On the patron saint of libraries

Came across this today while reading Paul Lendvai’s The Hungarians (2003)

“Three chronicles report different versions, written between 970 and 1075, of an attack on the monistary of St Gallen and its surroundings (today in Switzerland). “The heathen barbarians” advanced like lightening through Bavaria and Swabia along Lake Constance, and inflicted heavy damage on the monastery, killing in the process Wiborada, an Aleman noblewoman, who had herself immured in a cell there ten years earlier. The anchoress was axed to death, and in 1047 Pope Clement II canonized her. Already that spring, she had warned the abbot of the exact time of her hostile hoards’’ incursion from the East, urging him to move the monks, the treasury and the priceless library to safety in time. Rumors recounts the Vita Sanctae Wiboradae; “nonetheless, they were taken seriously only when the barbarians with drawn swords pushed the neighborhood of Lake Constance to the brink of disaster, killing countless people and burning all the villagers and houses.” Only then was the seer heeded. Many people and irreplaceable books could still be saved, but Wiborada was unwilling to escape.

The life and death of St Wiborada (also honored as the patron saint of libraries), as well as the chronicles of the monks Ekkehart I, Ekkehart IV and Herimannus, continually fascinated later generations, inspiring writers, including poets, until the very recent past” (p.7-8; emphasis added).

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On resettlement as investment

In response to the passing of Andrew S. Grove (an Intel founder, chief exec and chairman + resettled to the US from Hungary by way of Austria in 1957), Chris Blattman poses an interesting question — was the greatest contribution to American prosperity the resettling of refugees?

On podcasts: Freakonomics and Migration

From a recent Freakonomics podcast, Is Migration a Basic Human Right?, Michael Clemens briefly mentions the global resettlement response for Hungarians in 1956 as a moment in history to learn from when thinking about the global response to Syria today —

CLEMENS: We know exactly how to handle this refugee crisis because this is not the first time, by any means, that this has happened. Think back to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the space of a few months, 200,000 Hungarians fled a Soviet crackdown in and around Budapest, and ended up across the border in Austria — desperate people fleeing for their lives.  One of two things could have happened:  They could have been put in camps; they could have been shunted from one country to another as everybody played beggar-thy-neighbor, trying to get rid of these people. Or they could have been assisted by a broad coalition of countries around the world. Fortunately, what actually happened is the second one. Thirty-seven countries came together through the U.N. and an organization that later became the International Organization for Migration. They sat down, they shared responsibility for assisting those Hungarians broadly. Some of them went to the U.S., some to Canada, some stayed in Austria, some to Germany.  Some went to Paraguay, some went to Colombia, New Zealand — all over the world.  And because of that sharing, they ended up being massively beneficial to the places they went. The cinematographer of Ghostbusters was one of them, who moved to L.A. as a kid. The founder of Intel Corporation, which probably made the chip in your phone or computer, was one of them — tremendously beneficial, but only because of a choice. And it was the choice to broadly share responsibility for assisting them. They could have been turned into a burden, just an expense to keep them alive in the camps.  Instead they were turned into a resource, in fact, a gift. That’s exactly what Syrians could be.  The numbers involved are not numbers that would overwhelm a broad group of countries.  They are numbers that can overwhelm one, two, or three countries if other countries don’t assist those places where all of them are ending up.  And that’s what’s happening right now, and it’s a terrible shame, not just for the migrants but for the countries that could benefit from those people if they were willing to do what’s necessary to turn them into a resource.  It is bitterly ironic that Hungary, which was the source of many refugees in living memory is turning them away.  

(links in original transcript)

On webinars: A crisis of refugee protection?

Dr Cathryn Costello and Prof Guy Goodwin-Gil hosted a webinar, ‘Is there a refugee crisis in Europe, or a crisis of lack of refugee protection?‘, on 12.11.15 for OxHRH.

The webinar is archived here; also find a list of further readings.

(the 1956 Hungarian crisis is specifically addressed starting at 33:00; also, they field a fascinating question about the analytical use of norms before the recording ends)

On learning from the past

[this post will be continually updated]