Friday, October 12, 2012

"My Recollections of Dr. Elsie Inglis" by Lt. Col. Drag. C. Popovitch, Professor at the Belgrade Military Academy

Elsie Inglis

Bronze bust of Elsie Inglis
renowned Yugoslav sculptor Ivan Mestrovic

My Recollections of Dr. Elsie Inglis

By Lt. Col. Drag. C. Popovitch

Professor at the Belgrade Military Academy

I made her acquaintance towards the close of October, 1915, when, as a heavily wounded patient in the Military Hospital of Krushevatz, I became a prisoner, first of the Germans and then of the Austrians.

The Scottish Women's Hospital Mission, with Dr. Inglis as Head and Mrs. Haverfield as Administrator, had voluntarily become prisoners of the Austrians and Germans, rather than abandon the Serbian sick and wounded they had hitherto cared for. The Mission undertook a most difficult task—that is, the healing of and ministration to the typhus patients, which had already cost the lives of many doctors. But the Scottish women, whose spirit was typified in their leader, Miss Inglis, did not restrict themselves to this department, hastening to assist whenever they could in other departments. In particular, Dr. Elsie Inglis gave help in the surgical ward, and undertook single-handed the charge of a great number of wounded, among whom I was included, and to her devoted sisterly care I am a grateful debtor for my life. She visited me hourly, and not only performed a doctor's duties, but those of a simple nurse, without the slightest reluctance.

The conditions of Serbian hospitals under the Austrians rendered provisioning one of the most difficult tasks. At the withdrawal of the Serbian Army only the barest necessaries were left behind, and the Austrians gave hardly anything beyond bread, and at times a little meat. The typhus patients were thus dependent almost entirely on the aliments which the Scottish Mission could furnish out of their own means. It was edifying to see how they solved the problem. Every day, their Chief, Dr. Inglis, and Mrs. Haverfield at the head, the nurses off duty, with empty sacks and baskets slung over their shoulders, tramped for miles to the villages around Krushevatz, and after several hours' march through the narrow, muddy paths, returned loaded with cabbages, potatoes, or other vegetables in baskets and sacks, their pockets filled with eggs and apples. Instead of fatigue, joy and satisfaction were evident in their faces, because they were able to do something for their Serbian brothers. I am ever in admiration of these rare women, and never can I forget their watchword: 'Not one of our patients is to be without at least one egg a day, however far we may have to tramp for it.' Such labour, such love towards an almost totally strange nation, is something more than mere humanity; it is the summit of understanding, and the application of real and solid Christian teaching.

Dr. Inglis cured not only the physical but the moral ills of her wounded patients. Every word she spoke was about the return of our army, and she assured us of final victory. She did not speak thus merely to soothe, for one felt the fire of her indignation against the oppressor, and her love for us and her confidence that our just cause would triumph. I could mention a host of great and small facts in connection with her, enough to fill a book; but, in one word, every move, every thought of the late Dr. Inglis and the members of her Mission breathed affection towards the Serbian soldier and the Serbian nation. The Serbian soldier himself is the best witness to this. One has only to inquire about the Scottish Women's Mission in order to get a short and eloquent comment, which resumes all, and expresses astonishment that he should be asked: 'Of course I know of our sisters from Scotland.' ...

But the enemy could not succeed in shaking these noble women in their determination and their love for us Serbians. They at last obtained their release, and reached their own country, but, without taking time to rest properly, they at once started to collect fresh stores, and hastened to the assistance of the Serbian Volunteer Corps in the Dobrudja. They returned with the same corps to the Macedonian front, and thence to Serbia once more at the close of last year, in order to come to the aid of the impoverished Serbian people. The fact that Dr. Inglis lost her life after the retreat from Russia is a fresh proof of her devotion to Serbia. The Serbian soldiers mourn her death as that of a mother or sister. The memory of her goodness, self-sacrifice, and unbounded charity, will never leave them as long as they live, and will be handed down as a sacred heritage to their children. The entire Serbian Army and the entire Serbian people weep over the dear departed Dr. Inglis, while erecting a memorial to her in their hearts greater than any of the world's monuments. Glory be to her and the land that gave her birth!


Lt. Col. Drag. C. Popovich,
Professor at the Belgrade Military Academy
December 24th, 1919


Elsie Inglis: The Woman with the Torch


Eva Shaw McLaren


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