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15 posts categorized "Serbia"

14 November 2018

Lady Paget and Serbia

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The Serbian community in Britain recently commemorated the 60th anniversary of the death of Louise, Lady Paget and celebrated her life and her work for Serbia.

Lady Paget (1881-1958) is known for her humanitarian and hospital work in the Balkans during the First World War. Among the Serbs, she is remembered as a best friend in need.

She arrived in Belgrade in 1910 with her husband Sir Ralph Paget who served there as British Minister to Serbia. Her early hospital work in this country began during the Balkan Wars (1912-13). While in Serbia, Lady Paget’s humanitarian engagement was closely associated with a Serbian national charitable organisation called the League of Serbian Women (Kolo srpskih sestara).

I Skopje From W. Mead, ‘With a British hospital in Serbia. The experiences of Lady Paget’s unit at Skoplje’, in C. Roberts (ed.), The World’s Work (London, 1915), pp. 243–258. P.P.6018.ra.

At the beginning of the First World War Lady Paget was among a group of Balkan experts and Serbian friends in London, who founded a charity for wounded and sick people in Serbia, named the Serbian Relief Fund. She was soon put in charge of the first Serbian Relief Fund’s hospital, which arrived in Skopje in November 1914.

II WoundedFrom Mead, op. cit.

The hospital workload during the first two months was extremely demanding and challenging. The epidemic of typhus, which spread rapidly throughout the country like wildfire, was to assume serious proportions in the Serbian Relief Fund’s hospital in Skopje too. In Serbia half a million people suffered from this epidemic and over 100,000 died from infectious diseases.

  III Typhus Colony
The Typhus Colony in Skopje. From Mead, op. cit.

To fight typhus, Lady Paget’s hospital arranged a group of buildings known as the Typhus Colony in Skopje. This were soon to become – thanks to its organisation, knowledgeable staff and efficient scheme for isolating patients – a model fever hospital for the whole of the country, despite difficult general conditions in Skopje.

IV Typhus Ward Typhus Ward. From Mead, op. cit.

Lady Paget and other members of the staff went down with typhus themselves but, despite all the hardships and dangers, the Serbian Relief Fund’s hospital in Skopje held the proud record of not having lost a single member of its British staff, all of whom were nursed back to health at the Typhus Colony in Skopje.

V Typhus Nurses From Mead, op. cit.

At the time of Lady Paget’s departure from Skopje in 1915 a Serbian tribute appeared in a local paper which read: “The members of Lady Paget’s mission have left with us the happiest memories. Our thanks and our gratitude for their work of devotion can have no limits, for they have done far, far more than we could ever have dared to ask or to expect. The Serbian race will never have words enough to express its gratitude to these members of a nation, the humanity of which has always been a tradition.”

VII Lady Paget leaving SkopjeLady Paget leaving Skopje. From The World’s Work Vol. 26, no. 153. 

VIII People's Farewell Crowds at Lady Paget’s departure from Skopje. From Lousa Paget, With Our Serbian Allies (London, 1915). 09080.b.64.

After the First World War Lady Paget led a quiet life with her husband in Kent before moving to Warren House, her late father’s mansion at Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames. During the Second World War she had Warren House turned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers who were treated at the Kingston Hospital.

IX Warren HouseWarren House, Kingston upon Thames. From Spomenica Ledi Pedžet (Melbourne, 1959). P.P.7615.h.

Warren House also became a friendly meeting place for Serbian exiles during and after the Second World War. The number of Serbian displaced persons and refugees in Britain in 1948 amounted to about 10,000 people. These were mostly former prisoners of war and students. Lady Paget supported a large number of Serbian students both in Britain and abroad. According to a contemporary Serbian account she spent a fortune on their education.

Irinej Djordjević, Bishop of Dalmatia and former president of the Society of Great Britain and America in Yugoslavia, was among the first post-war refugees whom Lady Paget brought to London to support the mission of the Serbian church in Britain.

Next to the Yugoslav King Peter II and his mother Queen Mary, Lady Paget was one of the greatest benefactors of the Serbian Church of St Sava in London.

X Lady Paget and Slobodan Jovanovic At the dedication service on the occasion of the opening of the Serbian Church of St. Sava in London on 29 June 1952. Lady Paget and Professor Slobodan Jovanović, the prime minister of the Royal Yugoslav Government in exile in London 1942-43. From Spomenica Ledi Pedžet.

After the First World War generations in Serbia venerated the name of Lady Paget and a street in Belgrade was named after her. A generation that lost their country in the Second World War created a lasting tribute in Spomenica Ledi Pedžet (‘The Memorial to Lady Paget’) published after her death. One of the testimonies published in the Memorial summed up the life of Lady Paget in one sentence: “For her, everything was about work, but her work was in the shadows.”

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

01 November 2018

Academy and Society in the Balkans

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Academy and Society in the Balkans is an unique 12-month research librarianship project based at the British Library. The aim of the project is to survey and bibliographically describe the arts, humanities and sciences publications of Balkan academies held in the British Library. These are stored physically together with the Library’s collections from other academies, usually identified by the characteristic pressmark which is a number preceded by the abbreviation Ac.

I 1842 LMSSerbskij letopis (Serbian Chronicle). Vol. 56 (1842) Ac.8984.

According to F. J. Hill, a former British Library curator, the pressmark Ac was designed for a new shelving scheme in the library between 1860 and 1870. Academies publications accessioned before 1860 were classified differently and dispersed in the British Library collection. Only a small proportion of these pre-1860 publications was subsequently transferred to the Ac pressmark. The pressmark was discontinued in 1965. After this year new titles were assigned to various pressmarks and only serial continuations are still added to the existing Ac pressmarks to date.

II 1869 A_RA Annalile Societatei Academice Române (Annals of the Romanian Academic Society). Vol. 1 ( 1869). Ac.743.

Initially the project will be looking into Balkan academies publications arranged according to the Ac shelving scheme between 1860 and 1965. In the next stage the aim will be to identify relevant pre-1860 publications and post-1965 publications that are not included in the Ac pressmark range. These publications are held in the collection under various pressmarks and therefore not identified as publications of academies.

III 1887 G_SKA Glas Srpske kraljevske akademije (Voice of the Royal Serbian Academy). Vol. 1 (1887). Ac.1131/3.

There are two distinct series in the Ac pressmarking and shelving scheme: the first series is a series of general academies arranged topographically by countries followed by towns in alphabetical order in the pressmark range Ac. 1-1997. The second series has the pressmark range Ac. 1998-9999, and is arranged by subject, which used to be a traditional classification and shelving scheme in the Library since its inception in the 1750s.

IV 1898 GZM_BIH Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Bosni i Hercegovini (Herald of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Vol. 10 ( 1898). Ac.8833.

The majority of publications, examined in the project, were published by academies and their institutes, by universities and colleges and other cultural, research and educational organisations in the second half of the 19th century. These early publishing activities occurred during the period of national revival in the Balkans. After long periods of foreign dominance and cultural imposition, newly formed Balkan academies initially focused on publishing sources for national history, language and literature. These societies supported early scholarship and research into national culture and identity. They were promoters of sciences and modernisation of Balkan society. The scholarly content of these academies’ publications is of great research value as is the significance of the period in which these publications were produced. Both aspects will be explored as the project will try to assess relationship and significance of Balkan academies publications in the library collection.

