It was a cloudy day—Oct. 7, 2015, to be precise—in the town of Preševo in Serbia, near the border with Macedonia. As thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees and migrants fled war zones with the hope of a better future inside the European Union, one little girl looked unaffected by the long lines outside of the city’s registration center. Holding onto the bars of a barricade, a transparent rain poncho covering her face, she seemed eager to continue her journey.
The photograph, one of the most memorable images from last year’s refugee crisis, won a World Press Photo award in the People category. Now, its creator, Matic Zorman, is searching for the little girl, hoping to find out what happened to her.
Zorman, a native of Slovenia, was documenting the so-called Balkan refugee route — by which thousands of migrants entered Europe through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia — when he came across the child. For Zorman, the fact that the girl is looking through the plastic poncho makes the photograph. “It symbolizes the suffocation of refugees who were trying to make it to the countries of the European Union,” he tells TIME.
Yet, each time he looks at this image, the same questions torment him: what is the child’s name and what happened to her?
“Did they make it to Austria? To Germany? Have they managed to settle somewhere?” he wonders. Looking for answers, Zorman has launched an appeal for information. “Receiving the World Press Photo award is a great honor, but it also comes with responsibilities,” he says. “This picture is a chance to grasp something more positive about the story of this young lady. I think I owe her this.”
The Slovenian photographer hopes that the child’s story will offer an insight into the complex and difficult aftermath of one the biggest refugee crises in modern history – one that continues to this day.
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