There seems to be a long lineage of British women who have developed strong connections with the Balkan region over the years. Recently, I’ve been mainly reading about women at the turn of the nineteenth century and the more that I read, the more fascinating the stories are.
First there is Edith Durham, Queen of the Highlands to the Albanians and Achilles Heel to the established Balkan experts of the pre-WW1 era. Considered outspoken and difficult, her foreign office file began by warning people off engaging her in conversation. But she was passionate, fearless and ultimately proven by history to be speaking sense.
Then there are the women of the First World War who travelled out to the front line as part of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry – I’m assuming that the acronym they would have had printed on their uniform is etymologically significant – Marvellous bunch, these FANYs, I’m sure!
Then there is Flora Sandes. A Yorkshire born woman who was the only British woman to enlist as a soldier in the First World War and travelled out to the Balkans with the British Red Cross. She ended up fighting with the Serbian army and rose through their military hierarchy – as a woman – to the rank of Captain. The only woman to be commissioned as an officer in the Serbian army.
How do we not know more about these people!
There is a lot more to discover here, I think, and so has begun one of my minor obsessions for 2012.