V 1899 JAZU Građa za povijest književnosti Hrvatske (Sources for the History of Croatian Literature). Vol. 2 (1899). Ac.741/19.

The publishing efforts of Balkan academies coincided with the period of increased acquisition and rapid growth of the collections in the then British Museum Library, which began acquiring publications from the Balkans by purchase and gift in the mid-19th century.

The bibliographical side of the Academy and Society in the Balkans project will mainly deal with intricate academies series and subseries, editions and serial parts in their most elaborate forms. The research part of the project will trace the provenance of Balkan academies publications by recording and examining ownership stamps in the collection items. This research should provide an insight and better understanding of the British Library Balkan collections as a whole, their acquisition and development over time.

VI 1911 BAN Spisanie na Bulgarskata akademiia na naukite (Journal of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). Vol.1 (1911). Ac.1136/5.

Publications from academies in nine Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia) will be consulted, in six languages (Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian), and in both Cyrillic and Roman scripts.

VII 1929 GV_LJUGeografski vestnik (Geographical Journal). Vol. 4 (1928). Ac.6143.

A desirable outcome of the project would be an online collection guide and a survey of complementary holdings in other institutions in the UK and in country of origin. On a more practical level the project should gather information for conservation and preservation of these valuable collections. Equally it will allow us to identify gaps in the collections as it would inform possible acquisition of new titles and provide ideas for further collection development in this area.

VIII 1931 DR_CLUJ Dacoromania. Buletinul Muzeului Limbei Române (Bulletin of the Romanian Language Museum). Vol. 6 (1931). Ac.9854.c.

Finally we should be able to explore and present the content of these collections by creating analytical records or by upgrading the existing historic catalogue records to include subject, language and other useful information for research and discovery.

IX 1931 DR_MSC An Aromanian lady from Moskopole (Voskopojë, Albania). From Th. Capidan, ‘Fărşeroţii. Studiu lingvistic asupra Românilor din Albania’, in Sextil Puşcariu (ed.), Dacoromania. Buletinul Muzeului Limbei Române (Bucharest, 1931), pp. 1-204.

This project is generously supported by the Chevening British Library Fellowship, a collaboration between the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Library.

X 1950 MJ_SKMakedonski jazik (Macedonian Language). Inscription in red lettering on cover: “An issue dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Macedonian alphabet and orthography”. Issue 5 (1950). Ac.1133.h.

XI 1964 SH_TIR Studime historike (Historical Studies). Vol. 1 (1964). Ac.129/7.

We welcome this opportunity in the British Library and we are looking forward to working with the Chevening Fellow on this exciting project.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

References:

F.J. Hill, ‘The Shelving and Classification of Printed Books’, in P.R. Harris (ed.), The Library of the British Museum (London, 1991), pp. 1–74.

 

08 June 2018

The Zagreb magazine ‘Nova Evropa’

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The magazine Nova Evropa (New Europe) was published in Zagreb from 1920 until 1941. Initially it was a weekly periodical, then for 10 years Nova Evropa was issued as a 10-day and bimonthly magazine, and from 1930 as a monthly publication. The founder and editor of Nova Evropa over the whole period was Milan Ćurčin

Exceptionally and almost uniquely in interwar Yugoslavia, Nova Evropa was printed in the two scripts of the Serbo-Croatian language, Roman and Cyrillic. Contributions were either published in the original script or were transliterated into the other at the editor’s discretion, regardless of the contributor’s manuscript, nationality or background. This was done not only for commercial reasons but also with the aim of bringing together different literatures in the newly-created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia).

I Mestrovicev Hrist

Christ (detail) by Ivan Meštrović. Nova Evropa, 23 December 1920. P.P.4839.fid.

The Yugoslav Nova Evropa was modelled on a British political and current affairs journal, Robert William Seton-Watson’s weekly review The New Europe (1916-20; P.P.3611.abk.). Ćurčin was equally inspired by Seton-Watson’s engaged, informed and critical journalism as by the British press and journalism in general, whose traditions and values he adopted while working in London during the First World War. The liberal, open and progressive political journalism that Nova Evropa had as its high ideal was subsequently promoted in a multicultural society whose traditions, however, were different to British ones.

Like its London predecessor, the Zagreb Nova Evropa advocated the revival of a new Europe in accordance with the League of Nations’ proposals for international cooperation and collective security; reduction of armaments and open diplomacy; an international court and economic, social and cultural cooperation between nations. Nova Evropa was against isolation and provincialism in Yugoslavia and argued for close cooperation with the neighbouring countries as well as for constructive and peaceful international policy, for national self-determination, and the equality of nations in a post-war Europe.

II Marko Marulic Splicanin

 Marko Marulić by Meštrović. Nova Evropa of 1 July 1924.

While following Seton-Watson’s advice on political journalism, Nova Evropa diversified its editorial concept by welcoming contributions on social, economic and cultural life in the country, neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe. Nova Evropa developed the complex structure of a journal that was open to various topics in any discipline of social sciences, arts, humanities and sciences, and that scrutinized society, economy and politics in high-quality contributions. For example, special thematic issues were dedicated to various domestic topics from the geography and anthropology of the country to the life of immigrants inside and outside the country, and to broader international and current affairs topics such as the Ukrainian question, conditions in Russia, national minorities, prominent public figures, etc.

III Njegoseva grobnicaNjegoš’s mausoleum on Mount Lovćen by Meštrović, Nova Evropa, 1 January 1925

 The central political and cultural concept discussed in Nova Evropa was the Yugoslav question. This political concept was seen in Nova Evropa as an agreement of peoples united by their own will, equal and free in a common national state. Some researchers argue, not quite rightly, that Nova Evropa advocated integral Yugoslav pan-nationalism (Yugoslavness) despite the different ethnic groups and minorities in the country. For Nova Evropa the creation of the Yugoslav state was the irreversible final achievement of all Yugoslavs, but in the cultural sense, however, Yugoslavness was presented as a mosaic of colours and variations, as a celebration of diversity. Nova Evropa of 26 February 1927 pronounces:

Therefore: Yugoslav civilization is one and properly bound together; and Yugoslav culture - mosaic, contrast, diversity. Civilization is a unification and equivalence of segments, culture is a federation of untouched and free elements, according to their programme and their will.

Nova Evropa argued for a concept of ‘Open Yugoslavness’ which was closely related to the idea of social justice, equality, tolerance and ethics. This vision of Yugoslavia and a new Europe bore a close resemblance to the vision of Tomáš Masaryk whose ideas Nova Evropa promoted and celebrated.

