Search form


Famous refugees

Refugees to Europe have thrived and positively contributed to their new homes. But did you know these famous Europeans were once refugees? Meet a few of the well-known singers, artists, CEOs and other luminaries who have made us all proud to be European. 

Albert Einstein

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

The physicist Albert Einstein arrived in America in 1933 after he and thousands of other Jews fled persecution in Nazi Germany. That year, the Nobel laureate and humanitarian called for the founding of the aid organisation that was to become the International Rescue Committee.

Some people were across the world were alert to what was happening and the threat it represented. By July 1933, a new rescue committee of 51 concerned individuals had swung into action, galvanised by Einstein.


Freddie Mercury 

The lead singer of the band Queen was born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946 and lived in Zanzibar. In 1964, revolution shook the island. Amidst growing violence, Mercury and his parents fled to England. 

While living in greater London, Mercury met his future bandmates and went on to become one of the best known British singers across the globe. 



Lord Alf Dubs 

"Once in a while, there are major challenges that test our humanitarianism, and Europe’s refugee crisis is surely one such challenge."

Lord Alf Dubs was born in Prague in 1932. He fled Jewish persecution from Nazi Germany as one of 669 Czech children as part of a British-government supported organised rescue effort called Kindertransport. 

Since living in the UK, Lord Dubs has gone on to become a MP, member of the House of Lords, and active contributor to voluntary organisations. Recently, Lord Dubs has campaigned for the rights of other vulnerable children to reach the same safe refuge. 


Rita Ora

"We can approach this crisis with compassion and care. If we take action, we help everyone thrive."

Rita Ora was born in the city of Pristina, then part of Yugoslavia. With the disintergration of Yugoslavia, armed violence grew. Merely one years old, Rita fled with her family to safety in London.

Ora has since gone on to become a globally-successful singer-songwriter and actress. 



Meet more famous refugees

  • Michael Marks, Co-Founder of Marks and Spencer
  • Josef Albers, Artist
  • Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, current IRC Overseer
  • Hannah Arendt, Philosopher and Author
  • Mikhail Baryshnikov, Dancer
  • Max Beckmann, Artist
  • Hans Bethe, Physicist and Nobel Laureate
  • W. Michael Blumenthal, Former Secretary of Treasury, current IRC Overseer
  • Marc Chagall, Artist
  • Nadia Comaneci, Olympic gymnast
  • Salvador Dali, Artist
  • The Dalai Lama, leader-in-exile and Nobel Laureate
  • Peter Drucker, Author and Management Consultant
  • Albert Einstein, Nobel Laureate
  • Max Ernst, Artist
  • Gloria Estefan, Singer
  • Lion Feuchtwanger, Author
  • Andy Garcia, Actor
  • Alexander Ginsburg, Russian dissident during the Cold War
  • Roberto Goizuetta, former CEO of Coca Cola
  • Walter Gropius, Artist
  • George Grosz, Artist
  • Andrew S. Grove, Chairman of Intel Corp., IRC Overseer
  • Henry Grunwald, Former Editor-in-Chief, Time Inc.,
  • John Heartfield, Artist
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Master
  • Wassily Kandinsky, Artist
  • Henry Kissinger, Former Secretary of State, current IRC Overseer
  • John G. Kemeny, computer pioneer and President of Dartmouth College from 1970-81
  • Andre Kertesz, Photographer
  • Oskar Kokoschka, Artist
  • Madeleine Kunin, former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, former Governor of Vermont
  • Tom Lantos,  U.S. Congressman (Calif)
  • Femand Leger, Artist
  • Jacques Lipchitz, Artist
  • Andre Masson, Artist
  • Andre Meyerhoff, Scientist and Nobel Laureate
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Architect
  • Dith Pran, Photographer
  • Gen. John Shalikashvili, Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Author
  • Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Laureate, IRC Overseer