Blue Ribbons, Bitter Bread

The life of Joice NanKivell Loch - Australia’s most heroic woman

Blue Ribbons - Bitter BreadJOICE 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 years of unpaid drudgery by writing a children's hook and doing freelance journalism in Melbourne. In 1918 she married Sydney Loch, Gallipoli veteran and writer, with whom she was commissioned to produce a book on Ireland. After a dangerous time in Dublin during the Troubles, they escaped from possible IRA vengeance to work with the Quakers in Poland. There the Lochs 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 Loch was an agent for the Allies in Eastern Europe and pulled off a spectacular escape to snatch over 1,000 Jews and Poles from death just before the Nazis invaded Bucharest, escorting them via Constantinople to Palestine. By the time she died in 1982 she had written ten books, saved many thousands of lives and was one of the world's most decorated women. At her funeral the Creek 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. The book has inspired the Greeks to open a memorial museum to Joice and Sydney Loch in their tower home and sent Australians to Ouranoupolis to visit the village she loved and lay gum leaves on her grave. It remains a great favourite with book clubs everywhere and is Susanna de Vries’ favourites among all the books she has written.

Some Press Reviews:

Watching the Detective
Author in Pursuit of Greatness

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