IV Goethe
Goethe by Meštrović, Nova Evropa, double issue of 22 March 1932 dedicated to Goethe’s centenary 

This ideology of open Yugoslavness was also advanced through the visual arts and the works of the leading Yugoslav artist Ivan Meštrović, a Croatian sculptor and one of the founders of Nova Evropa. Other prominent Yugoslavs and founders of Nova Evropa were Ćurčin’s magazine co-editors Laza Popović and Marko Kostrenčić, and well-known Yugoslav scholars and writers such as Jovan Cvijić, Josip Smodlaka, Milan Rešetar, Ivan Prijatelj, Tihomir Ostojić, Julije Benešić, Miodrag Ibrovac and Milan Grol among others. In 22 years about 1000 authors published over 3450 contributions in the magazine.

V Mestrovic autoportretMeštrović’s self-portrait. Nova Evropa, 15 August 1933 dedicated to Meštrović’s 50th birthday.

In addition to the magazine, special editions of Nova Evropa were published as offprints or separate publications;  in total 19 such editions were produced and at least two editions remained unpublished.

VI Izdanja NE Advertisement for Nova Evropa books, Nova Evropa, 26 January 1939..

The British Library holds a full set of Nova Evropa: 426 issues, in total about 10,000 pages, bound in 34 volumes.

VII Nova Evropa
The British Library collection of Nova Evropa acquired in 1951

In the interwar period Nova Evropa fostered constructive criticism of the dominant political culture and made an important contribution to the growth of critical and independent thought in Yugoslav society. It worked tirelessly in bringing peoples and communities closer together by understanding and celebrating their cultural differences. It had a distinctive mission to inform the public about events at home and abroad and to collect information and sources about the recent past for future historians. Nova Evropa is not only a useful source for a student of Yugoslav history and culture today; it is a critically important archive for the understanding of the fundamental cultural and political questions of interwar Yugoslavia.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

References:

Ljubomir Petrović, Jugoslovenska država i društvo u periodici 1920-1941 (Belgrade, 2000) YF.2010.a.24536.

Jovo Bakić, Ideologije jugoslovenstva između srpskog i hrvatskog nacionalizma: 1914-1941 (Zrenjanin, 2004) YF.2006.a.37642.

Marija Cindori-Šinković, Nova Evropa:1920-1941: bibliografija (Belgrade, 2010) YF.2012.a.15665

Marko Nedić, Vesna Matović (editors), Nova Evropa 1920-1941: zbornik radova (Belgrade, 2010) YF.2012.a.18758.

 

05 March 2018

Travels to Montenegro in the 19th century: a collection of digitised books

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In the 19th century Montenegro was one of the least known countries, formally part of European Turkey, but in reality an unconquerable country on the edge of its existence, which presented a constant challenge to the power of the Porte. The Ottoman Turks overran Montenegro with large armies several times, captured the capital Cetinje, burned the villages and crops, but the free mountain people were never subjugated and thus invaders paid dearly in losses for their conquests and retreats. Before its full independence in 1878, the Turkish authorities never recognised the facto autonomous status of Montenegro.

In a collection of 18 travel books in six languages (French, Russian, English, Serbian, Italian and Hungarian), published between 1820 and 1896 and recently digitised by the British Library, European visitors to Montenegro recorded a wealth of knowledge about the country and its people.

A_10126dd14_F Woman from Montenegro. From L.C. Vialla de Sommières, Voyage historique et politique au Montenegro (Paris, 1820). 10126.dd.14. 

The travel accounts comprise history, topography, statistics and data on human and natural resources, maps and images of Montenegro. They describe the Montenegrins’ way of life and customs, their habits and character, religious ceremonies, superstitions and beliefs, skills, knowledge and ignorance in equal measure. These accounts provide useful insights into the everyday life of Montenegrins, their virtues and weaknesses and their moral values. The observers were equally interested in health and education, economy and trade, political relations, diplomacy and governance, legislation and consequently the life and development of the state of Montenegro.

B_10126dd14_MInhabitant of Montenegro. From Voyage historique et politique au Montenegro

The Montenegrin man was depicted as a free man and warrior armed at all times with a gun and sabre (yatagan) and the usual ‘strucca’ (struka) over his shoulder, a cover made of canvas or animal skin which he used against the elements or as a sleeping pad. Every Montenegrin wore a moustache, had shaved beard and the fore part of the head, as far as the line of the ear. He wore folding red cap with black lining, a homemade suit of rough cloth, which was long and narrow with tight sleeves and knee-high wide trousers with woollen socks and leather moccasins (opanak). The Montenegrin woman wore colourfully embroidered shirts and decorated outfit with a scarf for married women or a red cap for girls.

C_10126dd14_L Fishing festival in Montenegro. From Voyage historique et politique au Montenegro

Fish was one of the most important products of Montenegro. Crnojević River (Rijeka Crnojevića) and Skadar Lake were abundant in quality freshwater fish. They were exported dried and salted to local markets and to Trieste, Venice and other places. Montenegro held a traditional fishing festival celebrated as a harvest holiday. This was a special occasion celebrated during fishing seasons in the presence of the Montenegrin ruler and dignitaries. 

E_10126dd19Cattaro. From Andrew Archibald Paton, Highlands and Islands of the Adriatic (London, 1849). 10129.dd.19.

As well as fish, the Montenegrins sold other products three times a week at the market in Kotor, which was the main trading town and a place of supply for Montenegro. Here the Montenegrins mostly traded in wool, goats, wood, dry meat, bacon, fat, lard, honey, wax, turtles, vegetables, livestock, game, eggs, milk, cheese, wheat, corn flour, potatoes etc.

D_10290dd16

 Vladika (Prince-Bishop of Montenegro) Petar II Petrović Njegoš . From John Gardner Wilkinson, Dalmatia and Montenegro (London, 1848). 10290.dd.16.

The title of Vladika was a popular term for the Orthodox Metropolitan of Montenegro who was the spiritual, political and military leader of a theocratic patriarchal country. Petar II Petrović Njegoš successfully continued his predecessor’s reforms of the national customs, government and institutions of Montenegro. He founded the first primary school in Montenegro and a small press for the printing of school and educational material. In this press Vladika Petar II printed his early collection of poetry Pustinjak cetinjski (‘Cetinje hermit’)  in 1834.

F_10126d32_C Tsetinje (Cetinje). From Emily Anne Beaufort, The Eastern Shores of the Adriatic in 1863 (London, 1864). 10126.d.32.

Cetinje monastery, destroyed and rebuilt several times until the mid-19th century, represented on its own the capital of Montenegro. Close to the monastery Vladika Petar II had his residence built (seen in this lithograph to the left of the monastery) which housed his private library and accommodated public administration. This was the beginning of the first town in Montenegro created at the foot of the high mountains which guarded the freedom and independence of this country.

G_10126d32_P Vojvoda (Duke) Mirko Petrović, the father of Prince Nikola of Montenegro. From The Eastern Shores of the Adriatic in 1863

Vojvoda Mirko Petrović epitomises a Montenegrin freedom fighter.He was a hardened military commander who won important battles against the Ottoman forces. A photographic portrait of Vojvoda Mirko was taken in 1863 and he is described in The Eastern Shores of the Adriatic in 1863: “In person he is a remarkable-looking man: very small for a Montenegrine, thin and spare in figure, every line in the closely-shaven face expressing decision, and the small restless eye lighting up in conversation with such a fierce eagle’s glance, that one can fancy how wild and fiery it must be in war. His voice is peculiarly high-pitched and thin, unlike that of his countrymen in general, but when excited in the Senate he managed to give it a hoarse roar that astounded one’s ears.”

