On This Day September 19, 1922: Ernest Hemingway Reports on Suffering of Women in Smyrna


On this date in 1922, tens of thousands of refugees were crammed on to Smyrna’s Quay, and each night Turkish soldiers on horseback waded into the crowd to snatch young women.

There was a near constant moan from the destitute and suffering mass of people that occasionally rose to steady and sustained screams.

The Allied ships in the harbor found that they could quiet the refugees by running their big lights over the Quay to disperse the Turkish soldiers.

It was a nightmarish detail captured in Ernest Hemingway’s famous short story “On the Quay at Smyrna.” Hemingway never got to Smyrna. He had learned of the suffering on the Quay from a British officer in Constantinople who had just returned from the city.

Here’s an except from Hemingway’s story, capturing another gruesome detail at Smyrna:

“The worst, he said, were the women with dead babies. You couldn’t get the women to give up their dead babies. They’d have babies dead for six days. Wouldn’t give them up. Nothing you could do about it. Had to take them away finally.”

On this same night, Mustafa Kemal celebrated his victory at a party arranged by the new woman in his life, Latife Hanum. He was captivated by her, and he danced well into the night.

The story of the Catastrophe in Smyrna is told in great detail in Lou Ureneck’s book The Great Fire. Get the book here.


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