No Ordinary Lady

Finally after many years of visiting the monuments, graves and locations where the Scottish Women’s Hospitals worked in Serbia,  I got the opportunity to visit Bajina Basta and the grave of Evelina Haverfield.  The journey from Valjevo to Bajina Basta is a memorable one.  The drive over the mountain roads is breathtaking,  deep gorges on what seems every bend, mountain ranges for as far as the eye can see. Dense forest carpets the mountain faces and tiny villages peer out from the trees.  Home to man, wolves and bears, it’s as if mother nature herself got down on one knee and kissed the land. 

haverfield

Evelina’s resting place is close to the majestic river Drina. Its a remarkable landscape for a remarkable lady. 

Evelina, was born on the 9th of August 1867 at Inverlochy Castle,  Fort William, deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.   Daughter to William Frederick Scarlett, 3rd Baron Abinger and mother Helen. Born into a life of privilege and wealth, Evelina schooled in London and Germany, but was equally at home in her highland estate.  Evelina had two marriages. And during her second marriage she traveled to South Africa to support her husband in the second Boer war. Clearly this was an insight into Evelina’s future plans as she bloomed in the theatre of war and adversity.  In the early 1900’s she dabbled in politics, firstly joining a moderate women’s suffrage movement before electing to support the militant suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst. In 1909 she was arrested whilst trying to enter the House of Commons. In 1910  she was charged with assaulting a policeman after hitting him in the mouth. She said at that time “It was not hard enough, next time I will bring a revolver.”  Again in 1910 Evelina was on the front line protesting, and this time was sent to prison for two weeks. In 1911 she met Vera Holme,  Vera also joined the SWH  and was her life partner until Evelina’s death.  In 1915 Evelina joined the SWH as administrator in Serbia. She had a prickly relationship with some of the staff and moved from unit to unit. Dr Elsie Inglis was however a champion of Evelina in the early days.   In 1916 she became a POW at Krusevac. Days before she was to be repatriated she went missing, the guards found her hiding in a peasants cottage. Serbia by this time was her cause. In August of 1916 she joined Elsie Inglis again, this unit was dispatched to the Russian front at the request of the Serbian government to provide field hospitals for two Serb division who had until their capture by the Russian been constricted by the Austrian/Hungarian forces. In March 1917 she left the unit and went on to form the Evelina Haverfield’s and Flora Sandes’ Fund for Promoting Comforts for Serbian Soldiers and Prisoners.  After the armistice ,along with Vera Holme and a small number of co workers from the SWH days, she returned to Serbia as commissioner of the Serbian Red Cross Society in Great Britain.  On her own initiative she began to look for a suitable location for Serbian orphans. For a few months they cared for the children at Uzice before locating to Bajina Basta. She used all her own money and devoted all her time to providing care for those starving and homeless children.    She managed to place about 100 orphans in a house with a café, which still stands today.  After traveling into the snow to help translate for an American Doctor, Evelina fell sick with pneumonia. On Mar 21 1920 she died. Her last words were ‘What will become of the children?’ 

Evelina Haverfield was the recipient of the highest Serbian award: the Order of the White Eagle and I am glad to report her headstone and grave are kept in immaculate condition to this day.