Hall 1 - BOARD 1

VALJEVO - CITY- HOSPITAL (1914-1915)

The famous historical term Valjevo Hospital, at least when it comes to the early years of the Great War, does not refer to a specific hospital facility or hospital as an institution, but to a set of specific events which caused the entire city to become one large hospital.

In the war plans of the Kingdom of Serbia Valjevo was intended to be one of the main centres of Military Medical Corps due to its strategic position and the existence of the garrison. The town on the Kolubara also had this role during the Balkan Wars, when the places of combat operations were away from it, whilst with the beginning of the First World War and the conflict on the nearby Drina border that role had become even more significanct; Valjevo became the seat of two permanent hospitals and six auxilliary hospitals, located in dozens of different buildings throughout the city.

In the first months of the war (July - November 1914) the wounded of the First and Second Austro - Hungarian Offensives were taken care of in Valjevo. This period, due to the number of those who perished, was fraught with difficult moments, especially during the Second Offensive. In addition to the fact that the wounded were pouring in, the situation in the town was exacerbated by the arrival of large numbers of refugees. Even then Valjevo became a city- hospital. The town's population, which with its closest surroundings was about 8,000, was at times increased by tens of thousands of people. Despite enormous difficulties, Serbian Medical Corps, with the support of the citizens of Valjevo and foreign medical missions, faced more or less expected problems, which they had experienced: the wounds from bullets and shrapnel, and diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, recurrence ... There are indications that in some cases typhus had already appeared, but no signs of the epidemics were observed.

After the Third Austro-Hungarian Offensive, brief conquest (16 November -9 December) and the large Serbian victory in the Battle of Kolubara, when the army and the population returned to the liberated city, Valjevo faced the horrors of epidemic typhus of enormous proportions. The health service was not prepared for such an outbreak, complicated by escalation of other diseases, primarily reccurrence and typhoid. In these tragic moments, struggling with the consequences of the pestilence, Serbian medical staff, with the help of foreign medical missions, citizens and prisoners of war, provided for sick and wounded Serbian soldiers, civilians and captured members of the Austro-Hungarian army whose number exceeded the town's population. While over half a million people in Serbia were affected, and the deaths of soldiers, civilians and prisoners of war were estimated at over 170,000, it is believed that at the time of the epidemics (December 1914 - May 1915) more than 3,500 soldiers, 4,000 civilians and about 2,000 prisoners of war died in Valjevo and its surroundings. At the height of the epidemics 100, 150 and even more patients would die daily. Among them were many doctors and nurses.

It was the period for which Valjevo and its hospitals have become symbols of the suffering in the Great War, but also symbols of dedication, humanity and international cooperation in the fight against the epidemics of unprecedented proportions.