Refugees Share Personal Accounts of Fleeing Their Homelands

If you had one minute to flee your home in a crisis, what would you think to take with you? This is the question refugees face every day. Today, there are over 45 million people that have been displaced because of war or persecution around the world, reports the UNHCR (The United Nations High Commission for Refugees), hoping to engage the public to think about the heart-wrenching decisions families are forced to make when they flee their homes.

The project was inspired by a series of images taken by photographer Brian Sokol called "The Most Important Thing."

Join thousands of people around the world and add your picture to this community call to action. Go to and take a picture of your most important thing.

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." (R.Kostrzynski/UNHCR)

Congolese refugee Florence Mukeshimana and her five children escaped to Uganda from eastern DRC because of fighting between the army and rebel forces. She initially hid in the bush and later found out that her husband had been blown up by a land mine. "When I found out he was dead I lost hope and decided to leave the country." This old and worn saucepan is the only thing she has left after selling the rest of her belongings along the way. She made sure she kept it so she could cook for her children. (L. Beck/UNHCR)

Juan and his family were forced to leave Colombia due to persecution by armed military forces. This photo shows Juan and his daughter holding their most important thing; a book titled "The Power of Tenacious Thinking". The book was a gift from his mother "whenever I read the book, I think of my mother and it gives me the strength to continue". (S.Roas/UNHCR)

Wais is a refugee from Afghanistan. He was 15 when he fled to Poland because of growing feuds between local warlords in Parwan. The most important things he brought with him was a gift from his mother. "My mother gave me a ring and some family pictures. They are my most precious souvenirs," he says. (R.Kostrzynski/UNHCR)

Noela Sumaili, fled the Democratic Republic of Congo after her husband was caught by soldiers. She believed she would never see him again. The most important thing she brought with her was a bicycle. She was then re-united with her husband at the camp in Tanzania. "Gabriel couldn't believe his eyes when I showed him the bicycle. At our level, owning a bicycle is a chance. We use it for small business, it helps our family." (M. Senelle/UNHCR)

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