In Depth

World Refugee Day: five famous former refugees

Rita Ora and Freddie Mercury are among those who fled violence to start new life in the UK

Wednesday 20 June is World Refugee Day, when the UN recognises the struggles and triumphs of displaced people around the world who have been forced from their homes by violence, prejudice or persecution.

To mark the day, here are five famous figures who started life as refugees:

Freddie Mercury

The legendary Queen frontman was born Farrokh Bulsara to Indian parents living n the British protectorate of Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania.

In 1964, the family left to escape the violence of the Zanzibar Revolution, in which the local African population rose up against the island’s Arab and Indian minorities.

Mercury, then aged 17, and his family started a new life in Middlesex. Six years later, he would meet guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor - and the rest is history.

Mila Kunis

Hollywood star Kunis was born in Ukraine in 1983, when the country was part of the Soviet Union.

Her parents, aware of the limited political and economic freedom in the communist state, sought refuge in the US in 1991, when the future star was seven years old.

Kunis has spoken in the past about the trauma of her first year of school in New York, unable to speak English. She remains a fluent Russian speaker, and frequently gives interviews in her native tongue.

Andrew Sachs

The actor, best known for his portrayal of hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, was born in Berlin as Andreas Sachs, the child of a Jewish father and Catholic mother. The family fled Germany in 1938 to escape the growing danger of Nazi persecution, and settled in north London.

Popular legend has it that when Fawlty Towers was sold for broadcast in Germany, Sachs reprised his role as Manuel for the German dub - complete with Spanish accent.

Rita Ora

Ora and her family escaped war-torn Kosovo in 1991, when the singer was a year old.

In 2013, Ora recalled how she, her sister and their parents had lived in a single room when they first arrived in London as penniless refugees. However, she told the London Evening Standard that her childhood hardships had made her stronger.

“That word [refugee] carries a lot of prejudice,” she said. “But it also made us determined to survive.”

Henry Kissinger

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was born into a German Jewish family, who escaped the Nazi regime in 1938, arriving in New York via London when he was 15 years old.

Kissinger served in the US Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps during the Second World War, before going into politics

A foreign policy expert, he became President Nixon’s security adviser and received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating an end to the Vietnam war.

Kissinger is not the only former refugee to serve as Secretary of State. Madeleine Albright, the first woman appointed to the office, was granted asylum in the US aged 11 after her family fled communist persecution in their native Czechoslovakia.

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