Monica Mya Maung first arrived in Rangoon in October 1937 as the English wife of Burmese barrister Percy Mya Maung, the son of a judge who had graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge.
When the British Council library opened in 1947, “Auntie Monica,” as she was affectionately known, began helping out in her spare time. But when former dictator Gen Ne Win orchestrated a military coup in 1962, his troops overran the library, and ordered it closed and the books sold off.
A sharp-witted Auntie Monica quickly hid 500 Burmese history tomes under tables and in surreptitious cubbyholes inside the embassy to save them from the purge. She then kept the library running in secret until the British Council was finally allowed to reopen in Rangoon in 1973.
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