Missionaries Who Helped Armenians During The Genocide – Alma Johansson
Missionaries Who Helped Armenians During The Genocide – Alma Johansson –
“I will never forget this sight. And there was nothing I could do for them!”
Alma Johansson in Ett folk i landsflykt (1930)
In 1915, the Swedish missionary Alma Johansson (1881–1974) witnessed the Armenian genocide in the Turkish part of the Ottoman Empire.1 Her accounts of the outrages are almost unbearable to read. She worked in an Armenian orphanage in the town of Musch. However, she was not able to save “her” children from the persecutions. They were trapped and locked into a house, which was set on fire. Alma was devastated at not having been able to protect the children. She set out on a dangerous trip throughout a war-torn Turkey in order to reach Constantinople and give her report. Her testimony to American and German diplomats was soon published, together with the reports of other missionaries. After some years she also published her story as a book.
She also made testimonies to German and American diplomats who published them later. Alma told about how women took poison so they wouldn’t be captured by the Turks, and how the soldiers transported bloody, wounded women and children through the city while other soldiers fired at them just to frighten. When the wounded fell to the ground, the soldiers would hit them with their rifles. “I will never forget this sight. And there was nothing I could do for them!” she wrote.
She gave information about how the kids at the orphanage were handed over to a Turkish officer, and then taken to a building outside the city where they all were murdered.
In 1923 Johansson moved to Salonika, and established a factory for more than 200 Armenian refugee women. She also founded an Armenian kindergarten and primary school in Charilaos (Greece).
She wrote about her experiences in a book called Ett folk i landsflykt: Ett år ur armeniernas historia (“A People in Exile: One Year in the Life of the Armenians”, Stockholm: Kvinnliga missions arbetare, 1930), both of which were translated into Armenian and French.