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  1. #1
    Mid
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    WW1 : A Red Cross rescue of Russian children

    A Red Cross rescue of Russian children
    Kathy LallySunday, January 8

    MOSCOW — World War I was drawing to a close in 1918 when American Red Cross volunteers in Russia’s Far East heard rumors about abandoned children, dressed in rags and foraging for food in Siberian forests. They set off on a rescue that would turn into an extraordinary around-the-world journey little known today.

    All these years later, two Russians have been trying to get the story told because, they say, it shows the United States and its institutions, like Washington’s American Red Cross, in a warmer light than their country’s leaders traditionally present them.

    The improbable tale began in the spring nearly 94 years ago, when the hungry city of Petrograd — now St. Petersburg — put thousands of its children and chaperoning teachers on trains headed a thousand miles southeast to the Ural Mountains, where they would spend the summer eating nourishing food in fresh air, far from the city where the deprivations of World War I were still being felt.

    Most of the children returned to Petrograd uneventfully at the end of the summer, but nearly 800 who had been sent east of the Urals found themselves trapped because of the Civil War that had begun earlier that year. During skirmishes between the Reds and the Whites, the train line to the west was cut. Sent from home in summer clothes, the children — ages 5 to 16 — were growing cold and hungry as fall approached.

    When the Red Cross volunteers found them, they put them on trains eastward to Vladivostok, a Pacific port city full of refugees of various nationalities from both wars. That turned out to be the beginning of a 21 / 2-year odyssey that would take the children, their teachers and Red Cross protectors around the world and finally home.

    “It is a wonderful story,” said Susan Robbins Watson, archivist at the American Red Cross in Washington.

    Olga Molkina, a St. Petersburg teacher, and Vladimir Lipovetsky, a former fisheries-vessel researcher from the Russian Far East, both have written books about the Petrograd children and want to make what happened more widely known. Most of the children never spoke of their adventure even after growing up — contact with foreigners was dangerous business in the Soviet Union.

    Molkina knew because her grandparents and great-aunt were among those rescued. Lipovetsky’s ship had put into Seattle in 1978 when he heard about the death of an elderly man who had saved Russian children. He has been obsessed by the story ever since.

    Keeping the story alive


    Molkina knew she had to write a book after her aunt died in 2000 at the age of 99. “She was one of the last survivors,” Molkina said, “and I realized that with her passing away this story would be lost for my family. I decided to preserve it.”

    That took her as far as Washington and Maryland for research at the Library of Congress and the National Archives, and she eventually wrote “Under the Sign of the Red Cross” in Russian.

    “The Americans who worked in the American Red Cross were simple people, and those lost children were someone else’s,” Molkina said in an interview. “They didn’t have to do anything, but they did.”

    In Vladivostok, the Red Cross put the children up in a former barracks on nearby Russky Island, now under feverish development for the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in September.

    Watson found a 1928 Red Cross publication where the former superintendent of the colony described Christmas 1919.

    “How can I describe the bleakness, the desolation of it all!” wrote Herbert M. Coulter. “Snow covering the roofs of the long, brick barracks, snow under foot, sharp stinging blasts of wind whistling about the corners of the buildings.”

    The children remained on Russky Island until summer 1920, when the American Expeditionary Force, a contingent of U.S. Army troops, left. The troops had been deployed to protect American equipment loaned to Russia for World War I and to prevent the Japanese from exploiting the Civil War.

    “They could have left the children behind, saying they had done all they could,” Molkina said, “but they did not. They saved my grandparents, and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.”

    A long voyage

    Lipovetsky — originally named Kuperman, he regularly uses his pen name — describes how Riley Allen, the editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from 1912 to 1960, arrived to report on the chaos in the Far East but turned Red Cross volunteer to save the children.

    He refitted a Japanese cargo ship called the Yomei Maru and took 780 children, 50 teachers and 20 Americans on the voyage. Years later Allen was at his desk the morning Pearl Harbor was bombed and put out an Extra with the first newspaper reports of the attack.

