In 1925, during a visit to one of the orphanages in Alexandropol (Gyumri) in Soviet Armenia, Norwegian scientist, diplomat, and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen became acquainted with the conditions of child care.
The High Commissioner of the League of Nations for Refugees at that time, Nansen arrived in Armenia to study the issue of accommodating Armenian refugees and to ensure the creation of tolerable living conditions for them.
Checking the quality of the food, Nansen without hesitation tried the soup that was given to the children. This is a clear testimony to how seriously and sincerely Nansen treated his mission.
In fact, a noticeable share of Fridtjof Nansen’s activities was occupied by his work to aid Armenians. He made great efforts to improve the situation of Armenian refugees.
Visiting various regions of Armenia, Nansen could not overlook the city of Alexandropol, the main center for the organization of guardianship over Armenian orphans who had miraculously survived during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Here, in Seversky, in the Cossack post, and in the polygons, there were large orphanages established by the American Near East Relief foundation (previously named American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief). At the time of Nansen’s visit to Alexandropol, there were about 20 thousand Armenian orphans in the city.
After returning to Geneva and learning that the League of Nations was delaying the consideration of the return of the Armenian refugees to their homeland, Nansen himself raised funds to organize the return of seven thousand Armenians to their homes.
“The Armenian people, just getting out of this catastrophe unprecedented in the world history, planted trees, built canals and power stations… The Armenian people thanks to a thousand-year history and culture, unprecedented bravery, amazing zeal, and hard work will be reborn and will build their state.”
Photo source: collection of the National Archives of Armenia.