New book explores life of missionary who saved orphans during Armenian Genocide

Anna Hedwig Büll
Anna Hedwig Büll Source: ERR

A new novel explores the life of Anna Hedwig Büll, a Baltic-German missionary from Estonia, who helped and saved thousands of Armenians coping with the consequences of the genocide at the beginning of the 20th century.

Büll was a missionary from Estonia who was born into a well-to-do family in Haapsalu in 1887. Her father, Theodor Büll, was the owner of Haapsalu's famous mud cure resort and also the city's mayor. 

"At the age of 24, she moved to Turkey, to an orphanage in the town of Marash (now Kahramanmaras), where she was caught up in the Armenian genocide. It is said that she saved thousands of people there," said Piret Jaaks, who has written a new novel "Taeva tütred" ("Daughters of Heaven") about Büll.

The Armenian Genocide took place during World War I between 1915-1917 when the Ottoman Empire systematically killed more than 1.5 million people.

It is thought Büll managed to save and assist around 2,000 people during this time.

Jaaks novel is based on Bülli's biography and, while she tried to stick to the facts, she also added created fictitious characters. She also did not dwell on tragic events. "It seems to me that we have had enough of these wars in society," she said. 

Asked why she wrote the book, Jaaks said: "It's an unbelievable story of how one woman from here in little Estonia goes and does it all."

In 1921, Büll went to Syria to help Armenians in a refugee camp in Aleppo to restart their lives.

Büll died in 1981 in Germany having spent the last 30 years of her life in Europe. She was denied entry to the Soviet Union in 1951

Jaaks said Büll is well-known and loved in Armenia and there are several monuments commemorating her memory in both her homeland and Armenia.


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Editor: Rasmus Kuningas, Helen Wright

Source: Ringvaade

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