First-hand travel accounts were usually published to meet the curiosity of the officials and the public of countries with a political, military, commercial, cultural or general interest in far-away or lesser known countries. Their detailed descriptions and insights remain valuable for researchers today. It can be seen that travel writers were well informed and well acquainted with the existing literature about the subject of their interest. Some travelogues provide useful bibliographies that reveal the body knowledge available at the time of writing. They enable two-way communication with the past and our understanding of the world as it used to be and as it is now. Since 1995 the publishing house CID in Podgorica has specialised in publishing international travel literature about Montenegro in Serbian translation which is an important addition to the British Library collection.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Digitised books not cited in the text:

Egor Petrovich Kovalevsky, Chetyre miesiatsa v Chernogorii (St Petersburg, 1841) 10290.e.22.

Aleksandr Nikolaevich Popov, Puteshestvie v Chernogoriiu (St Petersburg, 1847) 10126.dd.13. 

V. M. G. Medaković, Život i običai Crnogoraca (Novi Sad, 1860) 10126.eee.13. 

J.M. Neale, Notes, ecclesiological and picturesque, on Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, Styria, with a visit to Montenegro (London, 1861) 10205.b.7.  

Richard Cortambert, Coup d’œil sur le Monténégro (Paris, 1861) 10126.d.10. 

Alfred Boulongne, Le Monténégro, le pays et ses habitants (Paris, 1869) 10125.e.23.

R.H.R., Rambles in Istria, Dalmatia and Montenegro (London, 1875) 10210.ee.33. 

James Creagh, Over the Borders of Christendom and Eslamiah… (London, 1876) 10125.bb.7.

Alfredo Serristori, La Costa Dalmata e il Montenegro durante la guerra del 1877 (Florence, 1877) 10127.ff.8. 

James George Cotton Minchin, The Growth of Freedom in the Balkan Peninsula (London, 1886) 10126.aaa.19.  

Adolf Strausz, A Balkan Félsziget (Budapest, 1888) 10125.f.11.  

Pierre Bauron, Les Rives illyriennes (Paris, 1888) 10126.g.14. 

Robert K. Kennedy, Montenegro and its Borderlands (London, 1894) 010127.a.24. 

Giuseppe Marcotti, Montenegro e le sue donne (Milan, 1896) 10126.cc.14. 

Further reading:

Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Montenegro und die Montenegriner (Stuttgart, 1837). 1294.c.3. Serbian translation Crna Gora i Boka Kotorska (Belgrade, 1922). 012216.de.1/161.

Heinrich Stieglitz, Ein Besuch auf Montenegro (Stuttgart, 1841). 1294.c.5. Serbian translation Posjeta Crnoj Gori (Podgorica, 2004). YF.2008.a.34254.

Wilhelm Ebel, Zwölf Tage auf Montenegro (Königsberg, 1842-44). 1426.h.6. Digital copy available from the University of Belgrade Digital Library.

Johann Georg Kohl, Reise nach Istrien, Dalmatien und Montenegro (Dresden, 1851). 10290.a.14. Serbian translation Putovanje u Crnu Goru (Podgorica, 2005). YF.2008.a.30618.

Xavier Marmier, Lettres sur l’Adriatique et le Montenegro (Paris, 1854). 10205.bb.23. Serbian translation of Marmier’s Lettres and other works relating to Montenegro Pisma o Jadranu i Crnoj Gori (Podgorica, 1996). YF.2008.a.40694.

William F. Wingfield, A tour in Dalmatia, Albania, and Montenegro, with an historical sketch of the Republic of Ragusa (London, 1859) 10215.c.25. Available online from Books on Google. 

Alfred Boulongne, Crna Gora: zemlja i stanovništvo (Podgorica, 2002). YF.2008.a.24793

Egor Kovalevskii, Chernogoriia i slovenskiia zemli (St Petersburg, 1872). 12264.f.16. Serbian translation of this and the same author’s Chetyre miesiatsa v Chernogorii (St Petersburg, 1841), as Crna Gora i slovenske zemlje (Podgorica, 1999). YA.2001.a.19183.

Gabriel Frilley, Jovan Vlahović, Le Monténégro contemporain (Paris, 1876). 10126.aaa.1. Serbian translation Savremena Crna Gora (Podgorica, 2001). YF.2008.a.34156.

La France au Monténégro d’après Vialla de Sommières et Henri Delarue. Récits de voyages publiés et complétés par Cyrille (Paris, 1876). 9135.aaa.12.

Alfredo Serristori, Crna Gora i Dalmatinska obala (Podgorica, 2010). YF.2011.a.14503.

Ludvík Kuba, Na Černé Hoře (Prague, 1892). 10125.ee.32. Serbian translation U Crnoj Gori (Podgorica, 1996). YF.2008.a.39380.

Ignat Horica, Na Cerné Hoře (Prague, 1895). 10125.cc.20.

Giuseppe Marcotti, Crna Gora i njene žene (Podgorica, 1997). YF.2008.a.28680.

 

05 December 2016

The Brothers Jovanović National Library

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In 1920 the Serbian Legation in London donated 250 small size unbound fascicles of Serbian literature to the British Museum Library. This donation was a welcome addition to the Library Serbian collections, which then consisted hardly of a few hundreds Serbian literary works.

These issues were part of a collection of Serbian literature published in Pančevo, a small town in the then Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, from 1871 to 1912. The works were published by the Brothers Jovanović, Kamenko (1843-1916) and Pavle (1847-1914), printers and booksellers from Pančevo. In 1870 the Brothers Jovanović established a Serbian printing-press, and in 1872 a bookshop in their hometown. Their aim was to publish and sell Serbian school textbooks and literature, the long awaited educational and cultural needs of the Serbian people in Austro-Hungary.

The Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop was the first major Serbian publishing bookshop in the Monarchy, and with the bookshops funded earlier in Belgrade, in the neighbouring Princedom of Serbia, were the first to establish modern Serbian publishing and book trade.

Between 1871 and 1912 the Brothers Jovanović published about 400 Serbian titles of which about 100 were school textbooks.
The collection of works donated to the Library had been published in the series called: “The Brothers Jovanović National Library” from 1880 to 1890.

NBBJCover

 Front cover of a volume in the series. The Brothers Jovanović National Library. Jovan Rajić, Battle of Dragon and Eagles. (Pančevo, 1884). British Library 012265.e.5/44.

Above is the layout of the cover of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series: their bookshop was shown here as a cultural edifice built on the pantheon of Serbian and world literature presented and promoted in this series. Front of their national library are the Corinthian columns adorned in ribbons bearing the names of the greats of Serbian and world literature (the text in Cyrillic on the left column reads: Dositej, Kraszewski, Hugo, the right column bear the names of: Njegoš, Gogol and Goethe. The name of the series is inscribed across the arc which sits on the columns. In the left-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Dositej Obradović (1739-1811), a Serbian philosopher and writer, and in the right-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Prince Bishop of Montenegro Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-51).

