Return to Albania
Christian World, March 3, 1906, p. 298 (Vol. 91, no. 9)
The Tsilkas at Work in
Letters have been
received from Madame Tsilka, Miss Ellen M. Stone's companion in captivity,
and her husband, Gregory M. Tsilka, now at their old work in Kortcha,
Albania, Turkey in Europe. They had been absent from their posts for more
than two years lecturing and preaching in America. Prior to their visit to
America and before Mrs. Tsilka's experience in captivity, they had
attempted to establish a school for girls and a school for boys. Although
there was great opposition on tile part of the people, a girls' school was
successfully begun and during the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Tsilka was
continued under the direction of trusted helpers.
Since returning to
Albania the Tsilkas have found a remarkable change in the attitude of the
people and Mrs. Tsilka writes: "In the providence of God it seems as
though the psychological moment for evangelizing the people of Albania had
come." "People are dissatisfied with the old religion and anxious for
something better; the welcome accorded us has been most cordial; we are
constantly confronted in the streets by both boys and parents asking us to
take them and teach them; people are anxious for us to secure a suitable
place for a boys' school ; they are even willing to help us to do so ;
before we left for America no one would sell us property and instead of
coming to us, boys and parents jeered at us and often disturbed our
services; this is all changed now and we are daily receiving great
blessings in our work."
Both Mr. and Mrs. Tsilka
received training for their work in America. Mrs. Tsilka Is a trained
nurse, having graduated from the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City
after the full course of study at Northfield Seminary. Mr. Tsilka was
trained under the American missionaries in Albania and then at Union
Theological Seminary. They are peculiarly qualified to build on lasting
foundations and their spirit and enthusiasm is such as to convince their
friends that deep and broad foundations for redeeming the people of the
Balkans will be laid by these native but American-trained workers. It is
the hope of many of their friends in this country that some generous
contributions may be made towards permanently establishing their work.
!BIOGRAPHY: Washington Post, 12 May 1907, p. 58
BORN IN CAPTIVITY
From Human Life
Among the children born into this world who do not know where their
birthplace is must be numbered Elenchie Tsilka. The circumstances of her
birth, while her unfortunate Macedonian mother was a captive with Ms.
Stone, during the winter of 1901 -1902, have not been forgotten by those
who have heard either of the captives tell her story, or read it in the
papers at the time.
Possibly the brigands who held them in their unrelenting grip know
where that hut was hidden; but to this day, neither Miss Stone nor the
Macedonian mother has the least idea of its location: for their captives
forced them to make the journey there and back under cover of darkness.
That little hut, upon which at the time the attention of the whole
world was focused, was an excavation in the mountainside for the storage
of the wine casks of some Macedonian peasant. Did he ever learn that a
helpless baby was born in the blackness of his hut, under the bulging side
of one of his great casks, that Saturday night, January 4, 1902? Or did
he, when next he visited that remote vineyard of his, as the spring days
drew him thither to hoe his vines on that mountain slope, find his storage
hut destroyed, and wonder with pain of heart who could have brought such
damage to a poor, hard-working farmer in Turkey?
The two captives have no knowledge, save that it became their shelter
before the dawn of Saturday morning, when, exhausted after their ten
hours' journey on pack saddles, they were compelled to stop somewhere .
When, with her parents, the little girl was in the United States in
1904 -1905, people often inquired of her, Elenchie, where were you born ?
And laughed, while a wonderful tenderness filled their hearts and tears
often sprang into their eyes to hear the little voice answer softly, "In
captivity!" That is all either of the captives know of her birthplace.
Since her parents returned to their work in Albania, where Mr. Tsilka
is a preacher and also a teacher also of Albanian boys, Elenchie has
become proficient in talking Albanian and Greek in addition to her
English, and has also made good progress in the Macedonian dialect of the
Bulgarian, which is her mother's language .
Five-year-old Elenchie has now become a great help to her mother in her
household duties, to which are added the care of her second daughter,
Afrodita (Morning Star), and practicing her skill as a trained nurse in
Elenchie, named for her maternal grandmother and her mother's
fellow-captive, was called Kismatchie, the Little Luck-Child, by the
brigands. Marvelously was her life preserved amid the fearful exposures of
those midwinter nights of her first seven weeks, in the clutches of
desperate men -- as well as during her mother's unspeakable hardships from
September to January before her birth. Surely this life must have some
May it be realized in noble achievement and the uplift of many sad
!BIOGRAPHY: The Missionary Herald, June 1908,
The Kennedys Reach Kortcha
(European Turkey Field)
Rev. and Mrs. P. B. Kennedy have at last
reached Kortcha , and have begun work there as "teachers" of the
Albanians. They were unjustly detained at Salonica for four months, but
finally secured their treaty rights and were allowed to preceed. The Vali
of Monastir vilayet offered them a guard of gendarmes over the mountains.
So in a large, closed carriage, with mounted guards on either side and an
armed kavass provided by the consul on the seat with the driver, spending
the night in route in the home of an evangelical family in the town of
Ressin... Some persecution is being undergone in part from the Greek
Orthodox Church. The joy of reaching Kortcha was clouded by finding Mr.
