Herman Kaurić, V. (2023). Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. Zagreb: Hrvatki institut za povijest. Retrieved from https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135.
Herman Kaurić, Vijoleta. Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. Zagreb, Hrvatki institut za povijest, 2023. https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135.
Herman Kaurić, Vijoleta. Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. Zagreb: Hrvatki institut za povijest, 2023. https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135.
Herman Kaurić, V. (2023) Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. [online]. Zagreb: Hrvatki institut za povijest. Available at: https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135 (Accessed 21 February 2024)
Herman Kaurić V. Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. [Internet]. Zagreb: Hrvatki institut za povijest; 2023, [cited 2024 February 21] Available at: https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135
V. Herman Kaurić, Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu. Zagreb, Hrvatki institut za povijest, 2023. [Online] Available at: https://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:255:236135
|Za naše junake... : rad dobrotvornih društava grada Zagreba u Prvom svjetskom ratu
|Vijoleta Herman Kaurić
|Croatian Institute of History
|Scientific / art field,
discipline and subdiscipline
For Our Heroes... The Work of Zagreb’s Charities in World War I World War I was the bloody ending of a centuries-long epoch of the history of Croatia as part of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. It was followed by a new period, in which the country joined a newly-formed union of states. In many ways, the liminality between the two systems had defined the relationship towards the final years of the Monarchy, as it was inadvisable to mention one’s involvement in the war on the defeated side or the aid campaigns for the so-called enemy soldiers. Therefore, until recently, the Great War, as it was called in its time, was neglected in Croatian historiography, as well as insufficiently researched. The topic was also wholly overshadowed by the events of World War II and its aftermath. Still, certain progress was achieved owing to the Centennial commemorations, which shifted the focus of public awareness towards World War I. Despite the legislative measures taken by the military authorities to prepare for the war, at its very beginning, the duration and scope of the military operations took both the military and the civil authorities by surprise, which ultimately meant that they had to organise the reception of deployed soldiers and the wounded in numbers much greater than those anticipated, both in Zagreb as the capital of Croatia and Slavonia and in the rest of the country. As time went on, these problems only increased, even though the acquired experience made it significantly easier to address the circumstances. Still, vital projects (such as quarantining for all soldiers, transferring infectious patients out of the city centre, and establishing accommodation facilities for convalescents, disabled and/or children) were often realised too slowly, considering that the bureaucratic procedures were even more sluggish than they had been before the war, due to the shortage of staff, coupled with a significant increase of the workload. Thus, as months and years would go by between an idea for a project and its realisation, a number of projects were not completed by the end of the war, or even after it. However, some of the projects mentioned here were. Despite the suggestions based on practice, changes to the established official procedures were difficult to make and insufficient in themselves, but as the war went on and its circumstances dictated their own rules, these procedures became more pragmatic and their rules were applied less strictly. The wartime circumstances forced the military and civil authorities to tolerate most of the economic, charity, and educational associations that could assist them in alleviating the consequences of the war. Thus, despite the original ban on their activities, at least eighty citizens’ associations based in Zagreb eventually obtained a licence to operate throughout the wartime period. The first ones allowed to resume their activities were charities and humanitarian associations, followed by an increasing number of professional associations, which provided aid only to their members, whether in the form of money or basic provisions. A considerable number of associations were active despite not having obtained a formal licence to operate, in order to ensure the survival of numerous direct and indirect casualties of war. The high costs of war forced the authorities to adopt a more flexible stance, considering that private initiatives could alleviate the emerging social problems and raise considerable funds in various ways, thereby preventing the need for allocations from the state budget. A clear example of this were the numerous aid campaigns for the soldiers on the front, aimed at collecting necessities for long-term survival in the damp and cold trenches (straw products, warm winter clothing), in addition to raw materials for the defence industry. The collection of monetary aid for the soldiers’ Christmas presents, which were usually cigarettes, resulted in the inflow of significant funds into the state budget, since the state held a monopoly on products from higher-- quality and more expensive tobacco varieties, intended for use in cigarettes for Croatian regiments and the army in general. While the domestic tobacco varieties, primarily the Herzegovinian one, were considered inadequate for that purpose, they were sold in abundance on the black market, as the licenced cigarette stands stood empty while the soldiers on the front craved ever more cigarettes. During the second and third year of the war, almost every public facility in Zagreb was used to accommodate the wounded and the convalescents. When, despite all efforts, even this had proven insufficient, wooden military barracks were built in various parts of the city. The capacities for supplying such a large number of soldiers temporarily out of service were probably compromised, but this is not evident from the reports on the operation of the hospitals. They were likely affected by a general lack of supplies at times, if not constantly. What they certainly did not lack for, however, was the dedicated care and exceptional selflessness demonstrated