The Brothers Jovanović published literature in affordable paper-back issues in small octavo format, printed in a small font. The majority of works in the series were made up of separately published issues. These were published in non-consecutive instalments usually over a several-month period. Up to 24 issues were produced per year and in total the series comprises 216 such issues published from 1880 to 1890.

The set of 250 issues donated to the Library also includes issues published by the Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop from 1871 to 1912, which were subsequently added to the Brothers Jovanović National Library series (they are numbered in the series from 217 to 348), when the bookshop was sold to the new owners in 1913. This set of 250 issues is incomplete as 11 issues are missing.

The Library’s set was bound in 124 volumes placed at shelfmarks 012265.e.5/1-149 and a number of works are bound together. It is the only single set held in a British public collection, and one of the most complete in Britain and Serbia. The Library’s set holds 158 separate works. The whole collection is described in 168 catalogue records

This collection has a historical significance for the British Library as the donation notably boosted its existing collections of Serbian literature. Today this collection is relevant for the study and research into the development of modern Serbian literacy, language and literature. It is a very useful survey of primary sources for the development of Serbian literature.

Radicevic

Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait and his autograph. Branko Radičević, Poems. (Pančevo, 1880). British Library 012265.e.5/95.

The collection contains works of the major Serbian writers of the Enlightment, Classicism and Romanticism who, in their lexical and stylistic innovation, contributed greatly to the development and promotion of modern Serbian literary language. This new literary form was based on the principles of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić’s language reform.

Pucic
Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait. Medo Pucić, Poems. (Pančevo, 1879 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/101.

Đorđe Popović-Daničar, editor of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series,  saw that the modern writers of all periods and those who wrote in Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian were represented in the series thus showing the continuity in Serbian literature. He contributed greatly to the series by writing introductory texts, compiling works of lesser known writers, translating and transliterating from Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian into the contemporary Serbian language and the new orthography, and by translating from a number of major European languages. Popović-Daničar was remembered as the first translator of Don Quijote from Spanish into Serbian.

The presentation of Serbian national poetry is another strong feature of this collection.

Boj na Kosovu

 Frontispiece. From Battle of Kosovo. (Pančevo, 1880 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/121.

A great prominence of Serbian national poetry in the series pointed not only to the significance and influence of spoken national language for the creation of the new literary language, but it also reflected the contemporary national and political aspirations and struggles in the Balkans and the rest of Europe of that period, leading up to the First World War.

Hajduci
Frontispiece. From Serbian Outlaws in National Poems. (Pančevo, 1882 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/110.

The fact that in this series the Brothers Jovanović ventured to showcase Serbian literature, together with other works of world literature in Serbian translation, was surely a sign of confidence and trust they had for the future of the Serbian literature and its readers.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Reference:

Žarko Vojnović, Iz Sparte svetlost, to jest, Život i podvizi Kamenka i Pavla braće Jovanovića: ujedno i bibliografija izdanja. (Pančevo, 2010). YF.2014.a.12874

 

20 October 2016

In the service of the children of Serbia 1915-1947

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In 1995 a tiny book of great significance for Anglo-Serbian relations was donated to the British Library. It is a brief account of the life of Florence Maw and a record of her years in Serbia and Yugoslavia from 1915 to 1953. The book was privately printed in London in 1957 and only three copies are recorded in British public collections.

Maw

 Florence Brereton Maw (1876-1953); front cover of Una P. Moffet, Lena A. Yovitchitch, Florence Maw: the chronicle of her lifework in Serbia. (London, 1957). British Library YA.1995.a.26004.

Maw was one among the hundreds of British women who volunteered their services for Serbian people in the First World War. She was a native of Cheshire, from a Quaker family, and during the war served as a member of the London-based Serbian Relief Fund, a charity formed in 1914 to provide humanitarian aid to Serbia.

This biography also sketches a portrait of Jean Rankin, Maw’s lifelong friend and collaborator, who was among the first to go to war-torn Serbia, whose people were in dire need of help. Rankin served as a trained nurse in the Serbian Relief Fund’s first hospital in Skopje in 1914, while Maw served as an orderly in the Fund’s third hospital in Kragujevac in 1915. They assisted soldiers and civilians affected by war and lived through the great typhus epidemic  Maw took part in the gruelling retreat of Serbia in 1915.

Although only a short biography drawing on a few surviving personal records, the book provides an insightful account of the work of the Serbian Relief Fund. Thanks to the generosity of the British people the Fund organised six hospitals for Serbia, looked after 65,000 Serbian prisoners of war, and supported the education of over 300 Serbian children in Britain, among other humanitarian efforts.

After the liberation of Serbia in 1918, the Serbian Relief Fund played a prominent role in bringing relief to the devastated country. Serbia lost over 22% of her pre-war population and up to 250,000 Serbian children were orphaned by the end of the First World War. In the aftermath of the war the Fund worked with the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to establish modern medical and social institutions primarily for the care of children, disabled war veterans and the sick people.

Funds raised by British children for Serbian orphans during the war were used for the creation and upkeep of an orphanage in the town of Niš in Serbia. In 1919 Maw was put in charge of this orphanage which, in the absence of any suitable housing, was accommodated in a dilapidated former poorhouse.

Maw Serbian orphans (1)Serbian orphans in countryside.  The Home’s annual summer camp was set up in the hamlet of Manastir in Sićevo, 20 kilometres east of Niš. From Florence Maw. 

As the work of the Serbian Relief Fund was ending in 1921, the Committee decided to invest the remaining funds in a purpose-built modern orphanage in Niš. Construction began in 1924 in the grounds of the St. Pantaleon Church, between the village of the same name and the Nišava River, two kilometres from the town centre. Maw closely supervised the building of the orphanage designed by Iulian Diupon, a Russian émigré architect.

Maw OrphangeThe Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home (Englesko-srpski dečiji dom), with British, Serbian and Yugoslav national flags flying. (From Florence Maw).

The Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home was built to accommodate 50 children and about six staff. It had a large open space around it with a garden, an orchard, and a large playground. Its inauguration on 7 November 1926 was a local and national event in the presence of Prince Paul and Princess Olga, government and church officials, British envoys and guests, and Church of England delegates. The Serbian Relief Fund was represented by Mrs Carrington-Wilde, a former president of its subcommittee for the education of Serbian children in Britain, who came from England for the occasion. She continued to visit the Home every two years on behalf of the Serbian Relief Fund estate. The Home was mainly funded by a proportion of the interest earned from the Fund’s final investment, deposited for this purpose in 1921. Other income came from donations from the local authorities, charities and people of Niš.

Maw and Rankin were responsible for the children’s upbringing, with a focus on discipline, practical training and traditional moral values. Children were brought up in the Orthodox tradition and religious holidays were observed according to Serbian and British customs. The children were directed according to their potential or abilities to apprenticeships, the army, engineering, nursing, commerce, teaching, law or religion. Maw was known in Niš and at the Home as “Sister Mother” (сестра-мајка), a term of respect used in Serbia for British nurses in the First World War. She had great authority over the children but never mastered Serbian and addressed her protégés only in English as “my child”.