Tsilka , who is head of the school and whose wife, it will be remembered,
was kidnapped with Miss Stone, imprisoned for connivance with Albanian
revolutionists , a charge which the missionaries believe to be entirely
groundless. It is more than suspected that some of the of events on which
she was imprisoned was manufactured or so placed as to bear false witness
against him. The sympathy and prayers of the friends of this mission are
desired, both for Mr. Tsilka and the Kennedys as they take up their work
in a situation so difficult and delicate.
!BIOGRAPHY: The Missionary Herald, August
1908, p. 356
Through inadvertence the June Herald spoke of
Mr. Tsilka as having been the head of a school at Kortcha . The facts are
that Ms. Sevastia D. Kyrias has had charge of this girl's boarding school
for nearly seventeen years , and that Mr. Tsilka has never even taught in
it, but only preached in its building to a mix congregation of townspeople
and others. We regret the twofold injustice of the misstatement.
!BIOGRAPHY: Sioux Valley News, Correctionville, Iowa, 22 Oct 1908, p. 9
TSILKA IS RELEASED
Mme. Tsilka, Who Was in Prison With Miss Stone, Writes of the
Revolution in Turkey
It was Mme. Tsilka who was in prison with Miss Ellen Stone in Turkey
and it will be remembered she gave lectures in the United States three
years ago. A letter from her has been received in Gardner, Mass. by Mrs.
Geo. A. Swallow with whom Mme. Tsilk spent the last Sunday before
returning the last time to Turkey.
About six months ago Mme Tsilka's husband was thrown into prison and
without any alleged reason on the part of the officials. In order to keep
him in prison the magistrates went to his home and seized all his private
papers and examined them carefully to see if by chance there was anything
in them against the government and their search proving unsuccessful they
forwarded them to other places further examination.
The letter reads as follows
Have not written sooner because I could not possibly get the time. Four
children to look after, husband in prison and twice a day sending him
meals beside running about to court officials and lawyers. And no help for
the houseworkfor people were afraid to mingle with us. Two babies on my
hands, Afrodita not quite two years old and little Skender, now three
months old. He came to me two months after my husband's imprisonment.
Before his advent I had no idea who was to assist me in such a trying
time, who was to look after the children. Am a perfect stranger here. To
send far for friends impossible, for traveling was very dangerous. So I
just prayed and left it all to God.
Now I do not know where to begin to tell you of the wonderful change
that has taken place in this country of ours. Two weeks ago groans and
weepings were heard everywhere around us. A person murdered here, another
there, a village burned in one place, another massacred women and children
cruelly mutiplated and innocent vitims were dragged out of their homes and
thrown into prison. The prisons were so full that the poor victims had to
squeeze hard in order to get a sleeping place. The walls perspired
dampness and the sun never entered there.
My ears heard the rumors among the people and officers that Tsilka
would be either imprisoned for life or hung. Oh! how I used to hurry home,
close the door after me and tell it all to Him. And He gave me wonderful
peace. Well in the midst of all this gloom and uncertainty, two weeks ago
early one morning the general of the newly arrived army accompanied by his
staff walked into my husband's confinement and shouts out.
'Tsilka you are free! Come with us for we have need of such as you.'
And it was Mr. Tsilka who wrote the first outline of the new government
here. And most of the important work was done in our very school. Of
course when my husband was thrown in prison there was a silent indignation
even among the Turks, the enlightened ones I mean. Even the enemies of our
work did not dare to rejoice.
Mr. Tsilka's freedom was the beginning of the overthrow of the old
government. Two days later the prison doors were wide open and every
prisoner set free. The very stones seemed tio rejoce Freedom, freedom of
thought and action was given to every nation and tribe.
Men ran about the streets, wild with joy and shouting. Long live
liberty, long live the union, long live the love, long live our country!
Women and children danced in the streets and wept with joy. All eyes
were turned upward to heaven.
(signed) K S T (Katerina S. Tsilka)
She adds: "Write anything you please now and send any printed matter
you like. No fear now."
BIOGRAPHY: Los Angeles Times, Sep 23, 1913;
KORITSA EPISODE STIRS UP BRYAN.
Greek Seizure of American School Causes
Matron of Mission Beaten and Sent to Prison.
British Consul Attempts to Protect Teachers.
WASHINGTON. Sept. 22. - State Department
officials said today that the reported seizure of the American mission
school at Koritsa, Albania, by Greeks, would raise an important diplomatic
question, as the status of American institutions in Albania has not been
determined under the new territorial delimitations growing out of the war
between the Balkan allies and Turkey and the later conflict among the
Under a convention with Turkey made when that
nation exercised sovereignty over Albania, Americans, in addition to their
rights under treaties of commerce and travel, were given extra territorial
rights which protected, among other things, educational institutions.
No official report of the seizure of the
school had been received today, but the State Department is prepared to
protest to the Greek government vigorously for the protection of Americans
and their property in Albania, under the new political order.
