Hidden Belgrade (47): Belgrade’s First Modern Hospital

Opened on 1 May 1868 on the property of the famous benefactor Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac, Belgrade’s first modern hospital was situated right in the middle of a somewhat unsavoury Palilula district by the Vidin road. It was one of the many projects by the reformist Prince Mihailo Obrenović in his bid to remake Belgrade and Serbia as a (central) European country, rather than an Ottoman province.

This willingness to adopt a Western aesthetic is apparent in the eclectic romantic look of the hospital building, which was apparently based on a Jewish hospital in Berlin and designed by Jovan Francl. It was one of the most modern hospitals of the era, with advanced ventilation and plumbing systems.

The hospital was opened just a few weeks before Prince Mihailo was assassinated and it was here that most of Serbia’s most famous doctors got their practical education: Laza Lazervić, Vladan Đorđević as well as Draga Ljočić, whose bust is in the garden. Although most of the clinics were slowly moved to the Vračar hill throughout the 20th century, it remained a functioning medical facility until 1983 (when the ophthalmology clinic moved away).

Since then it served as the headquarters of the Serbian Medical Society, and now houses one of Belgrade’s most underrated museums, which displays the history of local medicine.

The old hospital’s garden also contains a bust of Ludwik Hirszfeld, a Polish microbiologist who helped the Serbian army during the WWI in fighting typhus and dysentry outbreaks. In his long and distinguished career, which included the discovery of inheritance of ABO blood-types, Hirszfeld also worked on anti-epidemic measures in the Warsaw Ghetto, in which he was forced due to his Jewish heritage.

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