Refugees Passing through Rowne, Poland


This photograph, taken in 1921, shows a group of Jewish refugees in horse-drawn carts traveling through the town of Rowne, Poland (present-day Rovno or  Rivne, Ukraine) as they make their way home. World War I had created a massive population of displaced persons, which then increased with the Russian Revolution and ensuing civil war. Along with the dangers associated with war and revolution, Jews faced the added peril of pogroms. Rowne, a commercial hub with a large Jewish population, had experienced a series of pogroms in 1919, while the town was still part of Ukraine; by 1920 it had been transferred to Poland. The next year, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) sent its first team of medical representatives, including social workers, physicians, and teachers, to Poland. Among them was Max Colton, a physician, who took this photograph and others to document the work of the JDC medical unit and the localities it served. The JDC was founded by American Jews in New York City to help destitute Jews in Europe and Palestine affected by World War I. Since 1914 the JDC has operated as a global humanitarian organization, providing food, clothing, medicine, child care, job training, and refugee assistance in more than 90 countries. The JDC Archives contain photographs, documents, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts documenting the organization’s work.

Last updated: March 17, 2016