I was firest introduced to Audrey Hepburn while sitting at my grandmother’s feet watching Funny Face. Funny Face was my grandmother’s favorite Hepburn movie, mainly because of Fred Astaire. While my favorite Audrey Hepburn movie will forever be Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Though Audrey is well known and well loved for her movies. Her inclusion in this year’s April A to Z is based on humanitarian work.
Audrey was only a child when Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, where she lived with her mother and an Aunt and Uncle. Her fascist father left them a few years prior to live in obscurity in England.
The occupation took its toll on Audrey and her family. Her uncle was killed as an act of revenge by the resistance allegedly because of his position in society. When speaking about the occupation Audrey said, “had we known that we were going to be occupied for five years, we might have all shot ourselves.”
In addition to the loss of her uncle, Audrey witnessed the Jewish community in the Netherlands being put in cargo holds of trains and taken to concentration camps. She said: “more than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child
“more than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.”
These events were what shaped Audrey’s involvement in Unicef. Though Audrey had been promoting UNICEF since the 1950’s through radio campaigns she went on her first field assignment in 1988 to Ethiopia. While there she visited a large orphanage and brought food to the starving occupants and surrounding community. She went on to further UNICEF Vaccination and food missions in Turkey, Southern Sudan, Honduras, El
Salvador, Vietnam, and Guatemala. Her final mission was to Somalia in 1992, shortly before her death.
When it came to her work with children she stated, “Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicisation of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanisation of politics.”
Feeling inspired? Here are some books for you:
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote It is said that Audrey was not happy by the taming of the original story when she worked on the movie and I can understand why. This novella is a Capote Masterpiece.
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Set in Ethiopia this story chronicles the life of twin boys raised in a clinic in Ethiopia. Through this book, you get a sense of the famine and struggles that plagued the country for years.
- The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig In this charming story Rachel Woodley discovers after the death of her mother that everything she knew was a lie. She sets about trying to find the truth. She goes to London with a new identity and a new plan: to find her father and gets caught up in the 1920’s party scene. While reading this book I pictured Audrey and Rachel.