A single refugee is a tragedy. Over four million refugees is a statistic.
"A single refugee is a tragedy. Over four million refugees is a statistic," said photography alumna and faculty member Gabriela Bulisova '05. Bulisova has been documenting the struggle of Iraqis forced to flee their homes because of the violence resulting from the War in Iraq that began in 2003. "These photographs are intended to puncture the statistics and reveal human beings," she said.
For her photo documentary project, Guests: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Bulisova traveled to Syria to photograph refugees who fled Iraq because of their political, religious, or ethnic affiliation. "I found them in dire economic and emotional straits-often traumatized, desperate, and disillusioned," Bulisova said. "Uprooted from their homes and families with no future and no hope for return, they bear witness to the lesser-known consequences of the war."
While working in Syria, Bulisova learned of the plight of Iraqis who were forced from their homes specifically because they had helped the United States. As such, these Iraqis were labeled as traitors and targeted for assassination. "Some of them had made it to America where they were having experiences and feelings both similar to and different from those of Iraqi refugees who had remained in the Middle East," Bulisova said of the people she photographed for her latest project, The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States. "Many feel abandoned by the country they helped and risked their lives for; many are unemployed and facing financial crises; many yearn for the embrace of family and friends left behind; and many wish they could return home."
Bulisova, who is from the former Czechoslovakia and now lives in Washington, DC, has also photographed the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, victims of the 2006 Lebanon War, and the lives of formerly incarcerated women. "I want to tell their stories," she said.