Embroidering History: An Englishwoman’s Experience As an International Aid Volunteer In Post-War Poland, 1924–25
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For 11 months in 1924 and 1925 Margaret Tregear left her teaching career in England to work on a Quaker relief project serving returned Belarusian refugees in the Eastern Borderlands of the recently reconstituted country of Poland. She wrote home to her friends about her new experiences as an international aid worker. Her letters were passed from friend to friend and eventually worked their way back to her. After she retired in the 1960s she sent the whole collection of letters to a former colleague in Canada who, in the 1980s passed them on to Margaret’s Canadian great-nieces, my sisters and I. I first read these letters from my great-aunt in the 1990s after I had returned from Africa and South Asia where I had been an international development worker. I was struck by how much Margaret’s experiences in the 1920s paralleled my own experiences more than 50 years later. This book presents the complete set of letters and photos that remain from Margaret’s adventure in 1924–25, and attempts to put these primary source documents in a historical context for the 21st-century reader who is interested in learning more about the history of humanitarian aid in the early 20th century. Anyone who works in the aid field now should find it interesting to see how much has changed, while at the same time, how much remains the same.