„Was ich mir wünsch’? Dass ich unnötig werde!“
„What do I wish for? Becoming unnecessary!”
Ute Bock was a social worker who dedicated her life to supporting and empowering people who fled their home countries. Born in Linz, Austria, in 1942, Ute Bock became an educator and employee of the municipality of Vienna at a youth care center, where she eventually took over as director in 1979.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Youth Welfare Office increasingly sent young refugees to this center, initially underage refugees from the disintegrating Yugoslavia, later mainly from Africa. Bock tried to organize German courses and jobs for them, but also places to sleep outside the overcrowded center.
“She was a moral authority who stood up almost unconditionally for those seeking protection.”
In 2002, Ute Bock officially retired and started organizing private residential communities for asylum seekers, which she financed from her own pensions and donations. In the same year, she founded the “Ute Bock Verein – Wohn- und Integrationsprojekte” (Ute Bock Association – Housing and Integration Projects), dedicated to supporting the competencies of refugees and combating all forms of discrimination and racism. Her facilities also became a mailbox address for those without a roof over their heads and in need of a place to report to official bodies.
In 2011/12, a private foundation financed the renovation and conversion of the former youth care center into a residential home with living space for around 70 refugees and space for counseling facilities. Ute Bock herself lived in a small apartment at the “Ute-Bock-Haus” as well.
Over the years, the association’s efforts were supported by various campaigns, such as “Bock auf Bier” in 2003, when a surcharge of 10 cents per beer in around 70 pubs was earmarked for the association. With money raised at the annual “Bock auf Kultur” event series hosted by local artists, the Ute Bock Association was able to fund private housing communities and organize legal counseling, various courses and clothing allocations.
“No person has shaped refugee aid in Vienna, perhaps even in all of Austria, as much as Ute Bock.”
Ute Bock has received numerous national and international awards for her humanitarian work. In addition, her life and engagement were featured two film productions by Houchang Allahyari: “Bock for President” (2009) and “The Crazy World of Ute Bock” (2010). However, Ute Bock did not care about honors and admiration, but was always concerned with the cause itself: Her greatest wish was that her own association would one day become superfluous.
Unfortunately, Ute Bock passed away in 2018 without this wish being fulfilled. More than 10,000 people said their farewell at a commemorative event in Vienna. In 2020, the city of Vienna decided to name a street after her in honor of her engagement. Today, numerous employees, social workers and volunteers keep the vision of Ute Bock alive in the “Ute Bock refugee project”, providing free housing for over 300 asylum seekers, among other things.
Ute Bock is a shining example of how much can be reached by civil society engagement. Yet it also highlights the inadequacy of government policies and services and points at everything that is yet to be done on a governmental, structural level.
Written by WAVE intern Verena Henneberger