Following the 1922 evacuation of Smyrna when hundreds of thousands of Greeks fled for their lives after Turkish troops razed the city, the women of the American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) were among the first aid groups to establish emergency services on the Greek island of Macronissi.
On that island the AWH staff cared for the refugees who had fled the burning city and been dispersed throughout aid centers around Greece.
Dr. Mabel Elliot was one of the leading women humanitarians on the ground.
Throughout her time there she communicated with partners in the United States to update them on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Greece.
In this telegram below, sent on November 23, 1922, she used strong language to describe the scale and severity of deprivation affecting the refugees on the island and to make the case for more Americans to get involved to alleviate the suffering.
She explained that the AWH was providing medical care to an ever-increasing number of homeless and hungry refugees — almost all women and children — and that many other resources were needed besides medical care if they were to survive.
Macronissi had no existing sources of food, shelter, water or medical care and the AWH could not provide everything on its own.
Cablegram to American Women’s Hospitals headquarters requesting help from the American people for Smyrna refugees in Greece.
Images courtesy of doctordoctress.org
Text of the cablegram
Serious as were pictures of the situation in the refugee camps a month ago, things have steadily worsened since that time. If the American people are really interested in the welfare of these refugees, the time to help on a large scale has now arrived.
Such emergency work that has been done thus far has been good, but thousands are going to die unless more American help and more thorough American organizations becomes immediately effective. I have been been trying restrict myself to purely medical work but it is impossible.
I find myself everyday forced provide more than mere medical care for the women and children who lie on bare ground on every side. Yet more and more refugees continue to arrive and Minister of Refugees Doxiadis told me today that he expects a hundred thousand more from Asia Minor within ten days.
The situation is terrific, beyond words to describe and I see no hope for a real solution unless the American people are willing to undertake leadership on wide scope within next month.
The world at large apparently does not yet comprehend that here are a million refugees, almost totally without men. They are all women and children, and cannot be expected to shift for themselves. Is there no way of bringing the American people to realize how much these helpless, hapless folk need their assistance?
I wish every contributor to American Women’s Hospitals could see our hospitals and clinics at Mytilene, Piraeus, and Salonica. They are doing a work so widespread that one is reminded of myriad ripples which follow after one throws a stone into the water.
We have a right to be proud of the work we are doing, and my constant hope is that we shall able to continue it on an undiminished scale throughout the winter. — Dr. Mabel Elliott.
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