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