The book finishes with a chapter on her precarious life under German occupation and the struggle to keep the children safe in the vortex of the Second World War. The Gestapo had taken possession of the Home and by the time the children were allowed to return at the end of 1944 the Home and its estate had been plundered and damaged, and the country was under the control of Yugoslav Partisans.

After the Second World War the communist authorities sought to undermine the Home’s strong link with the Serbian Church and to impose their own ethos and values. These pressures ultimately led to Maw’s and Rankin’s resignations and the handover of the Home to the city of Niš in 1946.

Maw and Rankin decided to retire on modest state pensions to a little cottage in Dubrovnik. In 1951 they made a final visit to Britain before returning to Yugoslavia. Rankin died suddenly in 1952 and only a few months later Maw passed away. Two of Maw’s devoted war orphans were beside her until the end.

Maw Retirement

 The cottage in Dubrovnik where Maw and Rankin lived in retirement from 1947 to 1953 (From Florence Maw).

In 1954 on the initiative of a former member of the staff of the Home, the Serbian Church had a marble plaque made with the following inscription: “To the Glory of God and in memory of Florence Maw and Jean Rankin who devoted their lives to the service of the children of Serbia, 1915-1947.”

Maw Anglo_Serbian Children_s Home 1926-1946

The Home today is a listed building widely known as “The English Home” (Енглески дом). Since 1965 it has been a hall of residence for High School Students. Photograph © Bratislav Arsić, 2016.

In 1953 the British authorities transferred the ownership of the Home to the Yugoslav authorities on two conditions: to serve its original purpose as a home for children, and to set up a Serbian Relief Fund commemorative plaque on a wall of the Home.

Maw Carrington Wilde

A 1938 bust by the sculptor Slavko Miletić of Mrs Carrington Wilde in front of the Home.The Serbian inscription reads “A great friend of the Serbian people.” The bust was removed from the courtyard in 1948 but reinstated in 2004.
Photograph © Bratislav Arsić, 2016.

The Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home is a lasting memorial to the work of the Serbian Relief Fund. It represents the outstanding achievement of a band of truly exceptional people who made a difference in the First World War. Its archives were destroyed in the Second World War, but we can assume that several hundred orphaned children were brought up by this institution from 1919 to 1946.

The Home will celebrate its 90th anniversary on the present site on 7 November 2016.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator Southeast European Collections

Further reading:

Francesca M. Wilson, Portraits and Sketches of Serbia. (London, 1920). 012350.f.15.

Simon Milčić. Engleski dom, kuća nade i ljubavi : svim domcima ma gde bili. (Niš, 2009).

Aleksandar Rastović, Marija Ranđelović. English-Serbian Children’s Home: 1926-2011. (Niš, 2014).

 

 

16 June 2016

What’s in a Name? Looking forward to Balkan Day 2

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The Balkans have had some bad press: from the verb ‘balkanize’, frequently used during the wars of the 1990s, which describes the process of fragmentation or division of a region to the frequent coupling with pejorative words like ‘feud’ or ‘bloodshed’. But when you look at it more objectively, why should a region as rich and varied as the Balkans be classified by violence any more than a area like Alsace-Lorraine, which has surely seen its fair share?

Balkans
The Balkan Peninsula (detail) by Jovan Cvijic (London, 1920). Maps X.4391

In the end, it all comes down to PR and perception. While Alsatian wine, gastronomy and chateaux are well-known tourist attractions, the Balkan countries also have their culinary delights, their liqueurs and their share of palaces, be they Austro-Hungarian or Venetian. When Istros published Faruk Sehic’s transformational novel based on memories of his beloved river Una, the title of the book had to be changed from the original Book of the Una to Quiet Flows the Una in order to indicate the name of a river unfamiliar to English readers. The same problem would not have occurred for a book written about the Rhine. Likewise, people feel alienated by stories from Skopje and Sofia, simply because they reach our public consciousness far less often than Strasbourg.

Balkan Mountains
“Balkan Mountains (© iStock) 

Balkan Day 2014 was billed as ‘a celebration of culture and identity’ and featured regional writers like Dubravka Ugresic, Andrej Nikolaidis and Muharem Bazdulj, among others. This was the first step of an initiative on behalf of Istros Books and the British Library to promote and raise awareness of the region and its culture here in the UK and to raise awareness.

Balkan Day I was greatly appreciated in academic and literary circles, and it is our great hope that this year’s follow-on event  will be just as popular, as we welcome Bulgarian/British writer Kapka Kassabova and the poet Fiona Sampson as well as translators Christopher Buxton, Mevlut Ceylan and Stephen Watts to Balkan Day II: A Rich Heritage of Stories. It will also be an opportunity to view the screening of Hermann Vaske’s riotous documentary film, Balkan Spirit, a film which is rarely shown in the UK but which goes a long way towards breaking down stereotypes and highlighting the positives. The director himself is coming along to this special screening and will be available for a Q&A afterwards, before an open-mike session where all participants and guests can voice their own experiences and thoughts.

In both events, we focused on local literature and translation of those stories into English, in order to highlight the links between the cultures, and the efforts being made to build cultural bridges to further understanding of a much-maligned region. At the recent UK launch of the above-mentioned Bosnian novel, Joseph Cock of Today’s Translations gave us an historical reminder of those links:

‘Perhaps translation in the Balkans has a far greater historical pedigree than we recognise. After all, Jerome, the patron saint of translators, hailed from Illyria, the name given to the Balkan Peninsula in Classical Antiquity.’

However, he goes on to point out a fact we know too well:

‘Yet despite the multitude of stories waiting to be told from the recent history of this region, the literature remains woefully underrepresented to English-speaking audiences.’

Bulgarian rug
Bulgarian rug  (© iStock)

On 24 June the British public] will have the rare opportunity to hear the only two Albanian to English literary translators working today: Robert Elsie and John Hodgson, without whom the UK reader would not have been introduced to the novels of Nobel-nominated Ismail Kadare, or heard the voice of one of Albania’s best-known political dissidents, Fatos Lubonja. There will also be the chance to hear about how the stories of their respective homelands affect the writings of Bulgarian comic author, Alek Popov, and Romania’s Ioana Parvulescu, who is also an historian at Bucharest University. Her broad knowledge of fin-de-siecle Bucharest, of the whims and charms of people of that age, make this an enchanting book and a wonderful example to life in Europe at that time. In both cases, the stories these authors have to tell open new worlds and new perceptions to readers who may have shied away from literature in translation.

Susan Curtis-Kojakovic, Istros Books

 

07 March 2016

A British Woman Soldier in First World War Serbia: Flora Sandes

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Among the many accounts written by foreigners who witnessed Serbia’s stoic retreat in 1915 were quite a number by women. Most of them were there in some medical capacity, including Cora Josephine “Jo” Gordon, who arrived in Serbia as an assistant to a Red Cross unit, along with her husband. In their “day jobs”, they were actually artists. Jo Gordon seems to have been tomboyish and highly resourceful. She learned Serbian quickly, outwitted exploitative inn owners during their hard journey to the coast, visited the frontline, and washed her adventures down with large shots of Rakiya.

