The end of the First World War did not mean an end to the suffering of the population in Macedonia. Although the military actions ended, the devastated land and property, the poverty and contagious diseases have remained for a long time. The lack of medical personnel and medicines was particularly evident due to the presence of contagious diseases such as typhus, influenza, measles, malaria, cholera, etc. The cases of venereal diseases and improperly treated wounds were also very common. One of the few missions that helped the population at that time was the mission of the American Woman’s Hospital (A.W.H), which worked in collaboration with the American Red Cross (A.R.C.).

With the entry of America into the First World War on the side of the Entente on April 6, 1917, a number of female doctors offered their help to the military. At that time in America less than 6% of total number of physicians were women. Although many of them were successful and already proven in their profession, they were accepted into the military only as nurses and auxiliary staff. In 1917, a special commission from the American Red Cross visited Thessaloniki (Salonika), where they were impressed by the success story of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Thus, in cooperation with A.W.H, a similar mission was decided to be sent to the Balkans.

The two cousins Dr. Regina Flood Keyes from Buffalo and Dr. Frances Mabel Flood from Elmira, New York, accepted the invitation and were soon sent to the city of Voden (today Edessa), Greece, near the Macedonian Front, where they opened a hospital.

Serbians* never had the hospital habit, for the simple reason that there were no institutions to practice the habit on. This native woman of Monastir was induced to visit the American Red Cross hospital after suffering several days with an ear-ache. Dr. Eugenie Flod Keyes and Dr. Mabel Flood of the Red Cross staff are administering relief in the above picture. The Serbian woman is doubtful but patient. She is dressed in the native costume of Monastir, each town of the country having its own brocaded in bright colors. At this dispensary, 150 people are treated every day
Dr. Regina Flood Keyes (left) and Dr. Frances Mabel Flood (right) at the hospital in Bitola are helping a woman dressed in traditional clothes

Dr. Regina Flood Keyes was a renowned surgeon and previously worked as a gynecologist at the main hospital in Buffalo, USA. She was appointed as director of the hospital in Voden, which was housed in an old abandoned building. Although they had money to renovate the old object, it was difficult for them to make any procurement’s because of the poor situation in the Balkans and the danger of Austro-Hungarian attacks on cargo vessels that sailed across the Mediterranean. However, they were well equipped with medical instruments, and with the help of local carpenters, the hospital was soon renovated and put into operation with about fifty hospital beds.

At that time, the city of Voden was crowded with refugees who slept in the streets and although they escaped from the military actions, they could not escape the contagious diseases. Not far from the front line, the doctors from America started another war, against an enemy who the uneducated local population did not understand. It was a fight against the infectious diseases and the ways of their transmission. Thus the hospital was thoroughly renovated, cleaned, and surgical gauze was installed on the windows, serving as net for protection against mosquitoes and other insects.

Dispensaries were opened in which the doctors with two other nurses from America and staff from the local population worked from morning till dawn, and by the beginning of 1918, they have managed to examine approximately 3,000 patients per month. Women doctors were something new especially in the Balkans, but with their sacrificial work they quickly gained the sympathy of the local population and helped a lot during the influenza epidemic that occurred in the autumn of 1918.

At the invitation of the French Army during the offensive on the Macedonian Front in September 1918, Dr Regina temporarily worked in a mobile ambulance near the front line (Breakthrough at Dobro Pole). The surgical interventions were performed continuously for several days in a tent in front of which wounded soldiers waited while grenades fell in the vicinity. She was later decorated by the French government for her work.

After the breakthrough of the front line, the hospital from Voden was moved to Bitola (Monastir), a city that was constantly bombarded and largely destroyed in a period of two years.

When the doctors arrived in Bitola, the city was “open graveyard”. Wolves and dogs were wandering on nearby hills, digging the shallow graves, and eating the remains. On many places, scattered human remains could be found, and in the villages lived human skeletons, wrapped in rags, surviving by eating roots. Bitola was full with orphans for which no one knew where they came from, nor how did they managed to survive the war. Many of them occasionally appeared naked in the Red Cross feeding stations, while others were found crumpled in the rubble of their homes, slowly dying of influenza, typhoid or famine. Soldiers and captives returning to their homes were additional problem with their improperly treated wounds, and among the female population, venereal diseases posed to be a major problem.

„The war has been won; now the peace must be won” was the motto of the American mission and they immediately started with their work.

Мајка со прегладнети деца во Битола за време на Првата светска војна - фото Манаки
Mother with starving children in Bitola during the First World War – photo Manaki

Some of the buildings that were still standing after the war were the Clock Tower and one large building next to it, which according to the archive of A.R.C was an old Turkish school. After the renovation of the interior, the hospital started with its work and soon gained a reputation as one of the best hospitals in the Balkans.

