The Popstefanov Family
of Bansko, Bulgaria

Katerina Dimitrova Stephanova


Katerina Stephanova Tsilka

Early Life - Pt 1
Early Life - Pt 2 Education - Pt 1 
Education - Pt 2
1st Trip to USA-1
1st Trip to USA- 2
Return to Europe
Abduction 1901-2
Touring the USA
Return to Albania
Katerina Alone


The Abduction of Ellen Stone and Katerina Tsilka

Mention has already been made of the abduction of Katerina Tsilka with Miss Ellen Maria Stone, the well-known American missionary stationed in the European Turkey.  Miss Stone was the object of the abduction, which was devised by Macedonian revolutionaries who hoped to receive a large ransom to finance their insurgency against the Turks. 

The six-month ordeal for the two women began on September 3, 1901 and ended nearly six months later, February 23, 1902, after a ransom of $66,000 raised mostly in America, had been paid.  It was Katerina's misfortune to have been at the wrong place, at the wrong time.  But her innocence and pregnancy added poignancy to the whole episode, and the story was followed closely in the press, and millions of readers around the world.

Contemporary Postcard Depicting the Plight of the Miss Stone and Madame Tsilka

Newspaper accounts of the prolonged negotiations with the captors appeared in virtually every city of the country, and after the women were freed, the Stone-Tsilka kidnapping was recalled in a number of books.  Even before the women were released, the entrepreneurial magazine publisher, S.S. McClure, traveled to Europe to secure an exclusive account from the women for his monthly magazine, McClure's. 

The six serialized articles that appeared in McClure's can be viewed in their entirety, in pdf format here.

McClure's -- May 1902
McClure's -- June 1902
McClure's -- July 1902
McClure's -- August 1902 (by Katerina)
McClure's -- September 1902
McClure's -- October 1902

William Eleroy Curtis, a newspaper journalist, was interested in the events of the Middle East and interviewed both Ellen Stone and Katerina Tsilka in the United States, after their release.  In 1903 he published a book entitled The Turk and His Lost Provinces and devoted Chapter XI to the kidnapping.  This chapter can be read here.

The abduction of the American missionary and her companion excited the interest of Broadway playwright Charles Alonzo Taylor (1864-1942) who penned "Held for Ransom; A Spectacular Drama in Five Acts and Eleven Scenes" in 1902.  According to the script, it was to be "a grand spectacular production...over three hundred people and horses on stage."  It's uncertain whether the play was actually produced, however.  According to the New York Times (1 Jun 1904, p. 9), Taylor filed for bankruptcy with $12,275 in liabilities, and no assets.  More than half a century later, in 1957, the story was taken up by Yugoslavian film makers, and a full-length movie, Mis Ston, appeared in theatres across the Balkans.  Clips of this movie may be viewed on the internet on YouTube.  Here are links to clips of the first and second part of the movie: 

          Mis Ston - Part 1          Mis Ston - Part 2

Several books provide important details about the abduction and its participants.  Laurie Beth Sherman completed a doctoral dissertation at the University of Sofia, and published her dissertation, an account of the Stone-Tsilka kidnapping in 1980 under the title: Fires on the Mountain: The Macedonian Revolutionary Movement and the Kidnapping of Ellen Stone (Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs).  Mercia Macdermott published a biography of Yane Sandansky, a major, if not the main architect of the kidnapping, entitled: For Freedom and Perfection: the Life of Yane Sandansky (London, Journeyman Press, 1988).

The latest work, written by Pulitzer-prize winner, Teresa Carpenter, a thoroughly researched, very readable account, is The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis! (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003).

 In addition to visiting libraries and archives around the United States, Ms. Carpenter traveled to Europe, including Turkey and Bulgaria, to research this excellent book.



The next section will discuss the Tsilka's attempt to return to normalcy after Katerina's release, and their eventual return to America.

next section Richard M. Cochran, Ph.D. |
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