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YMCA Work in Harbin
After transferring to Harbin, Lewis continued to work with Russian refugees at the YMCA and took Russian language lessons regularly. Letters from Lewis to his wife during this time discuss his work in the area as well as his experiences with soldiers from other countries, refugees from Russia, and the Harbin townspeople.
We started out at 9 this morning and got back about 4 this afternoon. The boys said that it was the best hike they have yet had. We crossed the Sungari River in one of those queer looking Chinese boats with a big square sail which we call sand pans and then went about 3 miles up the river to a nice shady spot.
– letter to Mildred Lewis, May 16, 1920
By 1920, budget cuts at the YMCA led to a reduction in Y services throughout the area. Lewis was also ready to return to his family. In January 1921, he received notice that he would be returning to the United States in the spring. The weeks leading up to his departure were tense; Lewis noted in a March 14 letter to his wife that conditions around Harbin were deteriorating:
Things do not look very good over here and I am beginning to worry a bit about getting home. The reactionary group are fixing up a warfare between the Manchuria and Mongolian provinces with the rest of China and under the screen of which with the help of the Japs they will attack the Bolos. I am praying that transportation between here and Shanghai will not be interfered with but I have little hope of such good luck.
However, Lewis arrived successfully in Shanghai a few weeks later, around April 9, and a few weeks later, he was back in the United States.