ДРУШТВО СРПСКО – ШКОТСКОГ ПРИЈАТЕЉСТВА
SERBIAN – SCOTTISH FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION
THE NOBILITY AND HUMANITY OF SCOTTISH FRIENDS REMAINS IN ETERNAL MEMORY OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE
The connection of two peoples with great hearts, Scots and Serbs, has lasted for a century now. However, this friendship was built in difficult moments for Serbia, in the Great War. When a third of the Serb population went to battle. When enemies attacked us from all sides. Then, as a beam of light in a dark tunnel, Scottish nurses appeared and brought hope to the Serbs. As a Serbian proverb says, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” the noble Scottish people showed unprecedented humanity by helping the Serbs in a seemingly hopeless situation, and such humanity is something that is never forgotten.
Fighting in the First World War, Serbia suffered immense casualties. The news of the sufferings of the brave Serbian people was spread worldwide. The Allied states wanted to help a people who went through such perils. Touched by this situation, a Scottish woman- a doctor, a human rights activist, Elsie Inglis, feeling the need to help, soon raised money and set up field hospitals with the intention of sending them to Serbia, “Where they are most needed,” as she used to say herself. For no other reason but human compassion and nobility, Elsie Inglis decided to save the Serbs whose population was getting smaller day after day. She also encouraged other women to join her and thus instigated over 600 nurses to go to Serbia. None of these Scottish women wanted to think about their own lives, they did not know the country they were traveling to or what awaited them there, demonstrating enormous courage, superhuman selflessness and sincere sacrifice. They showed what it means to be a doctor, but more importantly – what it means to be human.
Serbs are a people who believe in miracles, and just on Christmas 1915, a miracle came true. In Kragujevac, the first Scottish Women’s Hospital was opened. Dedicated nurses dressed the soldiers’ wounds and nursed them, and as the epidemic of typhus spread in Serbia at that time, they also treated the sick civilians. Soon hospitals were opened in Lazarevac, Valjevo, Mladenovac, Vranje, Vrnjacka Banja, and during the retreat to the south, a hospital was opened in Krusevac as well. The example set by Scottish women was followed by other allies and friendly countries. It is very likely that if Elsie Inglis had not launched this humanitarian operation, the decimated Serbian soldiers who were further weakened by the typhus would not have survived, Serbia would have been forced to surrender to the enemy and then be destroyed. That’s why this help from Scottish friends did not last only during the war, but lasts to this day. There were significant consequences for the future, the survival of a whole nation was at stake. The gratitude the Serbian people feel for Scotland is unique in the world and it is difficult to describe it in words, because the words belong to this world, and the nobility and humanity of Scottish friends is certainly something beyond it and worthy of admiration.
The circumstances in Serbia during the epidemic of typhus, which affected the whole country, were terrible. The nurses worked day and night, not only threatened by the attack of the enemy, but also by the possibility of succumbing to fatigue or typhus infection. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. The Serbs who bid them the last farewell did so with respect and sorrow. Their names are eternally recorded on monuments, and in cities where they performed their medical duties streets were named after some of them. All these monuments throughout Serbia show what a significant place in Serbian hearts belongs to the Scotts. Books on medical missions, primarily Scottish women in Serbia, were written, and the fearless Scottish nurses were forever preserved from oblivion.
The nurses and doctors from Scotland showed their heroism once again when they retreated to the Thessaloniki front along with the Serbs. They did not want to leave the Serbs even then, when their own life was in even greater danger, and when everyone else would have given up, they showed how noble they were. In the toughest moments, they revived the soldiers and gave them faith in people. They tried to cheer up soldiers and encourage them to fight to the end for their homeland. The
wounded greatly appreciated and respected them, treated them with gratitude and tried to be “super patients”, according to the chief doctor of the Scottish women’s hospital on the Thessaloniki front, Isabelle Emsley-Hutton. Soldiers who survived everything and returned to their homes undoubtedly praised these extraordinary women.
And once again the Scottish people proved their humanity by refusing to return to safety, and thus leave the Serbs waiting for the allied armies who would help Serbian soldiers and join forces with them to win one of the decisive battles – at Kajmakčalan. They are the ones who raised the Serbs from the ashes and helped them to heal and become stronger than before. The role of women, nurses in war is completely equalized with the role of men, soldiers.
Elsie Inglis succeeded in two of her missions: to help the Serbian people and to fight for the equality of women and men. Unfortunately, she did not make it to the end of the war, she died on December 26, 1917. of a disease that advanced as she treated the Serbs, not thinking of herself for one moment. For her good deeds, she was decorated with the Order of the White Eagle, thus becoming the first woman to receive this highest decoration of Serbia. How deeply respected by the Serbian people she was, and still is, is best shown by the fact that they wanted to declare her a saint, thus emphasizing her charity.
Scottish friends helped Serbia the most during the First World War, when women doctors and nurses rescued the lives of thousands of Serbs, while Scottish men also fought on the side of Great Britain, the ally of Serbia. This year, when we mark the centenary of the death of Elsie Inglis, the focus of attention is the help of the Scotts during the Great War. As long as the Serbs remember their sacrifices during the First World War, they will not forget the nobility and humanity of Scottish friends, but will keep them forever in the memory of the Serbian people.