Who are Yusra and Sara Mardini’s parents? The sisters’ upbringing

Sara Mardini and Yusra Mardini

Netflix’s The Swimmers tells the incredible true story of Yusra and Sara Mardini. The sisters were born in Syria before the civil war plunged the country into chaos. To save their family, Yusa and Sara’s parents sent the sisters to Germany. Due to restrictive immigration laws, the siblings had to sneak into the European nation. 

The perilous voyage would take them through Turkey and into Europe via a Greek island. As the sisters crossed the sea in an overloaded dinghy, the craft lost drive and started sinking. Yusra, Sara, and two other swimmers pushed the boat for three hours, delivering the group safely to the Greek island of Lesbos. 

Yusra’s father, a swimming coach, introduced his daughters to the sport

Sara, Ezzat and Yusra Mardini

Yusra, Sara, and their younger sister Shehad were raised by Ezzat and Mervat Mardini in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. Ezzat, a swimming coach, introduced his daughters to swimming. “He just put us in the water,” Yusra told Vogue. Mervat was a physiotherapist. 

Initially, the conflict in Syria didn’t affect the family. “I just kept swimming and going to school, trying to live like a normal kid,” Yusra said. In 2012, the Sardini family moved to a safer area in Damascus after a battle destroyed their town. “Tanks, and electrical wires hanging down from their poles, everything ruined,” she continued. 

The war’s impact hit home after paramilitaries detained and tortured Ezzat in a case of mistaken identity. Yusra stopped training after an unexploded bomb landed in a pool she was practicing in. 

Ezzat and Mervat refused to entertain the idea of leaving. In 2015, Yusra resolved to leave, regardless of her parents’ protests. She explained: “I started saying, ‘You know what, Mom? I’m leaving Syria. If I die, I’m going to die in my wetsuit.’”

Eventually, Yusra and Sara’s parents allowed the sisters to leave alongside two male relatives. The family wanted to travel together, but it was impossible. “It was the hardest thing for her [Mervat] to do,” Yusra said. “But she knew we had to go.”

Yusra and Sara reunited with their parents and younger sister in Berlin

Sara and Yusra made it to Germany and settled in a refugee center. Six months after arriving in Germany, the sisters gained membership in a swimming club near the camp. Thanks to coach Sven Spannenkrebs, Yusra made it into the refugee team for the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Ezzat, Mervat, and Shehad reunited with Sara and Yusra in Berlin in 2016. Vogue reports that Mervat and Shehad live with Yusra in her apartment in the city’s Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf neighborhood, while Ezzat lives nearby. 

Mervat and Ezzat have shown little interest in sharing in their daughters’ fame.