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 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..
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
News clips from Lazarevac