Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts (Latvia), Grodno State Museum of the History of Religion (Belarus) and Panevezys Local Lore Museum (Lithuania) joint virtual exhibition – Medicine.

Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts

We wish a good health to others on every anniversary, because we are aware of how important it is to feel good. But not only cars and toys may break, but also health, and then it is the last moment to look for medicines and doctors who will “repair” us soon. We can say for sure that the treatment is as old and different as the whole of humanity – this time about some of its aspects in the materials of the collection of the Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts.

The Saint Book, the beginning of the 20th century

Also known as the Book of Heaven, it is a genre of pseudo-religious literature and its origins dates back to the 6th century in the Western Europe, but in the territory of Latvia such “books” became popular with the increase of literacy in the society from the end of the 18th century till the beginning of the 20th century. The Holy Book contains various beliefs and assumptions about “successful days”, holy words, sins, and healing practices (toothache, nosebleeds etc.). For example, women in labour are offered to hold this book in hands to ease the process of childbirth.

The spread of such a book was based on its repeated rewriting, with small additions, while cursing anyone who would hinder its spread. In general, this “book” is a relatively short, but in essence bright written source about the various views and perceptions of society in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Medicine bottles from the Preili pharmacy. Middle of the 20th century

The origins of pharmacies can be traced to the market squares of cities and villages, where the first pharmacists – men of medicine – had the opportunity to sell harvested medicinal plants and their parts – roots, leaves, flowers, etc. for making various teas and decoctions at home. Around the 15th century more and more effective drug mixtures are starting to appear in the offer of pharmacies, which increases the need for specific knowledge of chemistry, as well as new types of metal and glass containers, which would allow long-term storage of manufactured drugs, preventing them from spoiling too quickly. Different sizes of dishes, mortals and pestles and hand scales – all in the arsenal of every pharmacist. Initially, the necessary utensils were made of wood, but gradually they were also made of stone and iron, while the ceramic (porcelain) and glassware in pharmacies was the latest, gaining wider use only in end of the 18th century – beginning of the 19th century.

The number of pharmacies in Preili has changed at different times. The first known pharmacy belonged to the pharmacist Hugo Stein in 1880, in 1927 year the second pharmacy was opened. In the oldest pharmacy building of Preili the pharmacy is working also today.

Preili hospital area. 1. Preili Hospital building. 1924. 2. Staff and patients of Preili Hospital. 1930ties. 3. A view on the territory of Preili Hospital. 1960ties. 4. The new Preili Hospital building. 1998.

The earliest information about a doctor in Preili dates back to 1836, when it is known that Volfgan Savelij worked as a doctor in Preili manor. In the second half of the 19th century, when the Russian Empire began to build a comprehensive network of rural hospitals and paramedics at the state level, the first medical institution – hospital in Preili was founded in 1859. But access to health care in Preili remained very limited – doctors working here did not stay long, not to mention the availability of professional equipment. The situation remained unchanged until the beginning of the 20th century.

In the interwar period in Preiļi you could get medical help in the former manor property – in a luxurious building on Raina Boulevard. This house is also the starting point of the modern Preiļi hospital, gradually starting to attract doctors of various specialties. The development of the hospital was stopped by the events of World War II, when the most valuable and necessary hospital equipment (beds, X-rays etc.) was taken away by the retreating occupation authorities.

After December 31, 1949, when the Preili district was established, the development of the Preili Hospital became a priority for the entire region. The number of doctors and beds increased, new hospital departments were established. With the demolition of the Old Believers’ Church in 1961, the territory of the hospital was expanded by building a policlinic, but in 1992 the new building of the intensive care hospital was completed. Over time, Preiļi Hospital has become an important regional hospital and urban dominant with several nearby buildings, pharmacies, private clinic, morgue and nursing home.

Hrodna State Museum of the History of Religion

Grodno is the most important center of medicine development in Belarus. So, on December 15, 1586, there was performed the first anatomical autopsy in Eastern Europe. The purpose of the study was to confirm or refute the version about the poisoning of Stefan Batory, the Polish king and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who died suddenly three days before. In 1775, a medical academy was opened in Grodno. It was the first institution on the territory of Belarus where certified doctors were trained. Today, there is one of the largest educational and scientific centers in Belarus, which trains highly qualified doctors. It is Grodno State Medical University.

