an easy target for tricksters. They are aware of how desperate the refugees are to cross borders safely, and for that, they are prepared to pay any quoted amount. Trapped in the middle of a forest, they tried to figure a way out. They came across another smuggler who offered to help them reach Hungary. With no alternatives at hand, they took the offer. Sara decided to split ways, considering every car needed to consist of one English speaker for smooth communication. Yusra was disappointed in her sister; she was scared that parting ways could lead to catastrophe. While Yusra managed to cross the border with ease, Sara was found by the police, though the smuggler managed to convince the police to allow them to pass through.
At the garage where the refugees stayed after entering Hungary, a worker tried to force himself on Yusra. Sara attacked the man from behind, and the two sisters ended up fighting the man. With every border they crossed, they came across experiences that left an impact on their lives. Yusra, who was only 17, had to go through such adversities that she was forced to grow up and be responsible sooner than usual. Yusra decided against getting on a truck to reach Germany. She wanted to walk with the thousands of refugees who were marching to Germany. She did not wish to rely on someone else again. Sara and Nizar decided to support Yusra’s decision. Luckily, they were informed about the bus sent by Germans to help the refugees who were marching to Germany. While Nizar and Sara were excited by the possibility, Yusra believed it was a trap. She believed that they would be kept in the refugee camps after entering the country. Yusra wanted to return home, where she was cared for, and she did not have to make major decisions even after knowing how uncertain everything was. But the truth was, there was no home, or at least, their home would not survive the war for long. No matter how much she blamed Sara for forcing her to leave the comfort of her house, it was because of her that she could continue to live. Ultimately, they agreed to take the bus, and finally, after all the struggle, they were in Germany.
‘The Swimmers’ Ending Explained: How Did Yusra Make Her Family Proud?
After reaching Germany, Yusra, Sara and Nizar were registered at a refugee center. The news of the bombings in Syria affected Sara and Yusra. While Sara focused on how she could contribute to helping people, Yusra was determined not to give up on her dream of going to the Olympics. She found a swimming club and approached the coach. Sven, the coach, was initially uninterested in Yusra’s claims, but when she mentioned her timing, he was intrigued and decided to give her a chance. Yusra proved herself, and Sven offered to train her. While he wanted her to start small with club competitions, she was clear that she wanted to be a part of the Rio Olympics and requested that he write to the Syrian national team to ask them to consider her. Sven was not sure if that was possible, but he was surely impressed by Yusra’s confidence. He offered the two sisters a place to stay to better focus on their swimming careers. While their lives seemed to fall into place, Nizar’s hands were tied. Without a work permit, he could not apply anywhere for work, and the entire process was taking longer than he anticipated. Without work, he had to stay in the refugee center and share a tiny space with five other people.
Sara soon realized that, as an individual, she was not interested in swimming. She perhaps participated in competitions to make her father proud, but that was not her dream. She eventually gave up on swimming and focused on figuring out what she liked and wanted to do with her life. After finding out that Yusra could no longer apply for a family Reunion, Sara was shattered. She had planned the entire ordeal, hoping to bring her parents and younger sister safely to Germany, but even that was slipping away. She realized how difficult the situation was for refugees and how no one really cared about their condition. Meanwhile, Sven shared a piece of promising news with Yusra. She was considered to join the refugee team that was formed for the Rio Olympics, keeping in mind the many refugee athletes all across the globe. Yusra was not too ecstatic about it because she had always dreamed of representing Syria. Sara later made her realize the importance of grabbing the opportunity that was presented to her. Yusra informed Sven that she wanted to be a part of the team, and they trained for days and weeks until, one day, she performed her very best. As Yusra prepared to go to Rio, Sara chopped off her hair and established that she wanted to work with an organization in Lesbos that provided basic necessities to the refugees. She wanted to actively participate in helping with the crisis. Even though she, too, was starting a new life, Sara showed her support to Yusra by traveling to Rio. Yusra was fulfilling the dream of her father, but at the same time, she felt a sense of guilt when other athletes discussed how the refugee team was nothing but a sympathy gesture. But she was able to grab everyone’s attention the moment she started to swim. She was the fastest in the group and won the heat, making Sven proud. In the end, Sara and Yusra ran into the sea; they were finally happy at the place they were at, and they were fulfilling their dreams just like they had intended to.
What Happened To Yusra Mardini And Sara Mardini In Real Life?
“The Swimmers” is based on the real-life events of Yusra Mardini and Sara Mardini. The dramatized biography manages to illustrate the crisis that the sisters, along with millions of refugees, continue to experience. Yusra was the determined swimmer that the film portrays. She was a part of the Refugee Olympics Team, and she won the heat against four women in the Rio Olympics. The 24-year-old is now a UNHCR Goodwill ambassador. She currently lives in Hamburg, Germany. Their parents later managed to escape Syria and now live in Germany. Her story has been an eye-opener; she continues to excel at her sport and is an inspiration and a voice for refugees all around the world. Meanwhile, Sara worked to rescue refugees in Lesbos. In 2018, Sara, along with her colleagues, was charged with “people smuggling” for the assistance they provided the refugees with. The charges against her are said to be politically motivated and baseless. If Sara is found guilty, she will face 20 years in prison.
“The Swimmers” is a 2022 Drama Biopic film directed by Sally El Hosaini.