From the fall of 1918 to summer 1919, six YWCA women are attached to the North Russia Expeditionary Forces, an international military mission posted in the city of Arkhangelsk, North Russia. With this change, Clara Taylor’s second year working for the YWCA in Russia turns out to be vastly different from her previous year in Moscow.
No longer teaching home economics or surveying factory conditions, Clara now finds herself dancing with soldiers at parties, then learning of their deaths in action the next day; reading to ill soldiers in the hospital; and serving hot coffee to ragtag men on the front lines of the Vologda railroad front in the bitter Russian winter. Throughout, she remains strong, courageous, and dedicated to her ideals of service. Even her own hospitalization for appendicitis does not stop her from supporting others in an untenable situation. Able to let loose about her own political views in these letters, Clara writes scathing commentary about the ineptitude of the military command. She also writes of the frozen landscape, the astounding beauty of the northern lights, homesickness, the strength of the Russian people, and, finally, the overwhelming joy of returning home to her family.