The collections of the Grodno State Museum of the History of Religion contain artifacts of the 17th-20th centuries related to medicine. Some of them are presented within the framework of this virtual exhibition.

Photo of the building of Grodno Medical Academy. Grodno, 1931

Grodno Medical Academy is considered to be the first higher medical educational institution in Belarus. It was opened in 1775 on the initiative of Antoni Tyzenhauz, the Grodno headman, with the support of Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A specially invited French scientist Jean Emmanuel Gilibert became the director of the academy. He was supposed not only to organize the educational process, but also to assist in the development of the health care system. The students of the academy were mainly children of officers and peasants from the estates that were managed by Antoni Tyzengauz. The treasury provided the students with everything they needed.

Studying at the academy combined theoretical and practical studies. There were well-known scientists in Europe among the teachers. During the existence of the educational institution (1775-1781), several dozen specialists were trained, who were sent to work in the state estates of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After the resignation of Antoni Tyzenhaus, the Medical Academy was transferred to Vilno.  On its basis the Medical Faculty of the Main School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the predecessor of Vilno University, was created. It is characteristic that this move was facilitated by Marcin Poczobutt-Odlanicki, the famous astronomer and mathematician. He was born near Grodno and accompanied King Stanislav August many times during his stay in Grodno estates.

A building has survived, which was built in the 1770s by the architect Giuseppe de Sacco in the Baroque style for the medical academy. Around the building Jean Emmanuel Gilibert founded a botanical garden. There were more than 2000 species of rare and medicinal plants. Now, there is a city park named after Jean Emmanuel Gilibert on the site of the botanical garden.

Book “Swamp Fever”. Trempovich (1888-1956). Minsk, 1926

Swamp fever is an outdated name for malaria, one of the most dangerous diseases that is now typical for tropical countries with hot and humid climate. It is all the more surprising that recently malaria was a very serious problem in our latitudes. The doctors attached great importance to fight against malaria. The main carriers of malaria pathogens are blood-sucking mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, which are widespread in Belarus, especially in Polesie. In the 1930s, up to 9 million cases of malaria were observed in the USSR; in the first post-war years, the situation was especially aggravated. Thanks to large-scale efforts the sources of the disease were eliminated. Since the 1960s, only single cases of malaria have been recorded in Belarus, usually among people coming from other countries.

The author of the book is the famous physician and public figure of the first half of the 20th century Pavel Trempovich, Consul General of the Belarusian People’s Republic in Kiev (1918). In the 1920s, he was the head of the Department of Operative Surgery at the Medical Faculty of the Belarusian State University, worked at the Institute of Belarusian Culture, the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. Pavel Trempovich was a member of the terminological commission on the problems of medical vocabulary, which, focusing on the Basel anatomical nomenclature (1895), as well as ethnolinguistic studies of the Institute of Belarusian Culture and a number of other publications, created a three-volume dictionary “Nomina anatomica alboruthenica” (1926-1929), containing 7610 Belarusian anatomical terms.

In 1930-1931, together with many other prominent figures of Belarusian culture and science, Pavel Trempovich was repressed in the fabricated case of the Union for the Liberation of Belarus and sentenced to five years of deportation to Astrakhan. From 1941 he worked in various positions at the Vinnitsa Medical Institute (Ukraine). He died in Kiev in 1956. In 1988 Pavel Trempovich, together with other defendants in the case of the Union for the Liberation of Belarus, was rehabilitated.

Liebreich’s ophthalmoscope with case. England. Late 19th – early 20th century

In the middle of the 19th century, there was a rapid development of various fields of medicine, which was accompanied by the emergence of new technical means. In 1850, the first ophthalmoscope was developed by Hermann von Helmholtz, but even in Germany, alternative designs were used for a long time. One of the most common was the system described in 1855 by the physician Richard Liebreich. Soon, on the basis of his scheme, Berlin opticians Patz and Flohr made a sample of the device, which began to be used in medical practice. From 1854 to 1862, Liebreich was an assistant to the leading German ophthalmologist Albrecht von Graefe. The use of the new device allowed Libreich to collect extensive information about the structure and pathologies of the eye, included in his famous “Atlas of Ophthalmoscopy”, published in 1862 in Paris.

