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The John Corsellis Archive

The School of History is pleased to announce that the coming academic year will mark the opening of The John Corsellis Archive. A conscientious objector during the Second World War, John elected to join the Friends’ (Quaker) Ambulance Unit in 1943. As the conflict in Europe drew to close, he found himself serving, under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), in Yugoslav refugee camps in Egypt, Italy, and Allied-occupied Austria. It was here in 1945 that he witnessed the British army's repatriation of anti-Communist Yugoslavs (predominantly Slovenes), back to their homeland where many were to face summary execution.  Haunted by the memory of these events, John later began researching into the causes and consequences of the forcible repatriations (refoulement) establishing numerous contacts throughout the Slovenian/Yugoslavian diaspora in Western Europe, North America, and Argentina. His work also brought him into contact with various public notables including the author Nikolai Tolstoy who had written on the British deportation of anti-Communist Soviet refugees from Austria after the war. In the 1990s these efforts to raise public awareness resulted in his first book Slovenian Phoenix which sadly never reached publication in printed book form. However, a free pdf can now be accessed at http://www.mladinska.com/slovenian-phoenix/slovenian_phoenix

His second book Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival after World War II (co-authored with the Reuters journalist Marcus Ferrar), however, was released by I.B.Tauris in 2005 to critical acclaim, even eliciting a formal apology from the then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for the government's historic involvement in the deportations.  

The archive will be based within the School of History and comprise John's diaries, extensive correspondence, book and publication drafts, maps, research materials, and a number of personal items gifted to him by camp inmates and the descendants of survivors. It will also include a small library of secondary literature providing a broader historical context. Both academic and non-academic researchers will find it an invaluable source of information that sheds new light on a range of topics including humanitarianism, post-war international relations, the history of the region, and the hitherto under-examined experiences of refugees in the early twentieth century.

For further information please contact Samuel.foster@uea.ac.uk