Jack Birns

(1919-2008)

 

Jack Birns came to prominence with his photographs of China in 1947a, many of which were not published until 2003a in the album Assignment: Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution

In the early 1950s, he travelled from London to Istanbul on the Orient Express, taking a series of reportage photographs for LIFE magazine from every country along the way. At Edirne station, his attention was drawn to a group of women in matching fur coats. These photographs would turn out to be historic and become known in Turkey as just that – “Women in Fur Coats” – a completely unknown visual testimony to the forced expulsion of Turks in Bulgaria in 1950-51a.

Blankets and fur coats were then exchanged for 15-20 acres of land. Families were not allowed to export levs or gold, and sold land or other property before leaving for Turkey in order to have the means to survive the first few days. There was a voucher system in Bulgaria at that time and such coats were not sold in shops, they were considered bourgeois obsolescence, they were probably hidden away.

Pictures from Jack Birns

1. Karaağaç Train Station, Edirne. Early 1950’s.

Turkish women with their fur coats.

Assimilation Archive