• Pia Žižek
Keywords: Second World War, Slovenia, Styria, history of medicine, Partisan medical care, Partisan hospital, Partisan doctors


The Second World War created a caesura in various spheres of life, including medical care. Many doctors and nurses in Slovenia joined the Partisan movement and helped organise medical care. The first activities were undertaken in 1942, followed a year later by the development of the first rudimentary, clandestine partisan medical stations acting as hospitals. Nearly 15 000 patients with injuries and illnesses were treated in such partisan medical facilities. The staff included 244 doctors and dentists, 260 medical students, 38 nurses and more than 3 000 ad hoc trained medics. This article presents the “Celje” partisan hospital from the Upper Savinja Valley, focusing on the testimonies of Partisan doctors and other witnesses who provided first-hand accounts about everyday life in this and other Partisan medical facilities. The main source of information was the notes of surgeon Dr Robert Kukovec, which date from the final year of the war. Dr Kukovec was among the few individuals who left behind a written account of the wartime events they had witnessed, offering an insight into the tragedy of war. His account also depicts many sombre moments but also rare bright ones, in particular the yearning for the freedom that destiny prevented Dr Kukovec from experiencing, given that he was killed less than a month before the end of the war.