BRITISH CONSUL, PROTESTS
VIENNA, Sept. 22.- The Greek authorities at
Koritsa, in Albania, seized today the American mission school there, where
instruction is given to nearly 100 Albanian girls. The information reached
here in a telegram from Avlona, the principal seaport of Albania on the
The Greeks also have arrested and persecuted
a large number of Albanians who recently returned to Koritsa. from America
and other foreign countries, releasing them from detention only when
Albanians promised to join the agitation for the incorporation of the
district under the Greek flag.
The British Consul at Monastir has entered a
vigorous protest with the Greek government on behalf of the Americans.
Last week Greek officials at Koritsa endeavored to take forcible
possession of tho American mission school building, but the housekeeper in
charge refused to hand over the keys. The Greek soldiers beat her
mercilessly and then carried her off to prison.
The mission is in charge of Phineas B.
Kennedy. a native of New Jersey and a Princeton graduate. Mrs. Viola B.
Kennedy conducts the Ladies' Literary Society, whose object is to give the
elements of education to the women of Albania.
CONTROLLED IN NEW YORK.
NEW YORK, Sept 22.-The American mission
school in Koritsa, Albania, is under supervision of the Congregational
Church and controlled by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
!BIOGRAPHY: Tsanoff, Vladimir A. (ed.),
Reports and Letters of American Missionaries Referring to the Distribution
of Nationalities in the Former Provinces of European Turkey (Sofia, 1919),
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE AMERICAN
TURKEY. AND BALKAN MISSION. .
The Servians early took possession of
northern Albania, and soon after their arrival at Durazzo, Elbasan and
Tirana, they arrested Mr. Erickson and Mr. Tsilka. Mr. Erickson, on
December 10, was ordered to leave, with his family, within twenty-four
hours after notice was served upon him, and Mr. Tsilka was kept in
confinement for several weeks before he was given his liberty. . . .
Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy remained at Kortcha
after the Greeks had taken possession of the city for several weeks, but
on April 24 they received orders to prepare to withdraw, and they were
sent under Greek guard to Salonica. The reasons given by the Greeks for
the expulsion of Mr. Kennedy were wholly unsatisfactory and without any
ground. The Greek Government, however, after correspondence gave assurance
to our State Department, that as soon .as order was restored in Kortcha,
Mr. Kennedy would be allowed to return. Although Kortcha falls within
independent Albania as set apart by the European Powers, up to October 1
the Greeks have not withdrawn, and indications are many that they do not
intend to do so. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be there.
In Salonica there was an entire suspension of
every form of work as there was in Kortcha and Elbasan during the
hostilities and even down to the present time, except that the
missionaries gave themselves with great abandon to the work of relief for
which there was boundless call. The refugees flocked into Salonica where
Mr. Haskell and Mr. Cooper devoted their entire time and strength to
relief work. While they have not been personally molested by. the Greek
authorities, the later-development of their hostility to Bulgaria has
raised doubt as to whether the Greeks would allow any work to be carried
on in Salonica, or in fact anywhere under the Greek flag, in the Bulgarian
language, as there was also serious doubt as to whether any work in
Kortcha or in any part of Albania would be allowed to continue if the
Albanian language was used. The Greek officials have expressed themselves
as not hostile to the work of the American mission, but they have given no
assurance that the work will be allowed to continue.
!BIOGRAPHY: Dako, Christo A., Albania: the
master key to the Near East. Boston: Grimes, 1919, pp. 194-95:
[Insurrection in Kortcha,
April 2-6, 1914]
All the Christian quarter was forced to put
up the Greek flag. We took down the Albanian flag, and Mr. Spencer put up
the American. Mr. Spencer, Zarif our kavass [security guard], Miss Kyrias
and two of the teachers took rifles and guarded the school. Firing
continued most of the day. The school was often threatened. All that
Sunday the fighting was terrific. . . Late that evening Rev. Tsilka, one
of our teachers who had come from Elbasan, reached the school.
Early the next morning, Monday 6 April, after
a good breakfast, Mr. Tsilka with Zarif my kavass and fifteen men started
fighting from our gate. They slowly advanced... Then 150 men were taken to
attack the Metropolis and capture the Greek Bishop. These troops were
divided into three companies, Captain Doorman of the Dutch Mission made
the attack from the east, Captain Ghilardi from the south, and Mr.
Spencer, who had been an officer in the American navy, from the west. Mr.
Spencer ordered his men to ignore the firing from the surrounding houses
and to charge directly on the Bishop's residence. His men, however, were
held up for two hours where two streets meet, but at last they reached the
Metropolis. The Bishop gave up his arms and surrendered. As the Albanian
villagers who had followed in Spencer's rear wished to hang the Bishop,
Mr. Spencer placed a guard of forty men around the residence, and he
himself entered with ten soldiers. After half an hour Captain Doorman and
Captain Chilardi arrived. . . At midnight for his own safety the Bishop
was sent to Elbasan. . . . The Kyrias School was turned into a hospital
for the wounded.