28 September 2020
It would be fitting if in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, a nurse took out the world’s most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Actually, make that two nurses. The ANMF (SA Branch) is again backing the Korean Nurses Association’s push for two Austrian nurses to be awarded the 2020 Peace Prize … as are a host of medical and government institutions, including the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nurses.
Marianne Stöger and Margaritha Pissarek arrived at the tiny quarantine colony of Sorokdo Island off South Korea in the early 1960s as volunteer carers for 6,000 leprosy sufferers.
For the next 40 plus years of their lives, they dedicated themselves to their abandoned, ostracised patients with incredible compassion.
Many of these island outcasts were condemned, for the crime of their disease, to forced labour, forced sterilisation or simply left to starve to death.
Marianne and Margaritha helped to smash social prejudices about leprosy by treating their patients with unprecedented dignity and love, socialising with them like family and tending to their wounds with their bare hands. Previously, doctors and nurses had armed themselves with masks and gloves and strictly kept their distance.
The two nurses would hold fundraisers back in Austria to build shelters and facilities for the island ‘inmates’, and to buy food and medical supplies.
Finally, after decades of devotion without pay and with their health failing them, Marianne and Margaritha returned permanently to Austria, not wanting to be a burden on Sorokdo’s hospital system. Nor did they seek compensation.
Now nursing and government bodies around the world want their incredible sacrifice and humanity to be duly recognised in the best way possible.
ANMF (SA Branch) members can join the One Million-Signature Petition lobbying for their Nobel Peace Prize induction at mm.kna.or.kr
The two “blue-eyed angels”, as their patients referred to them, made honorary citizens of South Korea in 2016, are now aged in their 80s.
Their beloved Sorokdo Island is today awash with medical and other volunteers, the former leper colony now held up as a testament to the power of love and healing.
The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize winner is scheduled to be announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on October 9.