After the Bulgarians and Austrians were driven from the hills around Monastir, the A.R.C. established its first civilian hospital in this old Turkish school building. It had the roof, windows and doors shot out by shell-fire and the floors ripped up for the soldiers. But the Americans repaired it with the help of some prisoners of war and is now caring for seventy five people within its walls. The cases are mostly typhus and civilians, wounded by shells and bombs accidentally exploded in the nearby fields. In the background is a Turkish watch-tower, built and used by the Ottomans during their regime over this country to keep a constant eye on the town and surrounding country.
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “After the Bulgarians and Austrians were driven from the hills around Monastir, the A.R.C. established its first civilian hospital in this old Turkish school building. It had the roof, windows and doors shot out by shell-fire and the floors ripped up for the soldiers. But the Americans repaired it with the help of some prisoners of war and is now caring for seventy five people within its walls. The cases are mostly typhus and civilians, wounded by shells and bombs accidentally exploded in the nearby fields. In the background is a Turkish watch-tower, built and used by the Ottomans during their regime over this country to keep a constant eye on the town and surrounding country.” Created / Published: 19 July 1919 [date received] Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA https://lccn.loc.gov/2017669602
As in the Voden Hospital, special attention was paid to the hygienic conditions in the facility and the patients who were being treated. The hospital quickly became famous as “The Flyless Hospital of the Balkans”. An ambulance, a bath and a special disinfection section were also opened. Soon the doctors had hands full of work and over two hundred people a day were examined.

No Bath, No Food is American Rule in Balkans. A group of Balkan refugees in the yard of the American Red Cross Hospital at Monastir. To prevent the spread of Typhus and other diseases the Americans require every one asking aid of them to take a bath, which is provided in the building in the background. The food cards which they receive from the Red Cross unless the bath mark upon them has been punched. This particular group has just made its way back from an internment camp in Bulgaria. The man at the right in his bare feet has just had a bath, while the others are waiting to be called. During the bath their clothes are sterilized. The copper pot on the ground is a precious possession. It has been with this group throughout their four years of war travel
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “No Bath, No Food is American Rule in Balkans. A group of Balkan refugees in the yard of the American Red Cross Hospital at Monastir. To prevent the spread of Typhus and other diseases the Americans require every one asking aid of them to take a bath, which is provided in the building in the background. The food cards which they receive from the Red Cross unless the bath mark upon them has been punched. This particular group has just made its way back from an internment camp in Bulgaria. The man at the right in his bare feet has just had a bath, while the others are waiting to be called. During the bath their clothes are sterilized. The copper pot on the ground is a precious possession. It has been with this group throughout their four years of war travel. ” Created / Published: 25 July 1919 [date received] / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2017669652
Miss Robia Whedon, Dr. McCarthy and Serbian Helper, with disinfection machine formerly used by Germans
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Miss Robia Whedon, Dr. McCarthy and Serbian Helper, with disinfection machine formerly used by Germans”
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03318 / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03318

From USA also arrived aid in food, medicines and clothing for the population. Food cards were distributed in order to properly distribute the aid. There were also cases where the deceased were hidden or buried in their homes, as their family would not have been shorten for a meal from A.R.C.

Dr. Regina worked as a surgeon and director of the hospital, while Dr. Frances was in charge of non-surgical cases, such as those infected with typhus and influenza. The two cousins among the locals became known as the “Angels of Bitola”.

Soon more help came from USA and in addition to the hospital in Bitola, other hospitals were opened in other cities also. More aid was sent in form of medical and agricultural equipment, food, medicines and clothing for the impoverished population.

