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Records of YMCA International Work in Yugoslavia

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-51


Correspondence, reports, financial documents, pamphlets and other records of North American YMCA international work Yugoslavia, primarily of Donald A. Lowrie. Material dates as early as 1919 and as late as 1959, however the bulk of the collection focuses on the time period of 1930 to 1932 when Lowrie worked with the English National Council in Belgrade on student work, documenting both his attempts to develop it and the response from the citizens of Yugoslavia. Other major focuses within this same time period include monetary difficulties that the North American YMCA was facing during the Great Depression and the effects that these difficulties had on YMCA foreign service, including the decision to pull Lowrie from Yugoslavia and abandon the student work there. John R. Mott, Hugo Cedergren and P. H. Sitters are also frequently mentioned in the collection.

Material covering World War II and later years primarily discusses the need for the resurgence of YMCA work in Yugoslavia. References to YMCA post-World War II war work are made in relation to the Prisoners of War camps containing Italians, Austrians and Germans within Yugoslavia. The YMCA's work with the Yugoslav Red Cross is also mentioned.


  • 1919-1959
  • Majority of material found within ( 1930-1932)

Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The country of Yugoslavia was formed after Austria-Hungary was defeated in World War I. Originally known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.

North American YMCAs began their activity in Yugoslavia in September of 1930 but had only a supporting and brief share of the YMCA work there. North American YMCA secretary Donald Alexander Lowrie was sent to assist the English National Council, which had the major responsibility for the Yugoslavia Y, and was assigned to the area of student work. Lowrie was stationed in Belgrade due the high number of students at the university there. As of 1930 student work was a new area of focus for the Yugoslavia YMCA, but local support for was high, and the North American YMCA hoped that Lowrie would develop an approach specficially adapted to the Orthodox Christian population there.

The onset of the depression diminished North American YMCA funding for Lowrie, and by the middle of 1932, continuing work in Yugoslavia became implausible. Lowrie was withdrawn in August of that year World Service work in Yugoslavia was discontinued.

German occupation during World War II brought the Yugoslavia YMCA to a complete standstill, officially closing the YMCA in 1941. By 1946 the situation in Yugoslavia seemed bleak; seventy percent of the industry in the country was destroyed during the war and half of the homes were leveled. The country sustained 1,700,000 casualties and 2,000,000 were wounded during the war. Permission was granted for the War Prisoners' Aid of the YMCA to send welfare supplies to the prisoners of war camps for Italians, Austrians and Germans in Yugoslavia. The YMCA was not granted permission to have a representative in the country itself, so instead of sending a YMCA delegate they operated through the Yugoslav Red Cross. However, the YMCA's Anglo-Saxon character and the government's hostility towards religious organizations made it impossible for the YMCA to re-establish its operations in Yugoslavia at that time.

The YMCA Balkan project was initiated in the year 2000. YMCAs were established in the former Yugoslavian countries of Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro. A project partner of these YMCAs was CNC (Creators Not Consumers) Croatia. CNC Croatia was a youth empowerment project based in the Croatian city of Osijek. It based its programs on non formal education in the areas of leadership and personal development, community family, HIV, alcohol and drug prevention, civil engagement, volunteer work, arts and culture, human rights, international cooperation and campaigning.

Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette; from YMCA Balkans, (, 2010; retrieved August 30, 2012); BBC News, History File "Yugoslavia and the Balkans 1900-1998," (, retrieved August 30, 2012); and from the collection.


.2 Cubic Feet (1 box))


Correspondence, reports, financial documents, pamphlets and other records of North American YMCA international work Yugoslavia, primarily of Donald A. Lowrie's efforts in the area of student work in Belgrade

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, April 2009, as collection FP055. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6698519

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
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Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area