UNHCR: Fridtjof Nansen’s legacy lives on in hearts of Armenians

UNHCR: Fridtjof Nansen’s legacy lives on in hearts of Armenians

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released the third in a six-part series celebrating the life of the Father of UNHC, Armenian Cause advocate Fridtjof Nansen.

“By the end of the First World War, the Armenian people had long been vying for an independent state. Although members of the League of Nations had agreed to assume state-like responsibility for Armenians and an initiative had been proposed by President Woodrow Wilson, these obligations were not fulfilled. At the same time, Armenia was facing a number of challenges including drought, outbreaks of malaria and tuberculosis, and threats along the Turkish border which made it difficult to provide assistance to the growing number of refugees. The refugee crisis at the end of the war had devastated Armenia, with an estimated 1.5 million lives lost and thousands more displaced and stateless, living in refugee camps, orphanages, and shantytowns.

Outraged by the international community’s lack of response to this growing crisis, Nansen orchestrated international aid for the Armenian people. Witnessing firsthand the devastation in Armenia in 1925, Nansen later wrote an influential book, Armenia and the Near East, in addition to numerous articles and speeches advocating the Armenian cause.

Nansen provided hope for thousands of Armenians in need of urgent assistance. Pushing himself to the point of physical exhaustion he suffered a heart attack in 1930 from these efforts Nansen invested all his energy to help the Armenian people. He personally assisted over 7,000 refugees to return to Armenia by 1928. Nansen’s creation of the travel document which bears his name (the Nansen Passport) significantly helped the Armenian Diaspora as well – Nansen Passports were issued to some 320,000 individuals.

Although Armenia would not achieve independence until 1991, Nansen helped the Armenian people prepare their nation for the post-war world order. The Armenian public and the Diaspora have not forgotten Nansen’s life-saving efforts and continue to recognize the important role he played at a crucial time in the country’s history. Nansen not only saved the lives of thousands of Armenians, but he also gave them hope in believing that, as Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has declared:

”Inside a human being the goodness cannot be overtaken by evil. Is there any greater mission than saving a belief, a belief towards the human nature, a belief not only towards one’s own future, but also towards the future of humankind?”

The spirit of Fridjtof Nansen remains alive in the special relationship between Yerevan and Oslo, and is demonstrated by the many monuments and public spaces across the country bearing his name. Fridtjof Nansen’s legacy lives on in the hearts of Armenians today,” the article reads.

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