Gudrun Veel Jeppe & Jytte Jacobsen

Gudrun Veel Jeppe & Jytte Jacobsen

There comes a point in the lives of many when they stop living in the moment and start looking at where they fit within the annals of their personal history.

Gudrun Veel Jeppe and Jytte Jacobsen did exactly this - but for them the journey into the past was especially inspirational.


Their ancestor is the Danish missionary Karen Jeppe, a courageous humanitarian who died in 1935. Known as Mother of the Armenians, her status in the Armenian Diaspora and within the Armenian nation itself is legendary. 


Karen Jeppe was directly or indirectly responsible for the sheltering and aiding the escape of thousands of Armenians who would otherwise have died in the 1915 Genocide.


Few individuals have made such an impact on an entire race but Karen Jeppe was one.


Although her immediate descendants knew of her remarkable self-sacrifice, these memories were not passed down to her great nieces who were aware of only the vaguest strands of her story until much later in their lives.


All the girls knew as they were growing up came from a book called The Girl From Denmark; the story of Karen Jeppe by Ingeborg Marie Sick. The picture on the inside cover showed Karen on her deathbed and was frightening to both girls so they rarely picked up the book.

Their mother died at just 63. In the years beforehand she had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease so very little was passed down during her final years. Their father died a short while later.

Gudrun explained, “On top of everything else a lot of other things were going on back then. I was getting a divorce and we had small children. It wasn’t till after our mother had died and things became less busy that I started to go into details of Karen’s story.


Once Gudrun, a former schoolteacher from Jutland, no longer had young children at home, she started to travel with her colleagues. Her first trip overseas was to Berlin.  While she was there one of her companions asked about her unusual last name. When she explained about her great aunt, they decided to arrange a trip to Armenia. They went first in 1987.

“It was mad, and incredible."

"I had never imagined that it would be possible for me to go to Armenia. It was amazing. I remember everyone called us crazy for getting the idea, but they went along with it.

“The second time I went, it was because of some friends. They were offered tickets to Armenia through a charity that supports organizations in Yerevan. Since they weren’t able to go, they suggested that I could go instead. 

“The third trip I went on was to Syria, also with my colleagues. And I have never travelled a lot, so it was huge. And I could see that we were going to Aleppo, so thought I would be able to go see Karen’s grave without any problems. We thought it would be easy, but Aleppo is enormous! When we arrived at her grave I picked a branch from an olive tree growing by her grave and I still have it.


"Both Jytte and I participate when there are commemorations in Gylling [Jeppe’s hometown]. We have done that for a number of years. And there are Armenians from Aarhus and Copenhagen participating as well, and now they know us.”

Both women remain proud but humble of their great aunt’s heroism.

“We must not take credit for that, but we are so happy that we have a compatriot who has done such huge work for the Armenians. All Danes can be proud of her. We should know the history, but the honor wasn’t ours.”

The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team