Wednesday, August 24, 2011

12 Famous refugees of the world

1. The Dalai Lama, religious leader.
Home country: Tibet.

The Political and Spiritual leader of Tibet has been living outside his homeland since the Chinese army brutally put down a nationalist uprising in 1959. The Dalai Lama turned the northern Indian city of Dharamsala into his home base for his travels around the world preaching compassion, forgiveness and tolerance.

2. Wyclef Jean, musician.
Home country: Haiti.

Wyclef Jean's refugee story inspired his music from the very beginning (his breakthrough came as part of a group called "The Fugees," after all). He may have left when he was 9 years old, but his native Haiti is never far from his mind. His urgent tweets appealing for aid helped raise millions after 2010's devastating earthquake, and Wyclef even flirted with a Haitian Presidential bid.

3. Alek Wek, fashion model.
Home country: Sudan

These days, Alek Wek is one of the most sought-after models for the runways and photo spreads of the fashion world. But her life wasn't always filled with designer labels and star-studded galas. Wek's family fled southern Sudan for the U.K. when she was 14 to escape a brutal civil war. Six years later she became the first African model to grace the cover of Elle Magazine.

4. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State.
Home country: Germany

He's best known for serving as America's top diplomat, but the man who negotiated the end to the Vietnam War and helped send Nixon to China was actually born overseas. A teenage Heinz Alfred Kissinger and his family fled Nazi persecution in 1938.

5. Marlene Dietrich, actress.
Home country: Germany

One of the original superstars of the Silver Screen, the gender-bending Dietrich shot to worldwide fame as the cabaret singer Lola-Lola in the 1930 film The Blue Angel. She fled Nazi Germany (and later become a prominent celebrity spokeswoman of U.S. War bonds), and went on to be named one of the Top Ten film stars of all time by the American Film Institute.

6. M.I.A., musician.
Home country: Sri Lanka

Born in London to Tamil parents, M.I.A.'s family returned to their native Sri Lanka when she was an infant. Her father's political activism in favor of a Tamil homeland forced the family into hiding, and her early years were marked by the violence of the Sri Lankan civil war. The escalation of the conflict forced her mother to bring the family back to London when she was 11.

7. Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst.
Home country: Austria

The father of psychoanalysis, Freud is probably best known for his work on the unconscious (hence the term "Freudian slip,") and a short-lived belief in the healing powers of cocaine. He spent most of his life in Vienna, as part of the city's rich pre-Nazi Jewish intellectual community, but was forced to flee in 1938. His four sisters died in concentration camps.

8. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State.
Home country: Czechoslovakia

The first woman to head the State Department was born in Prague. Albright's parents converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism before they fled to London ahead of World War II. Albright even starred as a child refugee in a wartime film aimed at promoting sympathy for all war refugees in London.

9. Nadia Comaneci, Olympic gymnast.
Home country: Romania.

As a member of the Romanian Olympic Team, Comaneci won worldwide acclaim when she became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the 1976 summer games. She went on to win five more medals over the course of her Olympic career, but later defected to the West in the waning days of the Communist regime. Post-retirement, Comaneci has been active with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Special Olympics (and even took a turn on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice).

10. Andy Garcia, actor
Home country: Cuba.

He earned an Academy Award nomination for playing an Italian mobster in The Godfather III, but Andy Garcia was actually born in Havana, Cuba. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, a five-year-old Garcia left Cuba for Miami, where the family set up a successful perfume business. Garcia speaks out regularly on behalf of Cuban political prisoners and in favor of democratic change on the island.

11. Elie Wiesel, author.
Home country: Romania.

Born to a Romanian Jewish family, Wiesel survived the horrors of Auschwitz in World War II and eventually settled in the U.S. His memoir Night, about his time in the camp, has been translated into more than 30 languages, and his work as an activist for peace and forgiveness earned him the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

12. Luol Deng, basketball player.
Home country: Sudan

The 6-foot-9 Chicago Bulls forward looks right at home on a basketball court in the Windy City, but his actual home is half a world in Sudan. A member of the Dinka ethnic group, Deng's family fled the violence of the Sudanese Civil War and settled in Egypt, and then Britain. It was another Dinka, ex-NBA star Manute Bol, who taught Deng how to play the game. Bol clearly did well by his student: Deng was the Bulls' third-leading scorer this past season behind teammates Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer.

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