STORIES FROM SLOVENIA

ZORA JANŽEKOVIČ, A LIFE FOR MEDICINE

But who was or rather what was Zora Janžekovič? She was a Slovenian plastic surgeon who specialized in burn treatment. Zora is a great world star of the medical science. Nevertheless, in Slovenia, she is still overlooked, though her name and photo have been entered in course books worldwide. Zora was hardworking, highly imaginative and perseverant.

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As a child, she observed a local doctor at work, which is what made her enthusiastic about medicine and want to become a medical doctor herself. This was a rather unusual choice for a girl during a time when medicine was still dominated by men. She studied medicine at the University of Zagreb. During her studies she fell in love with a Ukrainian student and they both worked in the Varaždin hospital during the Second World War where Zora gained a lot of experience. Then she spent several years waiting for her intern place in the Department of plastic surgery at the Ljubljana University Clinic Centre. Though she was a highly committed young doctor she could not avoid being looked down by her male colleagues. Like in many European countries, the profession of surgeon was considered to be too stressing for women and therefore not accessible for them. Zora persisted and developed a method of immediate burn treatment, cutting off the dead tissue and covering it by a patient’s own skin. It was a breakthrough in plastic surgery. But again, being a female doctor, working in a small hospital in Maribor with little funding at her disposal and on the top of it behind the Iron Curtain, Zora Janžekovič had to struggle against many stereotypes. It was difficult to change mentalities and the indoctrinated minds of her colleagues. Crucial for her professional and scientific recognition was a congress of plastic surgery in Ljubljana in 1968 where she presented her method (1335 patients, well documented treatment with photos and films). From then on surgeons from the entire world were coming to Maribor to learn from her. She became a world icon in her specialty (but also a monster, difficult to work with, the mad woman from Yugoslavia, etc.) arguing that burn wounds get contaminated from inappropriate treatment and not from the environment. She co-founded a ward of plastic surgery in her hospital and at an advanced age a Foundation for students of medicine originating from Slovenska Bistrica. She drastically diminished contamination cases and was listed one of the 25 most influential medical doctors in the world. Despite this, in Slovenia she is still unknown.

 

Literature and References

Janžekovič, Zora. 2008. Once upon a Time … How West Discovered East. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery 61 (3): 240– 244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjps.2008.01.001

Veljko Vlaisavljević. (ur.) “Zora Janžekovič”. Poglavje v knjigi Osebnosti slovenske medicine MatTv Maribor, 2011

ANGELA VODE

Angela Vode (1892–1985) was born into a poor working-class family. Her name has been one of the most hidden names after the Second World War. Before the war, she was an educator (women could only be teachers or wives), leader of feminine movements and a left-wing politician. She published several books among which the most visible is Gender and Fate.

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She was an early member of the Communist Party when it was still secret in 1940. Due to her loud opposing the Stalin-Ribbentrop Pact she was excluded from the party. In the so-called Nagode’s Trial in 1947, Angela Vode was accused of being a spy, an enemy of the working class and on the payroll of foreign governments. Sentenced to 20-year imprisonment she was released in 1953 due to her health condition. Till her death in 1985, she was leading a forgotten, isolated life away from public eyes without the right to work, to social and health insurance, but she was following and analysing political developments, remaining critical of the doings of her former “comrades”. In the 70s, she wanted both to review her life and social developments. After her death, the manuscript was safely hidden to be published only much later in 2004 titled Hidden Memory. The book deals with feminist and revolutionary movements before the Second World War.

Angela Vode was brought up as it was normal for girls to be brought up in then Austro-Hungarian Empire (to become teachers or wives!). Once married, women were forced (by law) to give up their teaching job. Supposedly, married female teachers would be a bad and immoral role model for young girls. Angela worked as a teacher until 1917 when she was dismissed for being a member of an anti-Austria youth movement. She then studied special education in Prague, Berlin and Vienna to become a teacher of children with disabilities.

She wrote Women in Contemporary Society where she admitted natural differences between men and women but required gender social equality. Vode urged women to learn about the past and society to improve their social position. She argued that a healthy marriage should be based on love, friendship, mutual respect, understanding but also economic independence. She said, “…women are an organic part of human society, nation, state and family just like men, their life and position being equally dependent on political, economic, and cultural developments.” She also emphasized that a demand for women’s participation in public life was legitimate.