Although the A.R.C. station does not open until eight o'clock these people formed in line at daybreak. They are refugees and destitute people of the town who call every two weeks. Each has a Red Cross card showing the amount of food he or she is entitled to. Each one represents a family. The station serves 600 people everyday, distributing bread, lard, beans and clothes. They use sacks, shawls, aprons and even their skirts to carry the food away in
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Although the A.R.C. station does not open until eight o’clock these people formed in line at daybreak. They are refugees and destitute people of the town who call every two weeks. Each has a Red Cross card showing the amount of food he or she is entitled to. Each one represents a family. The station serves 600 people everyday, distributing bread, lard, beans and clothes. They use sacks, shawls, aprons and even their skirts to carry the food away in.” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03634
Part of the huge bakery at Monastir turned over to the A.R.C. by the French Army. If formerly supplied the Allied Army of the Orient with 125,000 loaves of bread a day. Now it is sued to help feed the starving civilian population in this district of the Balkans. The baskets heaped in the background are used to hold the kneaded dough, which is placed in the pits drawing heat from the fire-boxes, to rise. The fires are raked out and the dough is put into the fire-boxes on long planks being baked by the heat retained in the sontes. Each loaf baked here weighs three pounds and is in the shape of a fair-sized dish-pan. A mill where wheat is ground into flour adjoins the bakery and is operated by the A.R.C.
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Part of the huge bakery at Monastir turned over to the A.R.C. by the French Army. If formerly supplied the Allied Army of the Orient with 125,000 loaves of bread a day. Now it is sued to help feed the starving civilian population in this district of the Balkans. The baskets heaped in the background are used to hold the kneaded dough, which is placed in the pits drawing heat from the fire-boxes, to rise. The fires are raked out and the dough is put into the fire-boxes on long planks being baked by the heat retained in the sontes. Each loaf baked here weighs three pounds and is in the shape of a fair-sized dish-pan. A mill where wheat is ground into flour adjoins the bakery and is operated by the A.R.C.” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03633
"Spilling the beans" in Serbia. Two war orphans serving American bean rations to their fellow country people at Monastir, Serbia. These two girls at the side of the Bean box are being cared for at the American Red Cross Orphanage. They assist in the relief work as shown here
„A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “”Spilling the beans” in Serbia. Two war orphans serving American bean rations to their fellow country people at Monastir, Serbia. These two girls at the side of the Bean box are being cared for at the American Red Cross Orphanage. They assist in the relief work as shown here” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.04077
From this little desk was done the paper work that distributed relief to many thousand Serbian refugees in the Monastir district. Captain Lanning Mc Farland, a Harvard student, was in charge of the American Red Cross work in this town. He operated a bakery, hospital, bathing establishment, warehouse and feeding station. He is shown at his desk examining the application of a Turkish woman for relief
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “From this little desk was done the paper work that distributed relief to many thousand Serbian refugees in the Monastir district. Captain Lanning Mc Farland, a Harvard student, was in charge of the American Red Cross work in this town. He operated a bakery, hospital, bathing establishment, warehouse and feeding station. He is shown at his desk examining the application of a Turkish woman for relief” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.04695
"A wilderness of rags," is the description travellers give of devastated Serbia and the garb of these small Serbians tells why. Thousands of men, women and children in this unhappy land and others that were laid waste by the Hun must wear clothing like this until civilized garments reach them from the nationwide collection of used clothing, shoes and blankets conducted by the A.R.C. for the refugees in Allied Countries
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “”A wilderness of rags,” is the description travellers give of devastated Serbia and the garb of these small Serbians tells why. Thousands of men, women and children in this unhappy land and others that were laid waste by the Hun must wear clothing like this until civilized garments reach them from the nationwide collection of used clothing, shoes and blankets conducted by the A.R.C. for the refugees in Allied Countries” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03198
Buffalo motor van A.R.C. ambulance in Serbia
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Buffalo motor van A.R.C. ambulance in Serbia” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03122
American dentists in Monastir. Captain Frank L. Adams of West Tampa, Fla. is doing the first dental work for a Serbian girl seen in native costume. This dental workshop which is maintained by the American Red Cross has a steady stream of calls from Serbians who are curious to have their teeth examined for the first time in their lives
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “American dentists in Monastir. Captain Frank L. Adams of West Tampa, Fla. is doing the first dental work for a Serbian girl seen in native costume. This dental workshop which is maintained by the American Red Cross has a steady stream of calls from Serbians who are curious to have their teeth examined for the first time in their lives” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03975
Reaping with a bayonet. Bereft of all Agricultural Implements by the invading armies, the peasants of Serbia harvest their crops with what tools they can obtain. This shows a man and his wife cutting grain with small sickles. The man fashioned his from a bayonet. To aid Serbia in planting and harvesting the American Red Cross sent 1,000,600 worth of Agricultural machinery into the country and taught the Serbs how to use these modern contrivances
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Reaping with a bayonet. Bereft of all Agricultural Implements by the invading armies, the peasants of Serbia harvest their crops with what tools they can obtain. This shows a man and his wife cutting grain with small sickles. The man fashioned his from a bayonet. To aid Serbia in planting and harvesting the American Red Cross sent 1,000,600 worth of Agricultural machinery into the country and taught the Serbs how to use these modern contrivances” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.04915
A battery of American tractors in the Monastir valley of Serbia sent by the A.R.C. to replace the horses and oxen stolen from the peasants by the enemy. They are to be loaned to the farmers of Serbians to help them prepare their land and regain their economic independence. The Red Cross has an operating crew and a repair shop to insure full use of this agricultural machinery. It is estimated that the Serbians lost 224,000,000 worth of horses, farming implements and machinery as a result of the German and Austrian invasion
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “A battery of American tractors in the Monastir valley of Serbia sent by the A.R.C. to replace the horses and oxen stolen from the peasants by the enemy. They are to be loaned to the farmers of Serbians to help them prepare their land and regain their economic independence. The Red Cross has an operating crew and a repair shop to insure full use of this agricultural machinery. It is estimated that the Serbians lost 224,000,000 worth of horses, farming implements and machinery as a result of the German and Austrian invasion” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / https://lccn.loc.gov/2017669607
American tractors in Serbia. The American Red Cross has thirty farm tractors tilling the soil in southern Serbia. These modern machines are proving a great boon to the Serbian Farmers who have been wothout agricultural implements for four years and whose land has been idle for want of the plough all during the war
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “American tractors in Serbia. The American Red Cross has thirty farm tractors tilling the soil in southern Serbia. These modern machines are proving a great boon to the Serbian Farmers who have been wothout agricultural implements for four years and whose land has been idle for want of the plough all during the war” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA / http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.03816

Both doctors left Bitola in 1920.

