More on Vladimir Verbi

More on Vladimir Verbi

I wrote a blog about the fascinating Vladimir Vassil Verbi in the Old Africa blog page on 20 February 2013. Since then, much new information has come in about the missionary, mainly from his daughter Mary, and the story is so fascinating that it is worth telling here. Verbi spent his early years in Shumla, Shumen, Bulgaria, where his father was a merchant. Originally Shumen was an Ottoman fortress linking areas with Istanbul. Vladimir was sent to a synagogue school for his education where he learnt Hebrew. When he was eleven Vladimir was taken to Istanbul by his father Vasil, whose brother had a textile business there. Also prominent in the Istanbul business world was J W Whittall, who persuaded Vladimir’s father to send him to school in England. The boy already had an uncle in England, his father’s brother Demetrius. Vladimir spent seven years at school in Manchester, becoming completely anglicised before he returned to Bulgaria at the age of seventeen. He then attended Robert College, an American high school in Istanbul. At college Vladimir was influenced by the Nihilists, student agitators involved in anti-church activities. When they went to disrupt a meeting held by some missionaries recently returned from Uganda, Vladimir was so impressed that he joined a Christian group and offered himself as a missionary. Stanley’s In Darkest Africa made a great impression on him. In 1894 he somehow obtained a letter of introduction to Reverend A R Steggall, a missionary at Taveta, and travelled from the Red Sea to Zanzibar on a dhow. At Zanzibar Steggall, having just returned from leave, was collecting stores and porters to return to...