This is the story of my great aunt Margery told in installments and with digressions, based on her letters and the Margery Book, a journal of her adventures compiled by her father, the Rev. Robert Barber, an English country vicar from a long line of same. Her mother, Adeline, was a Guinness of the brewing and banking Guinnesses, against whose class she rebelled.

Life in Edwardian England and how she was expected to live it were not Margery’s dish of tea. Unmarried at 25, she tried emigration to Canada. World War I brought her home and liberated her, taking her first to Serbia, then to the genocide in Armenia, as a volunteer hospital orderly.

She was caring for war refugees in Russia when the revolution came. By her own account, she read Bukharin’s ABCs of Communism and found it spoke to her condition, as the Quakers say. She came close to being shot by the Whites during the civil war the followed the Bolshevik coup and was repatriated to the UK where she wrote up her experience in what HG Wells was pleased to call, in a footnote to his Outline of History, “a small but very illuminating book.” She wangled her way back to Russia in 1922 and stayed until her death in 1965, surviving Stalin and Nazi occupation.

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Travels with my great aunt. .


Simon Barber
At various stages, reporter, foreign correspondent, pundit, speechwriter, propagandist, ghost writer and audiobook narrator. Lives in the woods west of Washington DC.