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A SERB’S VIEW ON DR ELSIE INGLIS – THE SERBIAN MOTHER FROM SCOTLAND

A guest blog by Predrag Stefanovic

I am a Serb living in Scotland. Ask anyone in Serbia about Elsie Inglis and there is a very good chance they will be able to tell you something about this remarkable Scottish woman. So deeply ingrained is she into the fabric of Serbian history she holds the status of heroine and is known fondly as “our mother from Scotland”.

Flags imageElsie Inglis was born in 1864 to Scottish parents and studied to become a doctor. This was at a time when women doctors were almost unheard of but Elsie was not a woman to be restrained by the social or political conventions of her day.

She was one of those rare people who carve their own path and shape their own destiny. She campaigned for women’s rights and for the vote and she continued to break new ground when she founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH) during World War One.

Between 1914-1919 nearly 800 women who had joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital’s came to support my small brave nation in the heart of Europe during its darkest hour. They set up hospitals in many Serbian towns and in tents on the frontline treating wounded and ill Serbian soldiers and refugees.

In Serbia we have named streets after these brave women and they are revered and remembered in monuments and annual ceremonies. Children learn about them in school, through exhibitions and documentaries and this year two new Serbian-Scottish Friendship Societies have been established.  My country has given Elsie Inglis the highest medal of honour, the Order of the White Eagle and quite fittingly, she is the first woman to receive it.

On the 26th November 2017 it will be one hundred years since Elsie died. As it happens, this November also marks exactly half my life in Scotland with first half lived in Serbia. Like Elsie I have two nations of my heart. She called my countrymen “my beloved Serbs”. I am proud to share this love with such an inspirational woman.

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                                                                    Predrag Stefanovic