by the volunteer nurses, whose training consisted of nothing but a one-week course. The capability of these women to learn and perform the physically and mentally demanding service admirably was a revelation to the top medical experts of the time, and I consider it to be one of the greatest contributions of the war to the status of women in general. The subordination of all aspects of life to military needs led to problems in supplying the civilian population with food and basic necessities (firewood, leather for shoes, cotton fabrics for clothing the small children and the sick, kerosene and candles for lighting), so the charities tried to help those who were most in need because there were not enough funds for campaigns that would cover wider segments of the population. Even though deprivation affected more and more people as the years went on, the number of children who received aid in the form of, for example, shoes remained the same or decreased slightly, which was certainly not adequate considering the direness of the situation. Despite this, the charities put in as much effort into providing help as they could, and the situation would have been even more disastrous without their contribution. As the war went on, the number of Zagreb residents with a right to free meals or preferential treatment when it comes to food increased, but the number of associations that subsidised food for persons in their care grew only in the first two years, and then began to decrease until it fell to only one: the Society for Feeding Families of Mobilised Soldiers. They supplied meals for several categories of city residents, especially for public school students and members of soldiers’ families, and organised the War Kitchen for those who were allowed to pay less than the market price for their meals. Thanks to the financial skill of the leader of the Society, Šandor Aleksandar Alexander, the social institutions managed to survive and expand the scope of their operations, while other similar societies operated at a loss or disappeared. Cases such as this usually give immediate cause to suspect underhanded dealings, but the audit of the Company’s work carried out during 1917 did not show anything of the sort. It only showed the benefits of having an economically powerful family behind an enterprise. And the Alexanders were exactly that, one of the most powerful families in Zagreb and beyond. The gravity of deprivation framed the projects of all associations, as they lacked the means to provide for even the truly most deprived, and the charity work required greater funds than what the societies could have at their disposal just from membership fees. It was, therefore, necessary to devise ways to get money from citizens, and have that be more than a plain request for giving alms without providing anything in return. The hosting of at least one charity event daily—concerts, lectures, theatre performances, tea parties, exhibitions, and the like—became part of the daily routine in Zagreb for almost the entire duration of the war. Birthdays and name days of members of the royal family were central points of the year, but in the absence of existing important dates, new ones were devised (like War Orphans’ Day or Red Cross Week). As part of the events, commemorative items were sold, ranging from war insignia, through the ubiquitous pictures of the ruler on postcards, to sugar bags with the Red Cross sign. An indispensable part of every event was the sale of food and drinks for charity purposes, which the citizens eagerly used to enjoy otherwise unavailable things such as white bread or to acquire the otherwise scarce flour. In short, at these events, anything that could bring in money was put up for sale, and the organisers tried to attract the attention of the participants verbally and physically (by e.g. dressing in Turkish folk costume or hospital uniforms) and empty their wallets. In this, they were generously helped by local and foreign artists of all kinds, especially members of the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre, who served as a lure for a wide audience. Ultimately, the question inevitably arises as to how impactful the work of charities in Zagreb during World War I truly was. While the question may be a simple one, there is no clear answer because, like everything else, it depends on how one looks at it. The quantities of supplies involved were too small compared to the needs, which applies to the provisions attained for either civilians or the army, but they were psychologically invaluable for the soldiers on the front. Even if the aid they received from the homeland was small, it at least showed the soldiers that someone cared for them. Providing any kind of help meant a lot to the donors themselves as well, because they believed that they were helping their relatives and acquaintances in this way, with patriotism being only a secondary concern. This can be seen in the predominantly Croatian atmosphere, created by the large number of Croatian flags and ribbons in the Croatian national colours, which predominated at almost all events, while Imperial flags had to be flown on the most solemn occasions. In contrast, Hungarian colours were never even mentioned. It cannot be denied that a great deal of effort went into the hosting for any event, especially the grandiose ones, but the timing of some of them, especially those that required large amounts of money to organise, is questionable. I consider the exhibition of firing trenches to be the best example of this. An enormous amount of wood was used to set up this exhibition at a time when Zagreb was short of firewood. The project had simply started too late, when the autumn rains had already begun to fall, and considering the great amount of effort invested into digging the ditches, once that had been done it was too late not to see it through. Or was it? Whatever the answer to that may be, contemporaries may have had a harder time seeing how pointless certain efforts were, but one cannot dispute their enormous enthusiasm and the even greater amount of work they were ready to put in to help our heroes on the battlefields across Europe and/or their families in the difficult wartime living conditions in the Croatian metropolis.
|Authored book-Scientific book-Scientific monograph
|Biblioteka Hrvatska povjesnica. Monografije i studije ;
|ISSN of series or publishing unit
|Numeration of series or publishing unit
|Printed book publication date
|Type of resource
|Hrvatki institut za povijest