It was a sunny day full of mutual expectations. I was trying to soak up all of the information about Scottish Women’s Hospitals which might be useful prior to our meeting. Of course I had great help from Slavica Popovic Filipovic who wrote on the subject in For Courage and Humanity and other numerous papers and articles. It was her who communicated Alan’s initiative to me and the news that he was coming to Nis with his crew. I was delighted with the project and the idea to meet the people keen on revoking the memory of great women who went far away, into the unknown, to practise humanity at times of war.
The crew was very friendly and talkative, eager to get started and arrive at the old military cemetery of the British Commonwealth located at the outskirts of Nis. The keeper of the cemetery welcomed us and gave some insight into the story. It was obvious from his manner of speech that he was pleased with the sudden visitors and the fact that neither Serbia, nor their homeland, has forgotten these women.
There they were, among soldiers, six Scottish nurses who gave their lives during the First World War trying to help the Serbian soldiers who fought against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The silent tombstones could not say much, but Alan did. This endeavour was not considered as a task which needed to be accomplished, but he showed strong personal involvement. He approached each one of the graves with grave respect and placed the red roses as if he wanted to revive not only their personal stories but the women themselves. I wonder whether such courage and humanity can be induced today or was that something which belonged to the past. This made me think about the turbulent world history, true values and great people. A person is a collection of memories, stories and deeds of ancestors and until we truly get to know our history we can never improve our future.
Following and listening to these women’s stories, their backgrounds and actions made me unaware of the rest of the crew who were preparing to take photos and film the visit. I never though their professionalism would reach nightfall, nonetheless their smiles could be seen.
Afterwards, the talk went on in one of the modern parts of the city centre but still with an air of history. A bit tired but satisfied, in good company, we had a few laughs. The people are people with common life stories when stripped of formalities. This was a refreshing notion for our modern commodity occupied minds. I hope the film and the story about SWH will inspire people …just to be people.