Migrant crisis
A boat full of migrants, lit by the flashlights from the Greek coast guard, is rescued from the waters near the Greek-Turkish border. Sept. 5, 2015.Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
Migrant crisis
A Syrian migrant aboard a flimsy rubber motorboat hands his one-month-old baby to Greek coast guards, who have arrived to rescue the boat full of migrants from dangerous waters near the border between Greece and Turkey.  Sept. 7, 2015.
Syrian migrants are taken to Greece aboard a Greek coast guard vessel after it rescued them from waters near the Greek-Turkish border. Sept. 7, 2015.
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
KOY201509060048, 49, 83, 74Migrants pray at the makeshift mosque they have built inside a detention and processing camp for asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photograph by Yuri Kozyrev/ NOOR for TIME
KOY201509060155, 157, 165Migrants rest and recharge their phones aboard a cruise ship that the Greek government chartered to transport them to Athens from the Greek island of Lesbos. The regular ferry service traveling this route was unable to cope with the unprecedented influx of migrants going through Greece to Western Europe from various conflict zones across the Muslim world.Photograph by Yuri Kozyrev/ NOOR for TIME
KOY201509060123, 140, 145, 148Migrants come aboard a cruise ship that the Greek government chartered to transport them to Athens from the Greek island of Lesbos. The regular ferry service traveling this route was unable to cope with the unprecedented influx of migrants going through Greece to Western Europe from various conflict zones across the Muslim world.Photograph by Yuri Kozyrev/ NOOR for TIME
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
A boat full of migrants, lit by the flashlights from the Greek coast guard, is rescued from the waters near the Greek-Tu
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Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
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Witness the Resilience of Thousands of Refugees on Their Way to Europe

Sep 24, 2015

From the end of August through mid-September, as he followed the migrant trail from Turkey through Greece, the Balkans and Hungary, what struck Yuri Kozyrev the most about the thousands of asylum seekers he saw through the lens of his camera was their resilience in the face of demeaning hardship. They never seemed to give in to despair. They tried hard to look dignified – mending and washing their clothes, shaving and tending to make-up—even as they walked for days on end through blistering heat on their way to Western Europe.

“You might expect to see these people broken by this point,” Kozyrev, a contract photographer for TIME, told me as we watched hundreds of them pass in an unending stream across the border from Serbia to Hungary—and into the European Union—after traveling for more than a thousand miles by land and sea to get there. “But they are smiling,” he said. “They are happy.”

It is in some ways a testament to the hopelessness they left behind in the war zones of Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan that they endure the long journey to Europe with such hopeful looks on their faces. Even as they confronted the razor-wire fences and the detention camps where they are forced to wait for registration, they held their heads high.

In his photographs, Kozyrev doesn’t just capture the moments of terror and exhaustion that the migrants endure – although these are, of course, abundant along the road they take. He also shows the poignant displays of integrity and self-respect, as when they pray at a mosque they built out of plastic netting or stop to preen in front of a traffic mirror on a highway. The resulting picture is not of shattered lives but ones in the midst of a grueling transition, looking ahead to the process of laying down roots in a place where they can feel safe. “That’s what drives them,” says Kozyrev. “Hope.”

Yuri Kozyrev is a TIME contract photographer represented by Noor.

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, are TIME’s International Photo Editor and TIME.com Associate Photo Editor, respectively.

Simon Shuster is a correspondent for TIME magazine.

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