In the spring of 1918, the situation in Petrograd was extremely tense. People, including small children, suffered from hunger and disease.
It was decided that children from various St Petersburg schools and gymnasiums will be sent for summer to more prosperous regions of Russia as part of so-called children’s nutritional colonies. Evacuation of children from Petrograd was organized.
In May 1918 two colonies (about 1,000 children aged 3 to 16 years) were sent to Urals, where children unexpectedly found themselves in a war zone in connection with the Czechoslovak rebellion and the advance of the front line to the west.
Housed in different towns near Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, children were in a critical situation – without food and warm clothes -by autumn of 1918. It was impossible to go back to Petrograd either because of political and military hostilities.
Help to children and their desperate teachers came from the staff of American Red Cross, who were in Russia at that time as part of the American Siberian Mission. Americans not only fed and dressed children, but even organized fairly regular school classes and provided textbooks and notebooks.
The military situation in Urals became more and more complicated. Staying there was extremely dangerous and the road to Petrograd was cut off. In these incredibly difficult conditions the American Red Cross managed to organize few trains, collect the children of both colonies and send them away from the front line to Vladivostok.
There children spent almost a year in one big colony under the tutelage of Red Cross, which fully financed their maintenance, training and health treatments.
After the occupation of Vladivostok by Japanese in the spring of 1920, the American Red Cross had to leave the territory of Russia. At the insistence of Chief of Petrograd Colony, Colonel Riley Allen, and under his personal responsibility, it was decided not to leave the children to their fate, but to take them under the guardianship of Red Cross and send them home to Petrograd. The only escape route was by the sea.
In conditions of war and under tense Japanese relations, Allen managed to charter a Japanese cargo ship, converted it to a passenger ship and provided more than a thousand people with everything necessary for a long sea voyage.
For two months the ship was their home.
Vladivostok – the Japanese port of Muroran – San Francisco – Panama Canal -New York – Bordeaux (France) – the port of Koivisto (Finland) – this was the route of this incredible sea voyage.
Finland gave the children the opportunity to spend few relaxing months before being sent to Russia.
After two and a half years of wandering, by January 1921, all children were returned to Petrograd. They made the round-the-world trip.
What is also amazing- the list of all these children survived.
Video with lots of photos – amazing footage.