Already in the second half of the 19th century, the ophthalmoscope became a must-have tool for doctors throughout Europe. In their practice, it was used by many Grodno physicians, including, possibly, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist and creator of the international language Esperanto, who from 1893 to 1897 worked in Grodno. Interestingly, Zamenhof was a friend of the French ophthalmologist Louis Émile Javal, who also worked for Albrecht von Graefe and is known, in addition to outstanding successes in medicine and especially in the rehabilitation of people who have lost their sight, for conducting a handwriting examination in the famous “Dreyfus case” (Alfred Dreyfus) (1894-1906).

Panevėžys Local Lore Museum

Panevėžys county Hospital in 1918 – 1940.

In 1918, after the restoration of independence, Panevėžys Hospital did not have its own premises.

With the consent of the Volost municipalities, in 1923 a wooden hospital building in Smėlynės street was built by County Board. At the same time, the former manor buildings, which were received with this land-plot were being repaired. The development of the Hospital took place throughout whole period of independence. In 1924 a brick annex was added to the new wooden building. In 1930 a two-storey brick palace has been erected, which has been equipped with central heating, water supply and sewerage, and the number of beds increased to 120. As the range of services expanded, in 1937, according to the project of architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis, a brick enlargement of the main building was built, and the hospital capacity increased to 150 beds.

An interesting exhibit is kept in the Panevęžys Local Lore Museum – a photo album of Panevėžys Hospital and its employees, 1933, compiled by photographer J. Paura.

The album contains photos of the hospital buildings’ exterior and interior and the hospital staff. They illustrate how the surgery room, surgical department, dressing room, surgical ward, corridor, patient wards, maternity ward, neonatal room, x-ray room, electrotherapy room, outpatient interior, kitchen, laundry room, boiler room looked like at the time.

1st Photo album page: new hospital building and hospital director the surgeon Stanislovas Mačiulis.

The brick two-storey hospital building has been erected in 1928–1930 by the project of architect Romanas Steikūnas. S. Mačiulis, in 1919 after graduating from the St. Petersburg Academy of Military Medicine and in 1922 when he returned to Lithuania for some time he served as a doctor in the Lithuanian Army. He headed the Panevėžys Hospital from 1930 to 1940. During this time, the hospital expanded significantly and became a modern medical facility. At the same time, S. Mačiulis also headed the surgery department and in 1938 he raised his qualification in Berlin. In 1941, while assisting the wounded in a hospital, he was arrested by retreating Soviet activists. In 1941 June 26 he was brutally tortured together with surgeons Antanas Gudonis, Juozas Žemgulis, the sister of mercy Zinaida Emilija Kanis-Kanevičienė.

2nd Photo album page: surgeon’s assistant Antanas Čerškus and surgery room.

In 1929 – 1936 A. Čerškus worked in Utena hospital, Panevėžys county and Kaunas military hospital. In 1932 he graduated the Faculty of Medicine of Vytautas Magnus University. Since 1933 every four years, all doctors had to raise their qualification in foreign clinics by the hospital funds, thus A. Čerškus improved his skills in Paris. In 1936–1944 he headed the Surgery department of Rokiškis County Hospital. In 1944 retired to the West, since 1949 lived in the U.S.A., worked at St. Louis Veterans Hospital (State of Missouri).

3rd Photo album page: X-ray room and its head, doctor Janina Stancevičiūtė.

An X-ray room and an electrotherapy room were set up in the hospital in 1931. J. Stancevičiūtė (later Stankevičienė-Stankus) has been working as an assistant in the Department of Internal Medicine, Children, and Infectious Diseases at the hospital since 1932, and since 1933 as the head of the X-ray room. In 1935 she studied radiology for two months with Professor August Rollier in Leisen, Switzerland. In the late 1930s, she headed the Department of Pediatrics.

About the project ENI-LLB-1-244 “Promotion of historical and culture cross border heritage through museums innovations” 

The project aims to build a cross border cooperation platform creating preconditions for ensuring the increasing interest of tourists and visitors about the cultural and historical heritage in the border area of Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus.

This project is funded by the European Union

Project budget: 367 864.64 EUR, EU funding 331 078.17 EUR

Project implementation period: 1st of June 2020 – 31st of May 2022

European Neighbourhood Instrument Cross-border Cooperation Programme Latvia-LithuaniaBelarus 2014-2020

http://europa.eu/;

http://www.eni-cbc.eu/llb

https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/belarus_en