1920 Refugees from Russia in Workhouse


England is Heaven.” Mrs Harkness, who has lived in Petrograd for 79 years and who left England at the age five, and is now in the Western Road Workhouse Infirmary, Mitcham, Surrey, considers that after Russia “England is just heaven.”

A old English lady with a high, intellectual forehead, hair of silvery hue, and twinkling brown eyes, Mrs Harkness looked very peaceful she lay in bed and discussed with a representative of “The Daily Mail” what she thought of England after her long life in Russia.

“Petrograd was a miserable state when left,” she said. “People were literally starving in the streets. We had to pay a fabulous sum even for 1lb. of potatoes. Now (oh, it is too wonderful!) I get as much as I want to eat and drink, even eggs and abundance of milk. The few people I have met have been exceedingly kind. In Russia there is

Neither Religion Nor Morality,

“I was a governess when Russia was happy home, but now it is all havoc and hunger and death. Petrograd when we left was city of desolation. People with money in their pockets could not buy provisions, and motor cars were openly stolen. Nearly all the shops were shut, and hunger was common complaint.

“Three of the doctors in our home at Petrograd died from lack of food. We were not allowed to bring any luggage, and the only books I have are my Bible and Prayer-Book. England has progressed wonderfully since my days. There were, of course, no aeroplanes then, no electric trains, and none of your modern wonders of civilisation. Paraffin lamps and sewing machines were thought to be quite up to date in my earlier days.”

Mrs Harkness is one of 56 Britons recently repatriated from Russia.

Source: Motherwell Times – Friday 20 August 1920 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)


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