Solidarity and friendship on display in Vienna at 'No Stranger Place' exhibition

UNHCR photo series that profiled refugees and their hosts across Europe goes on display at central Vienna train station.

Austria. No Stranger Place exhibition opening in Vienna

The 'No Stranger Place' exhibition at Vienna's central train station.  © UNHCR/Ida Kielmansegg

VIENNA, Austria – After fleeing war-torn Syria in 2014 and eventually making it to Europe, Nawras was overjoyed to find a new home with the Schamberger family in Austria. Together, they participated in the photo series No Stranger Place, which is now being exhibited for the first time at the Vienna train station Wien Westbahnhof.

“Very often, only bad news makes the news,” says Nawras, 26. “With this project, we want to show the good and positive side of life, that’s the reason why we participated.”

Many people in Europe opened their hearts and homes to refugees in 2016. In the portrait series No Stranger Place, photographer Aubrey Wade gives the viewer an insight into their lives together, meeting families and flatmates across Austria, Germany and Sweden.

"We want to show the good and positive side of life, that’s the reason why we participated.”

From December 16 to January 9, 11 large-scale prints from this series are on display in the central hall of Wien Westbahnhof, where thousands of travellers will get the chance to see it. “We chose the train station as a very symbolic place, where last year hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants passed through and were warmly welcomed and supported by the Viennese population,” says Christoph Pinter, Head of UNHCR Austria. “Many of the portrayed families have transited themselves through Wien Westbahnhof."

The opening of the exhibition took place last Friday (December 16). Photographer Aubrey Wade, who developed the series in cooperation with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, told guests: “People and their relationships are at the heart of the No Stranger Place series. In their stories, we discover their shared values are stronger and matter more than their differences.”

That is exactly what Martina, Nawras’ host mother, stresses. “Nawras comes from a very different part of the world, but in the end we discovered that the differences are not so big,” she says. “With the project, we want to encourage others to get involved, to open their homes too.”

Austria. No Stranger Place exhibition opening in Vienna

Yassin (middle), a Palestinian filmmaker and refugee, looks at his portrait on the right.  © UNHCR/Michael Schöppl

Jonas, a Vienna based student, and Yassin, a Palestinian filmmaker and refugee, who both share a flat with Lina and Gotti, spent a long time in front of their portrait on opening night. “Our photo is amazing,” says Jonas. “It is great to see it on such a large print. I am really happy to see the final product.”

Yassin agrees. “I really like it, it is beautiful,” he says. “I remember it took like 30 minutes or maybe even more to shoot one single pose, but it was definitely worth it.”

Both of the young men have become even closer friends since their portraits were taken in the summer of 2016. Since then, they have finished a short film, which was shown at a renowned Viennese festival.

The Schamberger family have also seen some changes since their portrait was taken. After spending a year in the family house, Nawras is now sharing a flat in Vienna with their daughter Valerie and other friends. But although he is moving on, there is no doubt that Nawras will forever be a permanent member of the family.

“He will always be a part of our family," says Martina. "No matter where he goes.”