The visit to Bajina Basta

Popular with water sports enthusiasts, mountain climbers, walkers and skiers, the town of Bajina Basta lies at the foot of the Tara mountain range and on the banks of the River Drina in western Serbia.   Historically, the region is as rich as it is diverse.  Roman architecture dates back to the second and third centuries and findings from the neolithic period, at a site near the town, dates back five thousand years.

Bajina Basta is the final resting place of Evelina Haverfield, a passionate suffragette and, by all accounts, a formidable lady who was a dear friend to Elsie Inglis. She was administrator to the SWH unit in Valjevo from 1915 to 1916 and commandant to the london unit from 1916 to 1917.   Following WW1 Evelina combined her love of the Serbian people with her compassion and founded both a children’s orphanage and a children’s health centre in the town.  Her work and efforts have never been forgotten and the love the local people have for Evelina has never diminished.

 

On our visit to Bajina Basta  we were once again overwhelmed by our warm welcome before we were taken to a new exhibition in Evelina’s honour.   Jasna Stankovic took the floor. Tony Waterstone spoke on behalf of the relatives then I was asked to open the exhibition.  After visiting Evelinas grave, laying wreathes and taking in the spectacular view from her well kept resting place we then visited the hospital which still bears her name and where the relatives planted a Serbian Pine tree.  An excellent lunch was prepared for us at a restaurant on the banks of the River Drina and overlooking the famous “House on the River”. The backdrop to a perfect day.  After lunch we said farewell to our magnificent hosts and as we weaved our way over the mountains to Valjevo, taking in the spectacular, magnificent views towards the Serbia Bosnia border I was confidant that Evelina Haverfield is very much at peace with a people she truly loved and who continue to love her back. 

Alan

News clips from Bajina Basta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTwB4A0-stY

http://www.blic.rs/vesti/srbija/u-skotskoj-su-zivele-plemickim-zivotom-a-u-srbiji-spasavale-gladnu-decu-i-ranjene/1k5ww3g

Relatives view of Mladenovac and Lazarevac

Friday 15th Sept

By Tony Waterson 

8am start from Moskva in our coach for the drive to Mladenovac, through the thick traffic of Belgrade. Our interpreter is Vlada and we learned soon of his great sense of humour and ability to turn every question into a joke as well as top-grade rapid instant translation.

First on this list was the visit to the memorial fountain for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Mladenovac. This fountain set in a beautiful shady grove on a hillside was opened by Elsie herself, and is the site of an annual ceremony attended by the British Ambassador as well as representatives of Canada, Netherlands, France also medical and armed forces groups. There was a formal atmosphere in this lovely setting, as well as theatre as army cadets enacted the call to the front back in 1914.

Elsie herself opened this fountain in 1915 so it is a particularly evocative site to visit.

hugh

Hugh followed the British Ambassador with a fine speech recounting his mother Amy Maddox’s visit to the fountain 30 years ago. She remembered Elsie personally so there is direct continuity to Hugh, who movingly spoke of how Elsie visited the little girls at home in Edinburgh.

Following the speeches Tony played the pipes, the first of many such musical interludes which lead to many requests for a portrait with the piper..

 

group

Next off to the town hall where we met civic dignitaries, underwent interviews on TV and presented the first of the memorial quaichs.

Lunch was at a fine restaurant at a park in countryside and began the pattern of large lunches and dinners provided for us by the Serbians, with many interesting encounters and a greater understanding of the history and suffering of the population over the years.

Our residence was a motel in the countryside where we were entertained by a group of very good dancers and singers in the Serbian folk style. We had time for a walk in the countryside though the barking dogs worried some members of our party..

Saturday 16th Sept

Early start again to drive to Lazerovacs.

Elsie founded the SWH hospital here, and appointed Dr Edith Blake Hollway to be in charge. It was decided in 1915 as the great typhus epidemic spread through Serbia that there was a need for a new hospital: Lazerovacs is on the road from Valjevo to Mladenovac and an important place for controlling/mitigating the epidemic. Mrs Evelina Haverfield was the administrator of the SWH hospital in Lazerovac. At the time of the great retreat, Dr Hollway like Elsie refused to leave the hospital full of patients, working at that time in Krusevacs.

On the way we stopped at an amazingly beautiful monastery at Topola where the royal family are buried, perched on a hilltop which we reached after a steep climb past ladies selling embroidery and a man selling honey. The monastry itself was very unusual in the remarkable mosaics covering the walls, and a basement crypt where we suffered

Crisis no 4: one of our party took a photo over an icon which was acting as a panel in front of a little chapel in the basement crypt. As he walked away the icon fell inwards with a loud crash!! Fortunately it was unbroken but there were guilty feelings all round –

We then visited the local hospital where there is a plaque for Elsie, and laid wreaths. This was followed by lunch with the usual Quaich gift and whisky drinking, and then a visit to an art exhibition in a local art gallery. Very hot afternoon.

Finally, our party made a visit to a church which is famous as in the crypt are buried the bodies of both the victims of war and the perpetrators, including those of different religions. We talked with the priest who is proud that his church is unique in this respect. I played the pipes again here.

Our hotel was quite a new one with a swimming pool (unfortunately closed) and there we had dinner.

 

News clips from Mladenovac 

http://rtvsunce.com/odrzana-svecanost-na-spomen-cesmi-crkvenac/

http://infom.rs/2017/09/13/doktor-elsi-inglis-ostala-u-secanju/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EWgpr9Y-VQ

https://www.mladenovac.rs/index.php/vesti/aktuelnosti/4435–qq

News clips from Lazarevac

https://vimeo.com/234663628

Relatives visit to Belgrade.

As part of this years centenary commemorations to remember the life and work of Dr Elsie Inglis, I felt very strongly that Elsie’s relatives should have the opportunity to visit Serbia and follow in her footsteps and, also experience how passionate the Serbian people are with regards to Elsie and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. A tour of the Towns and Cities connected to Elsie was arranged by our wonderful hosts and on the 13th September we were joined by fourteen relatives in Belgrade.
Before the official proceedings got underway we visited the Bel-Hospice with a few relatives who had arrived earlier.   Bel-Hospice are a charity who provide palliative care for cancer patients in Serbia. They are the first organisation to do so and at present can only work with outreach patients. The plans are to expand this programme in the future.
thumbnail_hospice
After an introduction at their offices we visited their new hospice building which is a “work in progress”.  Once the Hospice is opened one of the wards will be named after Dr Elsie Inglis and we wish the wonderful and dedicated staff every success in this venture.
 
The first official gathering on our busy schedule was a visit to the British Ambassadors Residence, which bears the name of Dr Elsie Inglis house.  We were all warmly welcomed to a very well attended function.    Many of the Towns and City’s in Serbia were represented.  It was an opportunity for everyone to meet and greet before leaving Belgrade. 
 
 
 
thumbnail_tree planting
 
 A tree was planted in the grounds to commemorate the visit and  Ambassador Keefe was joined by a number of the relatives in making a speech, which was warmly welcomed by the many guests.