Father Rene M. Kollar, O.S.B., professor of history and dean of the Saint Vincent College School of Humanities and Fine Arts, has a new book, A Nun, a Convent and the German Occupation of Belgium: Mother Marie Georgine’s Diary of World War I, by Pickwick Publications, Eugene, Oregon.
“During a summer 2014 visit to the Imperial War Museum in London, I discovered, by accident, a typewritten copy of a diary written by an English nun, Mother Marie Georgine, who lived in the Belgium convent at Tildonk during the German occupation of the country during World War I,” Father Rene said. “After securing the necessary copyrights and researching the background of the author, I edited the diary and wrote the introduction.
“Isoline Jones was born in 1876 in England, and attended the boarding school at Tildonk, Belgium, run by the Ursuline sisters,” he said. “She eventually converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism and made her perpetual vows in 1907 as a member of the Ursuline community. Her religious name was Mother Marie Georgine. In August 1914, German forces invaded Belgium and occupied her convent and school, and she recorded her impressions of the war years in a series of letters written in the form of a diary. The siege of Antwerp and destruction of Louvain, the plight of refugees, interaction with the German soldiers and the hectic daily life of the convent were recorded in this diary. Events occurring throughout Belgium did not escape her attention, and she did not avoid describing the brutality of war.
“World War I has been recorded from many points of view—soldier, poet, correspondent and politician,” Father Rene said. “Comments from a nun living in a foreign country during the hostilities, however, can provide new insights and perspectives on this tragic event. Although sections of her diary have appeared in print, this is the first publication of Mother Georgine’s entire diary.”
The book is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon and the Saint Vincent College Bookstore.
A member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 1981, Father Rene holds a bachelor of arts degree from Saint Vincent College, a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary, a master of arts degree and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Father Rene is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.