 

Literature and References

Vode, Angela (1998) Spol in upor. Zbrana dela Angele Vode (Eng.Gender and Resistance)

Vode, Angela (2004) Skriti spomin. Ljubljana: Nova revija (Eng. The Hidden Memory) Wiess, Maja: Skriti spomin (film) Alenka Puhar about Angela Vode https://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/razlicni-prispevki/31638842?jwsource=cl

Gerda Taro
1910 - 1937

Pioneer of war photography
Gerda Taro, nee Gerta Pohorylle, was born in Stuttgart and educated in Leipzig, Germany. As she is from a Jewish family, she flees from the Nazis to Paris in 1933. There she lives a bohemian lifestyle with her friend Ruth Cerf and eventually meets Endre Ernő Friedmann, better known today as Robert Capa. Together, they start documenting the Spanish Civil War in 1935, after Gerda had invented their alter egos in order to better sell Endre's and her own pictures. Inspired by their own political convictions, they only take pictures of the the fight of the republican troops against the rebellious franquist troops. Both of them try to be as close to the action as possible - a goal which eventually led to Gerda's death. Despite the fact that her pictures only cover 1 year of the war, her pictures are those that went around the world. Together with Robert Capa and with David Seymour, she developed modern war photography as we know it today during this short period of time. Since she officially was Capa's agent and he sold many of her pictures as his own, it took until the 2000s until people began to recognize her as an artist in her own right rather than only his partner: In 2007, the so-called Mexican Suitcase was found in Mexico City, a suitcase containing thousands of negatives believed lost by Capa, Taro and Seymour. Since then, many photographs originally attributed to Capa are known to have been taken by Gerda. However, during her short life, Taro was well known and when she was killed in 1937 by a tank, - she was only 26 - thousands of people attended her funeral in Paris. The funeral procession, led by Pablo Neruda and Louis Aragon, became a demonstration against fascism.

Marie-Claire Chevalier
1955 - 2022

The one whose trial for illegal abortion changed the law against abortion in France
In 1971, Marie-Claire Chevalier was 16 years old when she became pregnant after being raped by a boy two years older than her in high school. The young woman asked her mother to help her have an abortion. The mother turned to an underground doctor, but her daughter suffered a hemorrhage that forced her to the hospital. Her rapist, arrested for stealing a car, decides to turn her in against his own freedom. She is directly accused, as are four other women, including her mother, because in 1971 the voluntary termination of a pregnancy was illegal in France and punishable by six months to two years in prison. She was then convicted at the Bobigny trial and all were defended by lawyer Gisèle Halimi. Gisèle Halimi made of this trial and of Marie-Claire Chevalier a political symbol for the right to abortion. The case will forever mark French history and symbolize real progress for women's rights. Extremely mediatized, the trial closely followed by many personalities ends on a brilliant victory. Three years later this judgement, things started to move. This event contributed to the adoption of the Veil law and the legalization of abortion in France in 1975.

Having suffered greatly from this trial, she attempted suicide. Then, she chose to return to anonymity by changing her name. At her death, she received tributes from the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron and feminist associations.

Maria Lejárraga
1874 – 1974

She was writing and her husband harvesting the glory, fame and money!
Writer, feminist, deputy, polyglot and socialist who opposed to the death penalty and legal prostitution. She advocated for education, work and equal rights for women in Spain. A very open-minded and visionary woman who had to pay a high price imposed by her gender.

María Lejárraga comes from the region of La Rioja from an economically stable middle class family. She was able to receive good education and became a teacher. During her teaching career she discovered her passion for writing. She was very talented and ready to share her ideas and stories with the world. But, that´s where she bumped into a big obstacle. At the beginning of the XX century being a female writer was seen as immoral work, especially for an educator. If she had risked meeting her goals, she could have lost her teaching job. She found a solution to this problem in her marriage by publishing her works under her husband's name. So, she was writing and waiting at home and he was the one receiving praise and applause at the premiers of the plays. Before dying, her husband confirmed the rumours circulating in theatre circles that she was the true author of his works.
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Maria Lejárraga
1874 – 1974

She was writing and her husband harvesting the glory, fame and money!
Writer, feminist, deputy, polyglot and socialist who opposed to the death penalty and legal prostitution. She advocated for education, work and equal rights for women in Spain. A very open-minded and visionary woman who had to pay a high price imposed by her gender.

María Lejárraga comes from the region of La Rioja from an economically stable middle class family. She was able to receive good education and became a teacher. During her teaching career she discovered her passion for writing. She was very talented and ready to share her ideas and stories with the world. But, that´s where she bumped into a big obstacle. At the beginning of the XX century being a female writer was seen as immoral work, especially for an educator. If she had risked meeting her goals, she could have lost her teaching job. She found a solution to this problem in her marriage by publishing her works under her husband's name. So, she was writing and waiting at home and he was the one receiving praise and applause at the premiers of the plays. Before dying, her husband confirmed the rumours circulating in theatre circles that she was the true author of his works.
continue reading

Maria Lejárraga
1874 – 1974

She was writing and her husband harvesting the glory, fame and money!
Writer, feminist, deputy, polyglot and socialist who opposed to the death penalty and legal prostitution. She advocated for education, work and equal rights for women in Spain. A very open-minded and visionary woman who had to pay a high price imposed by her gender.

María Lejárraga comes from the region of La Rioja from an economically stable middle class family. She was able to receive good education and became a teacher. During her teaching career she discovered her passion for writing. She was very...
continue reading