Migrants and refugees have been flooding Europe at an alarming rate, fleeing their war torn homes in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We've seen countless news stories of people risking their lives to make it to a new country where they hope to they don't have to live in fear anymore.
But these harrowing tales are not new - they've happened throughout human history. When anyone finds themselves a victim of persecution or caught in the middle of violence and war, they do the only thing that makes sense: they leave.
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The recent wave of migration to Europe reminded me of another refugee story. A story about running away to survive, leaving the most important things in the world behind, and spending three decades figuring out how to go back.
Roman Boed is an international lawyer and photographer living in the Netherlands. He was born in the Czech Republic back when it was still communist Czechoslovakia. In 1979 he escaped as a refugee with his father and sister, but in a devastating turn of events they were forced to leave his mother and brother behind.
Before they left, Roman's father had been an engineer and often had to travel abroad for work. He found himself under increasing pressure to collaborate with the secret police. They wanted him to report what he observed in the west during his travels. He knew that if he refused, the regime would turn against him and his family, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
Ultimately this meant he had to flee the country, so he took Roman and his sister to nearby Hungary. Roman was given the choice to return home to Czechoslovakia to be with his mother and brother, or continue as a refugee with his father and sister. It was the hardest decision he ever had to make but he couldn't part ways with his father and sister, so he chose to continue as a refugee.
Eventually they found help at the Austrian consulate in Yugoslavia, and later Roman made his way to the U.S., settling in Chicago. He thought about his home often and missed his mother and brother terribly, but as long as the Communist regime was still in power there was nothing he could do.
Finally, 18 years later something happened. Something incredible. In 1989, half a million people joined the Velvet Revolution and the Communist regime was forced out of power. And 13 years after that, Roman was finally able to return to his home country and see his mother and brother again.
Once he was back in Prague he wanted to visit the places he remembered from childhood. Places he hadn't seen in 30 years. The Charles Bridge was one of those places. It had always felt like the center of the whole country. He thought of it every time he remembered his home all the years he was away.
Roman now returns to Prague as often as he can with his fiancee and their three sons, and they always make a point to stop at the Charles Bridge. Sometimes on a foggy day, the bridge stirs that feeling of emptiness that will always represent Prague in Roman's memory.
"The fog made the streets look empty and monochrome just the way Prague lives in my mind and the way I imagined it all those years I could not visit."
Read more about Prague's history:
Britannica: Prague Spring - Czechoslovak history
Check out more of Roman Boed's photography