“Restored photographs from my grandmothers photo album chronicling her journey with the American Red Cross on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
On November 14, 1918 my grandmother, Florence Emilie Hoffman Hill, broke the news to her parents that she would be leaving the next day for Siberia. She was 28 years old, living a comfortable life in Honolulu Hawaii, working as a reporter for the Honolulu Star Bulletin. When her editor, Mr. Riley Allen, asked her to accompany him and a team of volunteers with the American Red Cross to aid the war refugees in Siberia she could not resist the adventure. On November 15, 1918 my grandmother boarded the Japanese freighter the Shinyo Maru and traveled across the Sea of Japan to Vladivostok on the east coast of Russia. There she began her journey serving as a Nurse’s Aid for the American Red Cross while also serving as a foreign correspondent to the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
After arriving in Vladivostok the team of American Red Cross volunteers traveled by armored train along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. They were working and riding in an anti-Typhus train ministering to the Czechoslovakian and Russian soldiers and refugees. The hazards were many. The volunteers were exposed to tuberculosis, tTyphus and many diseases. The trains were at risk of attack where the “twisted and charred remnants of trains adorn the right of way”. My grandmother also spent time in Buchedu, Manchuria working in a hospital ministering to sick and wounded soldiers. During her journey she traveled as far west as Omsk before returning to Vladivistok where she served until December 1919 when the A.R.C. determined that it was too dangerous for Americans to remain.
The photographs included in this collection are restorations from the original prints in my grandmother’s photo album. The album, now nearly 100 years old, is brittle and fading. The photographs had been tucked away in a family attic and long forgotten. Alongside the photographs were clippings from the Honolulu Star Bulletin, of my grandmother’s correspondence which she wrote and sent back to Honolulu chronicling their journey. I have included excerpts of her writing to accompany the restored prints.
Having completed this restoration I can’t help but wish I had known my grandmother better.”
Brenda Hill Yates, 2016
Brenda Yates and I become well acquainted during and after the installation of her exhibit. I wanted my investment and love of her grandmother’s life to be taken seriously in her PR announcement. Story, pride, and candor were they key concepts I aimed to illustrate.