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Photos: See the dramatic change in these before-and-after images of the refugee crisis.

Seven startling image pairs show life before and after the refugee crisis.

In March 2016, the route many refugees were using to flee to safety closed for good.

"I want to get out from here," Lazmiya, a Syrian refugee stuck in the Greek town of Idomeni told Al Jazeera. "I have not had a shower since I arrived. There is little assistance. All my clothes are soaked... We are dying here."

The Balkan route stretched from Greece to Northern Europe. Several hundred thousand asylum-seekers used the route, many hoping to make it to Germany. Until this spring, the countries along the way, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria had "wave-through policies" that made it easy for people to walk across the borders under little to no control.


But European Union leaders committed to shutting down the route and ending the border control loopholes, leaving thousands stranded or looking for new routes.

Meanwhile, life in many of the towns along the Balkan route has returned to normal or, at the very least, a new normal.

These photographs show what key locations along the route looked like last year and what they look like now. The differences are startling.

See the dramatic changes a year can make in the seven image pairs below.

1. Stemming the tide in Rigonce, Slovenia

In the top photo, from October 2015, people were escorted by police to a refugee camp in Slovenia. The bottom photo, from July 2016, shows the region's now empty fields.

Top photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

2. Refugees making their way on foot to the Austrian border

In 2015, many refugees arrived in Hungary by train and due to wave-through policies were able to walk over two miles into Austria. Now, this stretch of road is mostly quiet.

Top photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

3. Ready to leave and no way to do it

Hundreds protested outside of the Budapest Keleti railway station in Hungary after it was closed to refugees and migrants on Sept. 1, 2015.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

4. Faces of fear and uncertainty in Budapest

As refugees waited and protested at Keleti station in 2015, one little girl approached the police officers guarding the doors. Today, the same spot is a popular waiting area for travelers.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

5. After much delay, a bus stop unlike any other

After waiting and protesting at the train station, thousands of migrants started the long march toward Austria, but the Hungarian government decided to provide buses for anyone still in the capital city. With border closures, gestures like this are no more.

Photos by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

6. Waiting for word in Dobova, Slovenia

In 2015, refugees wait in Dobova for police to escort them to temporary holding camps. Now, the road in this border town is much less crowded.

Top photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

7. Pushing and running toward a new opportunity

Refugees forced their way past police at Tovarnik station in an attempt to board a westbound train to Zagreb, Croatia.

Top photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images. Bottom photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The danger in Syria, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries is still very real.

If refugees cannot flee along the Balkan route, where will they go?

Photo by Louai Beshara/Getty Images.

Some search for new routes to Northern Europe; others wait, stuck in makeshift camps in Greece, unable to cross the border.

A port in Athens, where 1,500 refugees and migrants live at a makeshift camp. Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images.

While limiting the number of refugees and closing down borders may solve the problem for countries running low on resources, housing, and patience with the crisis, it doesn't stop the violence and destruction that made escape the only option for these people in the first place.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together and work toward solutions to ensure the safety of security of displaced people.They need our help and support, and together, we can be a voice for good.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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Education

School removed a quote from a Holocaust survivor, unintentionally proving his point

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim."

Elie Wiesel at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2008.

A school principal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, asked the librarian to remove a poster featuring a quote by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel because it violated the district’s “advocacy” policy. This story was first reported by WHYY.

The poster was removed two days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” Matt Pecic, the school librarian said. “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with.”

The controversial policy says that district employees may not “advocate” to students on “partisan, political, or social policy matters,” or display any “flag, banner, poster, sign, sticker, pin, button, insignia, paraphernalia, photograph, or other similar material that advocates concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue.”

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Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

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Health

This company makes it easier than ever to enjoy guilt-free fairly traded coffee

Thanks to Lifeboost, good coffee can be good for everyone.

Unsplash

Lifeboost coffee

Americans love coffee. Like, we really, seriously, truly love it. According to one recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee at least occasionally, while 53 percent—about 110 million people—drink it every single day. For some, coffee is an essential part of their morning ritual. For others, it’s something they enjoy when they hit the proverbial wall in the late afternoon. But either way, millions of people use coffee to boost energy, focus, and productivity.


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Pop Culture

Linda Ronstadt's 1970's ballad is a chart-topping hit once again thanks to 'The Last of Us'

The iconic 70s song "Long, Long Time" was an integral part of an unforgettable episode that fans are calling a masterpiece.

Linda Ronstadt (left), Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett (right)

HBO’s emotional third episode of the zombie series “The Last Of Us” became an instant favorite among fans, thanks in no small part to Linda Ronstadt’s late 1970s ballad, “Long, Long Time.”

Using the song as the episode’s title, “Long, Long Time,” moves away from the show’s main plot to instead focus on a heartbreakingly beautiful love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), from its endearing start all the way to its bittersweet end.

The song makes its first appearance during the initial stages of Bill and Frank’s romance as they play the tune on the piano, just before they share their first kiss.

We see their entire lives together play out—one of closeness, devotion, and savoring homegrown strawberries—until they meet their end. The song then plays on the radio, bringing the bottle episode to a poignant close.

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Joy

34-year-old man is learning to read on TikTok in series of motivational videos

His reading skills have improved so much that he plans to read 100 books this year.

@oliverspeaks1/TikTok

Oliver James is the biggest star on BookTok.

With over 125,000 followers, 34-year-old Oliver James is a star in the BookTok community. And it all started with a very simple goal: Learn to read.

For most kids, school is a place where they can develop a relationship with learning in a safe environment. For James, school was the opposite. Growing up with learning and behavior disabilities subjected him to abusive teaching practices in special education, which, of course, did nothing to help.

"The special education system at the time was more focused on behavioral than educating," he told Good Morning America. "So they spent a lotta time restraining us, a lotta time disciplining us, a lotta times putting us in positions to kinda shape us to just not act out in class."

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