    By August 1920 the steamship was in California and the San Francisco Chronicle published a Page 1 story Aug. 5 headlined “Russian Child Falls Into Bay,” describing a 14-year-old girl falling from the pier. Someone threw her a life preserver, which hit her on the head and knocked her unconscious, but a police officer dove in and rescued her. She was fine when the ship steamed off to the Panama Canal, New York and Finland the next day.

    On Feb. 6, 1921, the New York Times published a two-paragraph article at the very top of its front page, reporting that finally the last of the “little Russian waifs” had crossed the Finnish border and returned home.

    “And everything was done by the Americans for absolutely someone else’s children,” Molkina said. “Wasn’t that a heroic deed?”

    washingtonpost.com

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat Hampsha's Avatar
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    Sounds like an interesting movie here.

  3. #3
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    It's a moving story, but it's sentiment of 'US as a benevolent nation' is offset in reality by the fact that at that time American forces were on Russian soil, blockading the country and supporting the White Russians in the civil war against the Bolsheviks.

    American Expeditionary Force, a contingent of U.S. Army troops, left. The troops had been deployed to protect American equipment loaned to Russia for World War I and to prevent the Japanese from exploiting the Civil War.
    Well that's one way of papering over the facts I guess.

    Don't get me wrong, it is a worthwhile story in it's own right, but by sanitising the background it will become another Americanised version of history.
    Last edited by Neo; 12-01-2012 at 06:53 PM.
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo View Post
    It's a moving story, but it's sentiment of 'US as a benevolent nation' is offset in reality by the fact that at that time American forces were on Russian soil, blockading the country and supporting the White Russians in the civil war against the Bolsheviks.

    American Expeditionary Force, a contingent of U.S. Army troops, left. The troops had been deployed to protect American equipment loaned to Russia for World War I and to prevent the Japanese from exploiting the Civil War.
    Well that's one way of papering over the facts I guess.

    Don't get me wrong, it is a worthwhile story in it's own right, but by sanitising the background it will become another Americanised version of history.

    Actually Wilson agreed to sending troops for just those very reasons. His Aide Memoire published in 1918 just before the intervention made it clear “ that military intervention there would add to the present sad confusion in Russia rather than cure it, injure her rather than help her”.

    The British lead intervention in the Caucasus, the Caspian, and particularly the Baltic with 3 times the troops the US ever had in Russia was much more about defeating the Bolshevik army and helping the Whites into power.


    Numbers of foreign soldiers who occupied the indicated regions of Russia:
    Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article
    •50,000 Czechoslovaks (along the Trans-Siberian railwayTrans-Siberian RailwayThe Trans-Siberian Railway was a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. It is the longest railway in the world...)

    •28,000 Japanese, later increased to 70,000 (in the VladivostokVladivostokThe city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m... region and north)

    •24,000 Greeks (in the CrimeaCrimeaCrimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name....)

    40,000 British (in the ArkhangelskArkhangelskArkhangelsk , also known as Archangel in English, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea in the far north of European Russia. The city spreads for over along the banks of the river... and Vladivostok regions)

    •13,000 Americans (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)

    •12,000 French and French colonial (mostly in the Arkhangelsk and OdessaOdessaOdessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,... regions)

    •12,000 Poles (mostly on Siberia)

    •4,000 Canadians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)

    •4,000 Serbs (in the Arkhangelsk region)

    •4,000 Romanians (in the Arkhangelsk region)

    •2,500 Italians (in the Arkhangelsk region and SiberiaSiberiaSiberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...)

    •2,000 Chinese (in the Vladivostok region)

    •150 Australians (mostly in the Arkhangelsk regions)

    It’s a fascinating (and tragic) period in history. But it is not just about the Americans. They were actually minor players that were mainly there to further an agenda that had nothing to do with defeating the Bolsheviks
    Here are some interesting links on subject.
    Prelude to Intervention: The Decision of the United States and Japan to Intervene In Siberia, 1917-1918
    American "Intervention" in the Russian Civil War-by Scott Reed

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