top of page


The Palais des Nations, housing the European Office of the United Nations, is a very beautiful building that was first designed for the League of Nations. Its windows on one side overlook parkland that leads down towards the great lake and offers views to the Alps beyond.  Even Mont Blanc is visible on clear days. I had the privilege of working in the Palais from my first day with UNHCR until the first posting to Africa over 3 years later, first of all seconded to  the UN postal administration - a long walk from all the other UNHCR people! - then in a resettlement office with fine views.

One did not meet refugees in that building, but I would get to Geneva airport at 5 a.m. a few times to meet in elderly Russians, refugees twice in their lifetime, sent on from Hong Kong after getting out of communist China where they had lived for 40 years after fleeing the revolution in their country. Another time, I was asked to drive two Jewish refugees from Egypt to homes in Lausanne and Vevey, a mentally handicapped young man and his mother.

The magnificient Palais des Nations seen from the other side of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and its Salle des Pas Perdus. 

Nine UNHCR staff listen to innumerable speeches in the High Commissioner's 1977 Executive Commitee meeting (I am on the right).

Friendship with a Russian refugee from China

bottom of page