The world has witnessed the severe effects of violence, poverty and injustice throughout the globe, and innocent people continue to suffer the consequences. The United States and several other countries have often offered refuge to those fleeing war and injustice. Below are 10 famous people who are actually refugees who made iconic contributions in various fields.
- Gloria Estefan
Estefan is a singer, writer and actress who fled Cuba for the United States in the 1960s as a result of Castro’s communist revolution.
- Albert Einstein
Einstein was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938. Einstein took matters into his own hands, providing visa applications and vouching for other refugees also fleeing Nazi Germany.
- Madeleine Albright
Albright fled Czechoslovakia with her family in 1938, settling in the U.K. before moving to the U.S. She became the first woman appointed to the position of U.S. Secretary of State in 1997.
- Alek Wek
Wek was nine years old when she fled South Sudan for Britain with her family in the wake of a civil war. Wek was discovered by a modeling agent and rose to international fame.
- Elie Wiesel
Writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Wiesel wrote several books about the horrors of the Holocaust. Elie and his wife, Marion, started the Elie Wiesel Foundation in remembrance of the Holocaust and to combat intolerance and injustices.
- Freddie Mercury
Singer, songwriter and producer, Freddie Mercury is best known as the frontman for the rock band Queen. Born in a British Protectorate of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, now Tanzania, Mercury and his family fled during the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, settling in the U.K.
- Marlene Dietrich
Dietrich was a German-born actress and singer whose career spanned decades. She applied for U.S. citizenship after being offered an acting contract by members of the Nazi Party. Dietrich was also known for her humanitarian efforts during WWII, housing exiles and advocating for their U.S. citizenship.
- Wyclef Jean
Another of these 10 famous people who are actually refugees is Wyclef Jean, Haitian rapper, musician and actor. Jean immigrated to the U.S. as a child with his family during the Duvalier regime in Haiti.
- Andy Garcia
Garcia and his family fled Cuba after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion when he was five years old. He is best known for his role in The Godfather Part III, receiving a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Vincent Santino Corleone. Garcia celebrates his roots and challenges Latino stereotypes in Hollywood.
- Theanvy Kuoch
Kuoch was a slave of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, before being found by the Red Cross. With her family, she relocated to the United Nations refugee camp and spent two years working as a nurse in various camps before moving to the U.S. In 1982, she founded Khmer Health Advocates with three American nurses to provide health services for survivors of the Cambodian genocide.
These 10 famous people who are actually refugees have paved the way for themselves and others. Refugees are simply people seeking out a better life in a new country; this is a humanitarian issue, and refugees need our help in rebuilding their lives.
– Jennifer Serrato