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Austrian of the week
Ute Bock, champion of the refugees
Photo: APA/ROLAND SCHLAGER

Ute Bock, champion of the refugees

Published: 20 Jun 2014 15:29 GMT+02:00

Born in 1942 in Linz, Upper Austria, Bock first worked as an educator in a special school.  In 1969 she took up a position at a home for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Zohmanngasse, in Vienna's Favoriten district, eventually becoming the centre's director in 1976.

During the early 1990s, Austria's youth welfare office began to send increasing numbers of foreign youths to Zohmanngasse, many of whom had been turned away from other centres.  Bock realized these young people were in dire need of help and began to assist them with legal advice, housing and counseling.

In 1999, the Zohmanngasse hostel was raided by police. Thirty young Africans were arrested for drug trafficking, along with Bock herself, who was accused of banditry and trafficking.  The charges against her were eventually dropped, although she was subsequently banned from accommodating Africans at the hostel.

Bock then began to organize and supervise the establishment of private residential communities, which she funded with her own money.  Since retiring in 2000 she's devoted herself entirely to her refugee projects.

Currently her accommodation centres house over 350 asylum seekers.  Bock also provides counseling services, legal advice and a mailing address for a further 1000 refugees.

These services are funded by donations and fundraising events – including concerts, festivals and even a campaign known as Bock auf Bier, in which the price of beer was increased and the extra revenue raised was passed on to Bock.

Bock is the recipient of multiple awards, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Refugee Award in 2000, the Bruno Kreisky Award in 2002 and the International Human Award in 2003.

Last year, President Heinz Fischer presented Bock with the Golden Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria.

She's also been the subject of two movies: the documentary, Bock for President (2009) and The Crazy World of Ute Bock (2010).

In mid-December 2013, Bock suffered a stroke and was hospitalized.  Since May however, she's been back at work on her latest housing project.

For more information about how to help Ute Bock, see http://www.fraubock.at/home/

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

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