Flora Sandes followed a course that was more unusual again. Having first served as a nurse, she joined the Serbian Army for her own safety during the retreat, and became the only British woman officially enlisted as a soldier in the First World War. (Russian, Serbian and [Austro-Hungarian] Ukrainian women also served, on different sides of the conflict). Flora’s own book is An English woman-sergeant in the Serbian Army, written in 1916 to rally support for the small country.

Flora_Sandes_in_uniform
Flora Sandes in Serbian Army Uniform (image from Wikimedia Commons)

When the retreat across the mountains began, Flora was as fussy as anyone from her well-heeled background, and must have been quite alarming. In her memoir, she recounts that she threw the furniture out of a scruffy hotel room and set about scrubbing the floor before erecting her own camp-bed. Later, she would distance herself from the male soldiers when they camped in the open air, relenting finally when she realised that her doing so constituted a security risk, as an ambush party might spot her.

Flora Sandes, wedding
Flora Sandes (top left), attending a traditional Serbian wedding. Photograph from her second book The Autobiography of a Woman Soldier (London, 1927) 9084.df.40

Following an injury incurred in combat in 1916, Sandes returned to medical work, but was not officially demobilised until 1922. She went on to marry a Russian émigré, Yuri Yudenitch, and the pair lived in France and then in Belgrade – where many White Russian exiles found sanctuary after the Revolution – until the Second World War. In German-occupied Belgrade, her husband died of a heart condition, and Flora spent almost three years living in poverty. After the liberation of the city, she returned to the UK, still a forceful character who chain-smoked and ploughed her own furrow.

Flora Sandes, Belgrade
Flora Sandes as a Lieutenant of the Serbian Army in Belgrade. Frontispiece from The Autobiography of a Woman Soldier

She spent her final years living near her family in Rhodesia and Surrey, and died in 1956 at the age of 82 after making a final visit to Serbia for a reunion of her old comrades of 1915. In addition to her two autobiographies (one now translated into Serbian), she is the subject of two full biographies and a Radio 4 documentary from 1971, which can be found and listened to among the Library’s sound recordings.

Flora Sandes stamp

In commemoration of the war’s centenary, Serbia Post and the British Embassy in Belgrade have recently issued a set of six  stamps featuring British women who worked in Serbia between 1914 and 1918. A set has been donated to the Library, as Milan Grba explained in a recent blog post. Flora Sandes (right) is among the women honoured, a redoubtable pioneer of equality alongside those whose medical and humanitarian work did so much to gain recognition for women in fields once reserved for men.

Janet Ashton, Western European Languages Cataloguing Team Manager

References/further reading

Jan and Cora Gordon, The Luck of Thirteen: wanderings and flight through Montenegro and Serbia (London, 1916) 9083.ff.3

Alan Burgess, The lovely sergeant: the life of Flora Sandes. (London, 1965). X.639/721

Louise Miller, A fine brother: the life of Captain Flora Sandes (Richmond, 2012) YC.2013.a.2462

Flora Sandes, An English woman-sergeant in the Serbian Army (London, 1916) 09082.aa.25. (Serbian translation by Spiro Radojčić, Engleskinja u srpskoj vojsci Flora Sandes (New York, 1995). YF.2005.a.27142)

 

14 February 2016

Serbia celebrates British heroines of the First World War

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The British Library has gratefully received a donation of a set of postage stamps which commemorate the role played by British female doctors, nurses and humanitarian aid volunteers in Serbia during the First World War.

British Heroines in WW1 Serbia
The Serbian Mail  issued the commemorative stamps last December in partnership with the British Embassy in Belgrade which donated a set to the British Library. BBC Scotland recently reported on this initiative, while the British Embassy in Belgrade dedicated a Facebook page  to the commemoration of the First World War events in Serbia.

British Heroines in WW1 Serbia_2
 The stamps tell the story of the British women who arrived to Serbia to assist the wounded and sick in war. They came individually or as part of two organisations which were set up in Britain at the beginning of the war to assist the allied countries in wartime. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals was founded by the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies in Edinburgh through the efforts of Elsie Inglis, and the Serbian Relief Fund was founded in London by the journalist Bertram Christian, among other British experts on the Balkans.

 British Heroines in WW1 Serbia_4Stamps showing Flora Sandes (left) and Katherine MacPhail (right). Sandes (1876-1956) was officially recruited to the Serbian Army in 1915 and promoted to Sergeant in 1916. She was the only British woman in active military service in the First World War and the only female officer in the Serbian Army. MacPhail (1997-1974) worked at the Military Hospital in Belgrade during the First World War. After the war she remained in Serbia where she founded the country’s first children’s hospital in 1921.

The collection of postage stamps is accompanied by biographical details of six British women, four of whom were members of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, a voluntary organisation staffed entirely by women. The portraits of the women, together with the images, present instances of their work in Serbia and on the Salonika front.

British Heroines in WW1 Serbia_6
Stamps showing Isabel Hutton (left) and Elsie Inglis (right). Hutton (1887-1960) worked on the Salonika Front, transferring to Vranje in 1918 where she treated victims of the typhus and Spanish flu epidemics and, in 1919, helped to found a civilian hospital. Inglis (1860-1917) was the founder of Scottish Women’s Hospitals and established the first war hospital in Serbia. She refused to leave the hospital when the Serbian Army was forced to retreat, and was imprisoned and later repatriated.

The Serbian Mail issued the commemorative postage stamps in Serbian Cyrillic and Latin scripts in parallel English translation with captions in German and French.

The Serbian army and civilians suffered terribly from the war, cold, hunger and infectious diseases. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals and the Serbian Relief Fund medical units were among the first to arrive to Serbia to attend and nurse the sick and wounded. They also, together with their Serbian colleagues, doctors and hospital orderlies, gave their lives in the service of others and were among the early victims of war and disease in Serbia.

British Heroines in WW1 Serbia_8
Stamps showing Evelina Haverfield (left) and Elizabeth Ross (right). Haverfield (1867-1920) came to Serbia in 1915. Like Elsie Inglis, she was imprisoned and repatriated after the retreat of the Serbian Army but continued to work organising the Serbian Relief fund and later helped to establish soup kitchens on the Salonika Front. After the war she opened a home for war orphans in Bajina Bašta. (On Elizabeth Ross, see below.)

Elizabeth Ross, who came to Serbia from Persia where she had been working as a doctor, died in the Serbian typhus epidemic of February 1915. Dimitrije Antić, the director of the hospital where Dr Ross worked, left this account of her:

It is my duty, and the place is right, to mention with great respect the name of a foreign colleague from Scotland, Miss Elizabeth Ross, who came to help as a volunteer in the most difficult moments for my hospital. She tirelessly treated soldiers sick with typhus, fearless for her life, day and night. Everyone around her was falling down with typhus; she saw that very well and she was aware that the same destiny awaited her; but, despite my appeals and warnings to look after herself, she heroically performed her grave and noble duty till the end. Unfortunately, the inevitable came quickly: Miss Ross contracted typhus. She was even more courageous in sickness: severely ill, she lay quietly in her bed in a very modest hospital ward. Her only complaint was that she couldn’t provide medical assistance any longer to our sick soldiers! Indeed, one of the rare shining examples of medical sacrifice. She is buried in Kragujevac town cemetery.