Dr. Frances Mabel Flood returned to the United States in 1920 and married Alfred Heath of Liverpool England who she met on her return to the United States. They lived in Elmira where Mabel reopened her private practice and in 1922 their daughter Marjorie Louise was born. She died on April 26, 1923, of complications following an appendix surgery. On May 3, 1927, she was posthumously decorated with the Order of St. Sava by King Aleksandar from Serbia, and the prize was received by her daughter, who also died two years later from pneumonia.

Dr. Regina Flood Keyes married Quincy F. Roberts, who in 1919-1920 was the US vice-consul in Thessaloniki. She accompanied him in many other diplomatic missions throughout the world, and during their service on the islands of Fiji, Regina was again active in her humanitarian work, helping the local population. Before the outbreak of World War II, they were interned by Japan. Regina died in exchange of diplomats between Japan and America on July 23, 1942. She was buried at sea.

Red Cross personnel at Monastir. From left to right, back row, Miss Rogers and two Serb workers, next row, Miss Rose and Mrs. Freeman, next row: Serbian workers, Major Rogers Perkins, Captain Austin, Captain Pfotzer, Miss Crosley, Lieut., Paul Ivanichevitch, Lieut. Adams, front row, Serbian orphan, Miss Mountain, Dr. Keyes, Capt. Lanning McFarland, Dr. Flood, Miss Saxton. The two army officers in the group, Capts. Austin and Pfotzer organized the municipal health department of Monastir and are members of it. Drs. Keys and Flood, the two Red Cross women, have been the Balkans for a year and a half. During the Allied advance they worked in the front line dressing stations in the capacity of surgeons for days
A.R.C archive photo / Original title: “Red Cross personnel at Monastir. From left to right, back row, Miss Rogers and two Serb workers, next row, Miss Rose and Mrs. Freeman, next row: Serbian workers, Major Rogers Perkins, Captain Austin, Captain Pfotzer, Miss Crosley, Lieut., Paul Ivanichevitch, Lieut. Adams, front row, Serbian orphan, Miss Mountain, Dr. Keyes, Capt. Lanning McFarland, Dr. Flood, Miss Saxton. The two army officers in the group, Capts. Austin and Pfotzer organized the municipal health department of Monastir and are members of it. Drs. Keys and Flood, the two Red Cross women, have been the Balkans for a year and a half. During the Allied advance they worked in the front line dressing stations in the capacity of surgeons for days” / Date of photo: 25 July 1919 [date received] / https://lccn.loc.gov/2017669651
” / Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
The First World War is in some way was a culmination of the desperate state that affected the population of the Balkans at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to military actions, the mobility of the military forces helped to spread infectious diseases that were far more destructive than bombs and bullets. Part of the disasters were mitigated thanks to individuals who, unfortunately, today are mostly forgotten, whether they came from the local population or through a foreign mission. Today, we can barely see monuments raised in their honor, and no texts can be found in the textbooks, which on the other hand glorify the rulers and the generals. This short work is a little effort in the direction of correcting that injustice, with hope that the work of the “Angels of Bitola” will not be forgotten.

Author: Pargovski Jove, Bitola, December 2018

References

  • Јосимовска Верица, Доброволна медицинска Мисија “AMERICAN WOMEN’S HOSPITALS” во Македонија и Косово за и непосредно после Првата светска војна
  • “Out of the East Christ Came” By Rose Wilder Lane, November 1919
  • THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL, Vol. VI. SEPTEMBER. 1929 No. 9
  • REPORT OF The American Women’s Hospitals ORGANIZED BY The War Service Committee OF THE Medical Women’s National Association JUNE 6th to OCTOBER 6th 1917
  • Ilija Petrović, Foreign medical help in Serbian Liberation Wars from 1912 until 1918
  • Ellen S. More, University of Massachusetts Medical School, ‘A Certain Restless Ambition’: Women Physicians and World War I
  • Мирјана ЗОРИЋ, СРПСКИ ВОЈНИ САНИТЕТ У ПРВОМ СВЕТСКОМ РАТУ, Хероји Великог Рата
  • Excerpts from History of the U.S. Consulate in Saigon by James Nach

Source of photos:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here