Exhibition about Quaker work in 1920s Russia

1920s Soviet Russia, as seen by Friends

On 6 September 2010 Russian Orthodox Archbishop Sergius of Samara and Syzran will open an exhibition of pictures by Richard Kilbey in the Eparchial Museum of Church History in Samara.

Richard (Dick) Kilbey was a member of a team of American and British Quakers who were engaged in relief work in the Buzuluk region, near Samara, between 1917 and 1931, during the famines that followed World War I and the Civil War, and the period of reconstruction in the 1920s.

Richard Kilbey was born at Itarsi in India on 30 December 1897, one of the four children of missionaries Francis and Mary Ann Kilbey. As a young boy he was sent to England to school. In 1916 he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit. After the famine broke out in 1921 he joined the Quaker team based in Buzuluk. An amateur artist, he took his sketch pad with him and made a collection of pen and ink drawings, watercolours and pencil sketches of people and places in Buzuluk and the surrounding villages. After he died in 1984 the pictures passed into the care of his Quaker Meeting, Wells-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk, which has lent the collection to Samara’s Eparchial Museum.

A round-table conference of academics and visitors, hosted by Archbishop Sergius, will take place after the opening of the exhibition. Speakers will examine the struggle against hunger in the Volga region in the 1920s.

David McFadden and Claire Gorfinkel’s book Constructive Spirit, Quakers in Revolutionary Russia has been translated into Russian as a result of local initiative in Samara. The Russian-language edition will be launched after the opening.

Constructive Spirit is an authoritative account which sets in broad historical and political context the stories of the individuals who worked with the refugees and the local population, in feeding centres, work rooms, orphanages and hospitals in the Volga region.

Guests at the opening will include Margarita Wood of Wells-next-the-Sea Quaker Meeting, and Sergei Nikitin of Friends House Moscow’s International Board.

There will also be visits to the 1920s Quaker Centres in Buzuluk, Sorochinsk and Totskoye.

The exhibition will run until December 2010.

Read the report by the Eastern Daily Press of 22 September 2010 by clicking here