Losing Everything Twice: President Uchtdorf’s Refugee Experience

Contributed By the Church News

  • 5 May 2016

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, at right, poses with two other young men during his teenage years.

Article Highlights

  • Find opportunities to bless the lives of those who are in need.
  • Strive to practice and promote principles of self-reliance.

“We want to use our talents which we have as a Church to bless the lives of individuals through all phases—as a family, as individuals—in seeking to become self-reliant, to help them to learn to help themselves.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency

Latter-day Saints in many countries are finding ways to help victims of the refugee crisis by participating in service projects and giving donations.

In a video posted on mormonnewsroom.org, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, expressed his deep empathy for those enduring the current crisis.

“We came from Czechoslovakia when I was four, and we left East Germany to West Germany when I was 11. So it is really in those few years that we lost everything twice. I remember walking by the places where the Russian army was cooking for their soldiers and they were throwing out the garbage into big garbage cans. I saw through the fence things I would have loved to have, which they threw away.

”We came over the green border. My sister went on a train. This train had its doors locked because it had to go through West Germany for a short trip. My sister, plus three other girls I think, paid the conductor to open the door, and while it was going through West Germany, they jumped off it into West Germany. My brother went on a different route, and my other brother went on a different route, and my dad went in a different route. So we all, then, in West Germany, met again together, but we had nothing.

“[A] little house there … was our first place. That's where we went in and started and it was very, very humble. But we had a roof over our head, and I went to school. Of course, for the people there, it was very difficult because all of a sudden came all these Germans from East Germany and looked for places and were there. There was a disruption of the normal life. So they had names again for all those who came.

”What I kind of took out of this is never label any people. You look at Europe—our members try to help wherever they are, and I think that's what the Church wants to do. We don't want to focus all our efforts on one single refugee activity. We want to use our talents which we have as a Church to bless the lives of individuals through all phases—as a family, as individuals—in seeking to become self-reliant, to help them to learn to help themselves. Around the globe, that's what we do and we will continue to do because it is something as a Church we can do wherever we are, and we should do this wherever we are around the globe.“

Screenshot is from mormonnewsroom.org.