Upon hearing the news of her death in Serbia, the residents of her home town of Tain in Scotland raised funds for the memorial ‘Dr Elizabeth Ross Bed’ at the Kragujevac Military Hospital where she served, and for surgical and medical needs in Serbia. The Serbian daily Samouprava informed its readers how Dr Ross managed six wards in the hospital without nurses, relying solely on the help of hospital orderlies. “There was no wood for cooking or for heating, something was always missing; one day there was no bread,another there were no eggs or milk and so on.” On the day of her funeral service all local stores were closed and large numbers of the people of Kragujevac came out to pay their respects.

The tradition of respect has been kept alive to the present day. Each year on 14 February at noon Kragujevac remembers Dr Elizabeth Ross.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South Eastern European Collections

References/further reading:

A History of the Scottish Women's Hospitals. Edited by Eva Shaw McLaren. (London, 1919). 9082.bbb.32.

Elisabeth Macbean Ross, A Lady Doctor in Bakhtiari Land. Edited by Janet N. MacBean Ross. (London, 1921). 010076.de.28

D. Antić, ‘Pegavi tifus u kragujevačkoj i rezervnoj vojnoj bolnici 1914-15’. In Vladimir Stanojević, ed., Istorija srpskog vojnog saniteta (Belgrade, 1925). YF.2011.a.22007.

Želimir Dj. Mikić, Ever yours sincerely: the life and work of Dr Katherine S. MacPhail. (Cambridge, 2007). YK.2008.b.4740. Serbian original: Uvek vaša: život i delo dr Ketrin Makfejl. (Novi Sad, 1998). YF.2015.a.24057.

Louise Miller, A fine brother: the life of Captain Flora Sandes. (Richmond, 2012). YC.2013.a.2462.

Ž. Mikić, A. Lešić, ‘Dr Elizabeta Ros – heroina i žrtva Prvog svetskog rata u Srbiji’. Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo, 2012, vol. 140, 7/8, pp. 537-542. Available via SCIndeks

 

17 December 2015

“In true heroic mould”: witnessing the retreat of Serbia, 1915

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A century ago, in December 1915, the first complete calendar year of the First World War was drawing to a close.

A number of new countries had entered the fray during the preceding 12 months, adding pressure to those states which had been fighting one another since 1914. Among the most vulnerable nations of all was Serbia, a small country ravaged by typhus and other diseases, and fighting its third war in as many years. Because of its government’s alleged role in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it was the main target for annihilation by the Austro-Hungarian high command.

Serbia had emerged as chief victor from the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, but assimilating its new territories was a huge challenge without the added burden of another war, and fallings-out among former allies left wounds which reopened in 1915. In September, Bulgaria joined the War on the side of the Central Powers, hoping to win Macedonian territory taken by Serbia in 1913.

Thus, in autumn 1915, Serbia faced a double onslaught. Austrian and German troops renewed their assault on Belgrade from across the Danube, while Bulgaria joined the attack from the east. This was finally too much for the beleaguered country. To avoid surrender, Serbia’s leaders instructed the army to make for the Albanian coast, and so it set out, led by the elderly King Petar and Field Marshal Radomir Putnik, both borne on stretchers before the busy pencils of war artists. Periodically, the stretcher-bearers were forced to halt so they could swap with other colleagues, and the entire convoy of refugees, several miles long, had to halt behind them, standing exposed in wind and rain until the leaders were ready to move on again.

Serbia 1 (2)
The convoy of refugees, picture from Jan and Cora Gordon, The Luck of Thirteen: Wanderings and Flight through Serbia and Montenegro (London, 1916). British Library 12208.a.1/223.

Along the narrow mountain passes and through knee-deep muddy valleys they went, sleeping in makeshift bivouacs or in the open air, leaning on their animals for warmth: the Serbian army, hundreds of Austrian prisoners-of-war, hordes of camp-followers, foreign journalists and medical staff (whose own governments had also instructed them to leave the occupied country) and finally thousands of civilians, encouraged by the government to evacuate rather than fall into enemy hands.

“Quantities of carts passed us filled with furniture, baths, and luggage,” wrote two intrepid British artists who were there. “A smartly dressed family was picnicking by the roadside, sitting on deck-chairs.….Crowds were congregated round a man who was carrying over his shoulder a whole sheep on a spit and chopping bits off for buyers. On a hillside a woman was handing out rakia ….The Crown Prince passed, touching his hat to fifty kilometres of his people.”

Serbia Women resting
Women with an ox-cart resting on the journey.  Picture from The Luck of Thirteen. 12208.a.1/223.

These authors are resourceful and jaunty through all their privations, but some foreign witnesses captured the human pathos with greater sensitivity, noting children who were full of bravado by day but wept quietly in their rough camps at night, when they thought no-one could hear. Tens of thousands of the party of soldiers and refugees died of hunger or disease en route, or in mountain ambushes by Albanian tribesmen avenging incidents from the Balkan Wars.

Serbia Ipek pass (2)
The refugees crossing the Ipek pass, from The Luck of Thirteen, drawn by the authors. 12208.a.1/223.

Ultimately, up to 200,000 desperate survivors were evacuated at the coast by those Entente ships which got through the bombardment by the Austrian navy and air force. They went on to exile in France, North Africa or Greece, where many more would die of flu or of the effects of their journey.

Over the months that followed, a series of books appeared in Britain and the United States, describing the valour and agony of the retreating nation through the eyes of the foreigners who had taken part in the exodus. Many bore a dedication to “Alexander, Crown Prince of Serbia”, for the young man became a symbol of hope for the future of his country, “an apostle of progress as well as a knight Paladin”. After their appalling ordeal, both he and stoic, defeated Serbia seemed “a curious blending of the medieval and the modern,” imbued with “a fine glamour…[and] cast in the true heroic mould.”

Regrouped Serbian troops under the Crown Prince’s command went on to fight on the Salonika Front, which delivered fatal blows to Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire and hence to the Central Powers. Returning home in 1918, the Crown Prince (and Regent for his venerable father) found his ambitions for the future well-supported by his western Allies, greatly bolstered the body of sympathetic literature produced in the aftermath of 1915’s extraordinary journey.

Janet Ashton, Western European Languages Cataloguing Team Manager

References/further reading:

Alice and Claude Askew, The stricken land: Serbia as we saw it. (London, 1916) Copies at W15/8483 and 9082.ee.20.

Fortier Jones, With Serbia into exile: an American’s adventures with the army that cannot die  (New York, 1916). Three copies at W82/6627, 9083.ff.25., and 9081.e.7.

Mabel Stobart, The flaming sword in Serbia and elsewhere. (London, 1916) . 09082.cc.12.

Peter Gatrell , ‘Europe on the move: refugees and World War One’. British Library Website: http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/refugees-europe-on-the-move