The Argus, 12 januari 1918
Bron: National Library of Australia

Soil of Armenia

There is a camp at Port Said of over 5,000 Armenians rescued by the French Navy on the shores of Syria after suffering untold hardships in their efforts to escape from Turkish butchery.

In the "World's Work" for November a French contributor, Madame Helene Valantin, describes how the British Army in Egypt supplies provisions for this camp, and how its interior organisation and administration have been wonderfully carried out by Mrs. Helgood, the wife of a British officer.

Led by Mrs. Helgood, a party of visitors came to a group of tents in the midst of which is a row of little gardens carefully cultivated.

"Oh! don't look at that!" says Mrs. Helgood with an indignant grimace and a note of British humour. "That is not interesting. Those are the rich!"

"The rich, these unfortunates who no longer possess anything in the World but tents pitched on the sands of Arabia!"

"Yes, the rich. They have transported there, pail by pail, arable land for which they went to Port Said. It is not solely for the sake of seeing wheat and maige grow that they have, taken so much trouble."

"In that village is a grandmother who did not want to lose the whole of the soil which gave her birth. Before leaving her village she hurriedly filled a sack with earth from her field. And she did not abandon this sack, in the midst of the worst dangers, the worst fatigues. She dragged it with her; and slept with her head resting on it."

"She finally brought it safely here; and as she had also brought a few handfuls of wheat and maize, she had no rest until they had accumulated on the arid sand some fat soil. When that was done she untied the sack tilled with Armenian dust, covered the mould with it, and sowed the grain she had gathered. Thus it is a little of everyone's property which grows in the land of exile. And you understand that they are indeed rich who have thus saved some crumbs of their native soil, and are able to enjoy it while the others have nothing."

One of the first cares of the camp administration was to organise work for these unhappy people, with the double motive of saving them from idleness and wooing them from the pitiful memories which obsessed their minds.