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A List of Famous Refugees

You can’t turn on the news today and not see a heart-wrenching story about refugees fleeing terrible places around the world where there is fighting and war and food is scarce. Many of these families have risked their lives because the situation in which they were living was too dangerous. They leave their homes and countries because they need hope. So here’s a list of famous refugees.

When they finally arrive in their new country, they find freedom and opportunities they never had back home. Like neglected flowers newly planted in fertile soil, they bloom and grow. Then they can make their contributions to the new society in which they have been planted.

This article highlights the experiences of several famous people who were formerly refugees. Once established in a new place with new opportunities, they were able to rise to new heights and to give back to the country they now call home.

Who are these refugees?

While we hear the word “refugee” almost daily, most of us seldom stop to consider who these people are. A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her native land due to persecution, violence, war, or natural disaster. They must escape because they are in fear for their lives.

Just imagine. Your current situation requires you to flee your country within a matter of hours. You’re just not safe in your own home. If you’re lucky you had some time to pack a bag, but this might not be the case, and you could be left with nothing. Fortunately, many organizations help refugees.

That fear continues even when they leave because in most cases they can no longer return home. It may be because of political reasons. It may be due to war or natural disaster. Most of them have to leave behind everything they have ever known to make a new life elsewhere.

That is how a refugee is different from a migrant or immigrant. They have the option to return home, should they choose to do so. Refugees do not. They have permanently left their native countries, most often because circumstances forced them to do so. Fortunately, there are international laws to protect refugees and agencies like the UNHCR to help.

The List of Famous refugees

To help us understand how important and influential these refugees can be, here are a few examples of some refugees who had humble beginnings, but came to have a tremendous impact on the countries and cultures where they relocated.

Freddie Mercury

Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, Freddie and his parents had to flee in 1964 for safety from the Zanzibar revolution in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. They settled in Middlesex, England where he went on to form the rock band Queen and is considered to be one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music due to his four-octave vocal range. Read more about him here.

Rita Ora

Born in Yugoslavia to Albanian parents, Rita and her family had to flee because of persecution of Albanians in 1991 when she was only a year old. They resettled in the UK where Rita began singing at open mic sessions as a teenager. She went on to record several albums of her own and to become a number one solo artist in the UK.

Sigmund Freud

Freud was born in Austria to Jewish parents. He is best known for his theories on psychoanalysis, pioneering techniques which are still discussed and used today. In 1938 Freud was forced to leave Austria to escape the Nazis. He died in exile in the United Kingdom.

Sigmunt Freud Standard-Edition-XIX

Albert Einstein

Einstein was a German theoretical physicist who is best known for the development of the Theory of Relativity. He moved to Zurich to study physics and there renounced his German citizenship. For five years he was a citizen of no country until he acquired Swiss citizenship in 1901. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Once Hitler came to power, Einstein settled in the United States and became a citizen in 1940. His work on the Manhattan Project led to the development of a nuclear weapon that helped to end WW II. Einstein himself was opposed to using nuclear fission as a weapon.

Albert Einstein

Marc Chagall

Chagall was born a Lithuanian Jew in 1887 in Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. His early studies were with a local portrait painter, and he went on to study in Saint Petersburg and Paris. When the Nazis came to power, he fled France and then to the United States and is known as one of the great modernist painters along with Matisse and Picasso.

Madeleine Albright

Born in Czechoslovakia, her family was forced to flee during the German occupation of WW II. The family settled in New York and later in Denver, where Albright grew up. She studied Russian and international relations at Columbia University, earning her Ph.D. She worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential staff, was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, and became U.S. Secretary of State in 1997. She was the first woman ever to do so and became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U. S. Government at the time.

Madeleine Albright

Gloria Estefan

Gloria was born in Cuba, but her parents fled to Miami during the revolution in 1959. She started as lead singer for the Miami Sound Machine and went on to an extensive solo career winning three Grammy Awards. You can read here more about her work.

Supermodel Iman

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia as Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, Iman changed her name at the urging of her grandfather. The family left Somalia due to political unrest. She began modeling while at university in Egypt. Her career also includes a cosmetic line and acting in television and film. Here is a Wikipedia-page dedicated to her work.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist and historian. He was also an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. Before he came to the United States, he went to Germany and Switzerland. He is perhaps best known for his critique of Soviet forced labor camps, The Gulag Archipelago.

The Gulag Archipalo

Henry Kissinger

As one of the most notable statesmen of the Twentieth Century, Henry Kissinger served as Secretary of State under the administrations of presidents Nixon and Ford. Kissinger was a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany in 1938. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his work in the foreign policy of the United States.

Henry Kissinger

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