Bodil Katharine Biørn saved Fridtjof-Rafael from the massacres and adopted him…

No matter how much we talk about these great humanist and benign women missionaries, it won’t be enough to appreciate the unforgettable assistance that they provided to the Armenians during the days of the Armenian Genocide.

This time Hayern Aysor is reflecting on Bodil Katharine Biørn. Let us remind that these women missionaries are included in the list of individuals of the “Our Greats” Program of the RA Ministry of Diaspora.

Born on January 27, 1871, Bodil Katharine Biørn from Norway also stood by the Armenians’ side during the years of the Armenian Genocide.

In 1905, the Women Missionaries organization commissions Biørn to the Ottoman Empire. Collaborating with the German missionary organization, Bodil begins to carry out humanitarian activities in Megre (State of Kharberd) and then leaves for Mush where she witnesses how the children of her orphanage are slaughtered along with Armenian clergymen, teachers and her assistants in 1915. Bodil takes care of and saves the lives of hundreds of homeless women and children. Biørn also took photos of many scenes and added short eyewitness accounts. She also took notes in her diaries that serve as valuable evidence of the Armenian Genocide.

In 1917, Bodil Biørn adopts an Armenian boy by the name of Rafael, who was born and saved from the massacres in 1915. Returning to Norway in 1917, Biørn baptizes the child and names him Fridtjof Nansen. Fridtjof-Rafael becomes her only son since Katharine never got married. Returning to the Near East, Bodil continues to take care of Armenian orphans at the orphanages in Syria, Lebanon and Constantinople. In 1922, leaving 7-year-old Fritdjof at a French school in Beirut, Bodil moves to Armenia and establishes an orphanage in Alexandropol. Biørn, the very kind woman that she was, became the beloved “Mother Katharine” for the 33 orphans staying at Biørn’s “Lusaghbyur” orphanage. In 1924, the government of Soviet Armenia suspends Biørn’s activities, closes down her small orphanage and moves the orphans to the orphanages of Amercom. Bodil Biørn continues to work at orphanages of the Armenian community of Syria until 1935. Bodil Biørn passed away in Norway in 1960.

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