Susanna de Vries (GREECE!)

Blue Ribbons, Bitter Bread:

The Life of Joice NanKivell Loch

Susanna de Vries

Available through Amazon HERE

Available as Audio through the Book Depository HERE

Joice NanKeville Loch, Australian writer, humanitarian and philanthropist lived for many years in the medieval Ouranopoli tower, 1km from the venue of the annual community workshop in Skites in Greece.

 This is well worth reading, if only for its chapters on Mount Athos, and the environs of Skites!

Leeanne Carlton writes below: 

I just finished the book Blue Ribbons Bitter Bread last week. The story of Joice NanKivell Loch is intimately tied in with the story of Ouranopolis, south-west of Thessaloniki. She is not only an accomplished journalist writer and writer of children’s books (The cobweb ladder and Tales of Christophilos) but a dedicated humanitarian, among many great deeds, orchestrating the daring escape of Polish and Jewish refugees out of refugee camps and places of hiding in Romania before Hiltler’s advance, to the safety of Allied areas of Europe. She made her home in Ouranopolis and gave a large part of herself and her life to the Greek refugees who settled there after fleeing persecution from Turkey and Central Asia. She is fondly remembered in the town as Kyria Loch, their saviour during hard times, and curiously, as the lady in the white tower. This is just a fragment of the story of an Ozzie ex pat who is little known in Australia, and was decorated with 11 medals for her humanitarian work during her lifetime - possibly the most decorated woman in known history. I hope people will be curious to find out more by reading Susanna De Vries book honouring her life and compassionate work. 

Leeanne Carlton
Melbourne, Australia
September 2018


This unforgettable story has become an Australian classic describing how an Australian bush girl saved the lives of 1,000 Polish and Jewish children in a daring escape from the Nazis. This updated edition contains an important eye-witness account of the burning of Smyrna (Izmir) causing a vast number of deaths. The author's father, a young British naval officer, saved hundreds of Greeks from the blaze that destroyed their beautiful city and many of them would be cared for by Joice Loch in a Greek refugee camp and later in the refugee village of Ouranoupolis, now a holiday resort.

Joice Loch was an extraordinary Australian. She had the inspired courage that saved many hundreds of Jews and Poles in World War II, the compassion that made her a self-trained doctor to tens of thousands of refugees, the incredible grit that took her close to death in several theatres of war, and the dedication to truth and justice that shone forth in her own books and a lifetime of astonishing heroism.

Born in a cyclone in 1887 on a Queensland sugar plantation, she grew up in grinding poverty in Gippsland and emerged from eyars of unpaid drudgery by writing a children's book and freelance journalism. In 1918 she married Sydney Loch, author of a banned book on Gallipoli. After a dangerous time in Dublin during the Troubles, they excaped from possible IRA vengeance to work with the Quakers in Poland. There they rescued countless dispossessed people from disease and starvation and risked death themselves.

In 1922 Joice and Sydney went to Greece to aid the 1,500,000 refugees fleeing Turkish persecution. Greece was to become their home. They lived in an ancient tower by the sea in the shadows of Athos, the Holy Mountain, and worked selflessly for decades to save victims of war, famine and disease.

During World War II, Joice was an agent for the Allies in Eastern Europe and pulled off a spectacular escape to snatch over a thousand Jews and Poles from death just before the Nazis invaded Bucharest, escorting them via Constantinople to Palestine. By the time she died in 1982, Joice had written ten books, saved many thousands of lives and was one of the world's most decorated women. At her funeral the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Oxford named her 'one of the most significant women of the twentieth century'.

This classic Australian biography is a tribute to one of Australia's most heroic women, who always spoke with great fondness of Queensland as her birthplace. In 2006 a Loch Memorial Museum was opened in the tower by the sea in Ouranoupolis, a tribute to the Lochs and their humanitarian work.

Fionnuala Bates