Lillian Alling

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Lillian Alling was an emigrant to North America from Eastern Europe who, in the early years of the 20th century, attempted a return by foot to her homeland. Her recorded journey started in New York and went westward through Southern Canada, British Columbia, the Territory of Alaska, and possibly across the Aleutian Islands to Russia.[1][2]

Description from a book by Calvin Rutstrum[edit]

The following is an excerpt from Calvin Rutstrum's book, The New Way of the Wilderness (1958):[3]

In the summer of 1927, Lillian Alling, a young Russian immigrant, homesick and compelled to perform menial tasks for a living in New York, made up her mind to go back to her homeland in Europe. Because she had no money for transportation, she decided to hike back to her native country. She tramped to Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Winnipeg, refusing all invitations to ride.

She was next seen on the Yukon Telegraph Trail, in the northern part of British Columbia, Canada, a small pack on her back and a length of iron pipe in her hand for protection, heading towards Alaska. The provincial police at Hazelton prevented her from making a winter journey through the Canadian wilds, but they were able to detain her only until spring.

Starting out again, she hiked along the Telegraph Trail, over the wild mountain passes, finally reaching Dawson where she worked as a cook, purchased and repaired an old boat, and in the spring of 1929, launched it into the waters of the Yukon River right behind the outgoing ice reaching a point east of the Seward Peninsula. She abandoned the boat for overland travel, reaching Nome and later Bering Strait. She was last heard bartering with the Eskimos for boat passage across the Strait to Asia.


Alling's story provided the loose inspiration for Cassandra Pybus's novel Raven Road (2001)[4] and for Amy Bloom's novel Away (2007).[citation needed]

In 2007, the Vancouver Opera announced they had commissioned an opera based on Lillian Alling's story; composed by John Estacio, with a libretto by John Murrell, it premiered on 16 October 2010.[citation needed] The Banff Centre also presented the opera at the end of August 2011.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Olümpialinnas etendub ooper eestlannast" (in Estonian). 18 February 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Smith-Josephy, Susan (2011). Lillian Alling: The Journey Home. Extraordinary Women. Caitlin Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-894759-54-0. 
  3. ^ Rutstrum, Calvin (23 August 2000). The New Way of the Wilderness: The Classic Guide to Survival in the Wild. Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage. University of Minnesota Pres. ISBN 0816636834. 
  4. ^ "Amy Bloom: Author Q&A". Random House. [dead link]

See also[edit]