October 8, 2015 6:29 AM EDT

MUHAMMED, AFGHANISTAN

“My family sent me this ring from Afghanistan. It’s a cross. I’m a Muslim, but I accept Christian prophets. It’s a symbol of my religion that I like to show. It’s also a memory from my family.”

MARIE, 32, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

“I’m diabetic. I have to give myself an injection every day. I lost all my possessions at sea on the journey. The smugglers asked us to throw our bags overboard so we wouldn’t sink. I got these syringes from aid workers.”

PARASTOO, 23; NOORADIN, 15 MONTHS; MOHSEN, 31, IRAN

“We’re going to Italy. I bought this pendant a year ago in Iran. It has a part of the Quran written on paper inside. I wear it to bring us luck. It worked–we’re here.”

AISHA, 14, SYRIA

“I brought my charger because I need to use my phone to contact my friend in Sweden. We are going to live with him. My family was split up for hours on the journey, and my phone didn’t work. It was horrible.”

ABDULLAH, 9, TURKMENISTAN

“I had to leave all my toys behind. I don’t know when we left home. I don’t see the days.”

PARISA, 15, AFGHANISTAN

“We’ve been traveling for two months. We’re going to Sweden–I don’t know where. I got this bag six months ago. I keep our papers that the smugglers needed to get us past the borders.”

AHMAD, 17, SYRIA

“My friend gave me this watch. He’s like a brother. He’s in Syria still. He’s coming in a week. The watch helps me remember our history.”

MUHAMMED, 22, IRAQ

“I don’t have anything. No bag. I’m like this. I want to go to France because I speak French.”

This appears in the October 19, 2015 issue of TIME.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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