Refugee Children Reunited After More Than 60 Years

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Twenty-one refugee children brought to Ireland in 1946 from Germany, France and Austria, as part of a Red Cross initiative known as “Operation Shamrock” were reunited on Saturday at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation as part of the Gathering 2013. 

The former refugees were joined by more than 300 guests from Germany, Ireland, Wales and the USA, including the foster families who gave homes to the children over 60 years ago, their own children and grand-children.

Speaking at the event, Agnes Thevis, one of the 21 children, told of the difficulties faced in Germany where, “the farmers were too afraid to plant crops because of the mines that were buried in the fields, so there was no food for the families”.  Agnes came to Ireland with her brother, they were fostered together by a family in Dundalk, “we were raised liked we were their own, I have very happy memories of Ireland.”

Many tears were shed as the ‘children’ shared their memories. Theodore Edward Kavanagh was separated from his brother Tony and brought to Ireland from an orphanage in Germany, “I thought he would arrive after me but he never came.  I never knew what happened to him until sixty years later when we finally found him in Germany”. Despite not being able to speak one another’s language, the brothers attended Saturday’s Gathering event together, sitting side by side with huge smiles on their faces.

Operation Shamrock was a relief operation organised by the Irish Red Cross that saw 1,000 refugee children, many of whom were orphans, evacuated to Ireland because of the difficult situation in their own countries following World War II. 

Many of the children, aged from 5 to 15 years old, were taken to St. Kevin’s Hostel in Wicklow, now the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, before being fostered by families throughout Ireland.  While most of the children were ultimately reunited with their families after a period of 3 years, some remained with their foster families and continued their lives in Ireland.

The Operation Shamrock Gathering was co-hosted by Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Dublin and the Irish Red Cross.

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Note to Editor: for more information please contact:
•    Rebecca Dunne, Irish Red Cross – 01 642 4628 / 087 743 3275

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