The Argus, 7 augustus 1923
Bron: National Library of Australia

Armenian Relief

WORK BY AUSTRALIAN SECTION

Thousands Utterly Destitute


After an absence of more than six months, the Rev. J.C. Cresswell returned to Australia last week from a visit of inspection to the refugee orphanage at Antilyas, Syria, conducted by the Australian Armenian Relief Fund. Mr. Cresswell, who is a Congregational minister of Adelaide, was selected by the committee of the Relief Fund to report on the administration of the Australian section of the work among the Armenian refugees.

Mr. Cresswell said that the impression that the need for extending relief has passed is by no means the right view. Thousands of starving refugees were still coming in, and the Near East Relief, the great American organisation with which the Australian effort was associated, was feeding 4,000 persons in one place alone. From Government figures and estimates made by relief workers, it was believed that, exclusive of those in the Black Sea ports, there were still 50,000 refugees destitute in the hinterland. In Constantinople there were 50,000 refugees, and 9,000 of these were at the Selmineh Barracks, where Florence Nightingale worked during the Crimean War. They were uterly destitute and clad in rags such as he would have believed it impossible to use as clothing. They had all been people in comfortable circumstances, forced to leave all that they had possessed when their homes were destroyed. In Greece there were 1,250,000 of these unfortunate people, from whom the only thing that could now be taken was their lives. At Sidon there was an orphange containing 600 girls who were rescued from the Turks, and whose story it was impossible to write. All of them had seen their own people massacred in a manner that only Turks or devils could invent. Incredible as it might seem, the relief workers were actually trying to teach them how to smile.

Regarding the peace with Turkey as affecting Armenia, Mr. Cresswell said that in determining the frontiers it might safeguard this long-suffering people, who had a "semi-independence". Their national finances seemed to be in a much stronger position than those of Russia, where the exchange rate was 100,000,000 roubles to the dollar, as against only 2,000,000 in Armenia. Remarkable constructive work was being done by the American Near East Relief organisation. More than 60,000 children were being cared for in orphanages. At the Australian orphanage at Antilyas, there were 14.000 boys under the care of. Mr. J.H.Knudsen and Mrs. Knudsen, of New Zealand, who are described by Mr. Cresswell as the most efficient heads of orphanges whom he had met. There were also several hundred girls in charge of Miss Gordon, a Melbourne worker who went out with Mr. Cresswell in January. The heads were assisted by about 40 Armenian teachers and vocational leaders, as well as the same number of women known as "mothers," who attend to the food and clothing of the children. The children were trained in trades in order that they might be able to help themselves, and some of the boys were already working. The Antilyas orphange was not yet solely maintained by Australian and New Zealand gifts, but it was hoped that it would be by the end of this year. The question of maintenance would he considered at a meeting of the committee of the Australian Armenian Relief Fund, to be held in Melbourne this month.

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