When the Prussians Came to Poland - L. DeGozdawa

An Aeroplane Visits Us—and a Crippled Lazarette

One afternoon my husband and I, after some hard work in the hospital, were drinking tea in a cukiernia—when an aeroplane bombarded the town! Ah! That is the time each seeks what is nearest to his heart! There was a wild fusillade of bullets—even the men in the town taking a shot—firing madly; but the aeroplane got off—free—after dropping a number of bombs and doing astonishingly little damage. One bomb struck the Boys' Trade School—fatally injuring the little four-year-old son of the caretaker.

On the 28th day of August—my birthday—a Russian Sister came to me to see if we could help their hospital—a field lazarette, with about one hundred and fifty beds. They had been turned back from the front and could not get supplies. There were three doctors, four nurses, and various orderlies—quartered in one of the barracks—with almost seven hundred wounded! Of course the staff were exhausted, and no supplies! What could four nurses do with such a mass of humanity? I went there with some of my people to see what could be done to help out. The memory of that place will always remain, for there, for the first time, I came face to face with awful suffering. At the very door one heard the low murmur of misery; one room after another packed with men, who could not be helped. There were no medicines—no disinfectants—no linen. In one corner were some prisoners. The sister (nurse) on duty asked me to go to them because I spoke German. One poor fellow, turning restlessly from side to side—calling ceaselessly for water—was quieted when I spoke to him, asking what he wanted. He begged for a drink, and that I should write to his wife, as he felt death upon him. While I was doing what was possible to help him, the poor fellow began to talk. He told me that he had been a bookkeeper, that he was twenty-six years old, and had a wife and children, a little house of his own, had never harmed any one in his life, took no interest in anything outside of his work and family, until with three hours' notice he was ordered to join his regiment, and leave it all.

"The great lords have quarreled and we must pay for it with our blood, our wives, and children." This man was transported that same day, and died on the way to the station.

So hopeless it was trying to help until there was something to help with, that I drove back to the city to see different people, and in a short time had gathered more than a thousand roubles with which to replenish the lazarette—bandages, cotton-wool, sublimate, plaster, aspirin, iodine, etc., and a great share of our spiritus. It was pitiful to see how the sisters rejoiced to get the things!

In my own hospital there was great dissatisfaction because so much was given to someone else. I had a battle royal over the linen I insisted on giving, but my husband was on my side and we gave all that was absolutely necessary to the lazarette, and afterwards regretted that it was not more, for the Germans got all that linen and our supplies! I remember the gentlemen still played cards then—and to my fund for the lazarette went all the money won.

In that lazarette for the first and only time I had to give up and go away for a moment to keep from fainting—for on a cot I saw what appeared to be a ball of cotton and bandages—with three black holes, just as if a child had drawn mouth and nose and eyes—and the flies! ... It was a shock to hear a voice with a cultured accent coming from such an object—a Polish voice begging whoever it was not to go away, but to give him water; his hands were burned to a crisp, he could not move, and the flies! . . . The odor from the gangrene was so awful that I was overpowered for a time—but, afterwards, sent my maid home for netting, as much as she could find; and then helped the sister in charge to rebandage and veil that remnant of a man. He had been near a bursting shell—and lain four days in the field after he was wounded. He asked if his eyes were burned away.

"Yes—quite gone." If he would live or die?—


"God has not forgotten me—but please, then, let me drink—drink."