Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Novi Bečej: Overview of health history - from challenges to innovations
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Novi Bečej: Overview of health history - from challenges to innovations

Due to frequent migrations and armed conflicts, Vojvodina has been, perhaps because of that, an area prone to various epidemics such as plague, diphtheria, typhoid fever, smallpox, typhus, bubonic plague, malaria, and others. Consequently, the organization of the healthcare system was more important than for any other region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As a result, the health conditions in Banat, until the drainage of many swamps and marshes, were very harsh. Besides poor water quality and marshes serving as breeding grounds for diseases, housing conditions were also inadequate, thus not providing suitable conditions for a healthy life. Improved housing conditions couldn't be expected as long as life was characterized by frequent migrations caused by wars or floods. Even when these reasons ceased to exist, a primitive way of life, modest work habits, and an agricultural lifestyle, along with the existence of vast expanses of uncultivated land, led the population to frequent relocations. Moving from one place to another was less burdensome if houses were made of reeds and earth mounds, and the new expanses rich in grass made life easier, at least for a certain period.

It took quite a while for agriculture to develop in these regions, providing both for self-sufficiency and surplus for sale. This was achieved somewhere in the 1770s. It was also a sign that people had settled in one place, that populated areas were more tightly knit, and that they wouldn't abandon them without necessity. Settlement necessitated efforts to create conditions for a better life in these areas, including the construction of more stable housing in settlements.

By building embankments along the Tisa, Moris, Begej, and other smaller rivers in the mid-nineteenth century, and providing clean drinking water by digging artesian wells towards the end of the nineteenth century, these regions were freed from frequent epidemics.

Cholera appeared in Europe in the early nineteenth century, except in the Caucasian republics of today's USSR, where it emerged towards the end of the eighteenth century. Several cholera epidemics were recorded in Vojvodina, including Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. The first occurred in 1831, followed by a severe outbreak in 1836, then during the time of the great uprising in 1848–1849, followed by outbreaks in 1866–1867 and 1873. Novi Bečej, especially, suffered greatly from the first two epidemics (1831 and 1836).

Considerable time passed before houses made of wattle and daub, or earth mounds, were replaced with brick houses. Even at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, two-thirds of households in Vranjevo did not have houses but lived in earthen huts and shacks. The poverty of the people didn't allow for the allocation of funds for the construction of expensive buildings, despite the dampness and other health reasons necessitating it.

Houses made of wattle and daub remained the predominant type of residential buildings in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo until the Second World War, while artesian wells only appeared in the last decades of the nineteenth century or the first decades of the twentieth century. Most of the grander buildings in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, excluding churches, elementary schools, municipal buildings, and one tavern in Vranjevo, were built at the beginning of the twentieth century. There might be a few houses in the main street of Novi Bečej built in the second half of the nineteenth century, recognizable by their high roofs covered with small "pepper" tiles.

The first doctors appeared in Novi Bečej at the end of the eighteenth century. We don't have data on the exact year or who the first doctor was, but considering that the first pharmacy in Novi Bečej opened in 1802, there is no doubt that there were doctors practicing several years before the pharmacy.

In 1847, the physician (doctor) Krimer of the Veliki Kikinda district proposed acquiring a skull drill and an amputation instrument for the surgical station in Vranjevo. This suggests that Vranjevo had a doctor several years before that since a barber, who were often called surgeons at the time, couldn't use such instruments for their intended purposes. Barbers at the time performed bloodletting, applied leeches, extracted teeth, and performed minor surgical procedures. They continued performing such interventions until the Second World War. Bloodletting was a relatively common procedure back then, especially among obese and elderly individuals. Blood pressure wasn't measured at the time, so people weren't aware of hypertension, but they knew that bloodletting provided immediate relief to many.

On February 28, 1861, Vranjevo announced a call for a doctor, offering a salary of 500 forints per year and 30 coins per visit "so that the people would not hesitate to call a doctor or experience any abuse from the doctor."

By the application deadline (December 15, 1861), sixteen candidates applied for the position, including seven Jews and only one Serb and one Croat. Dr. Stevan Vasić, born in Ruma in 1810, was unanimously chosen. The selection was confirmed by the District Magistrate on January 25, 1862.

Since nobody in Vranjevo knew Dr. Vasić while Dr. Knapić (the only Croat who applied) was known because Vranjevo had major grain buyers from Sisak and Karlovac, a new election was requested. The representatives of Vranjevo reconvened on January 16, 1862, and the assembly was so tumultuous that news of the rebellion in Vranjevo reached Kikinda, where the District was headquartered. Due to the dispute over the election of the doctor, no conclusion could be reached, so the District Magistrate confirmed Vranjevo's original proposal.

A document—a letter—from the Vranjevo doctor Dr. Stevan Vasić dated August 11, 1862, addressed to the District Magistrate of Veliki Kikinda, states, among other things:

"Just as yesterday, a case of love contagion—Syphilis—appeared with a craftsman in Vranjevo, who approached the undersigned for treatment, complaining that he contracted the said disease from a prostitute in Bela Ladja Novobečejska fifteen days ago—so there are also several cases of the mentioned disease from previous times, which have appeared in several peasant families due to similar contacts."

This letter indicates that Novi Bečej already had a doctor at that time. If Kikinda mentions "the first physician of the district Tobias Hayn" as early as 1792, and already in 1795, the surgeon Milčok, it can be assumed that Novi Bečej also had a doctor at the end of the eighteenth century, which is confirmed by the opening of the first pharmacy in Novi Bečej in 1802, while the pharmacy in Kikinda was opened two years later (1804). Doctors, as nicely confirmed by the Kikinda case, preceded pharmacies because pharmacies without doctors and their prescriptions were ineffective.

It's worth noting Dr. Ljubomir Pavlović, a Novi Bečej doctor who was very persistent in advocating for the digging of artesian wells in Novi Bečej and the Novi Bečej district. He argued that even the last cholera epidemic in 1893, which had catastrophic consequences, was caused by contaminated water. Thanks to Dr. Pavlović's efforts, Novi Bečej got its first artesian wells at the end of the nineteenth century, although water from the Tisa River and ordinary wells continued to be used for drinking and cooking for a long time. Tisa water, in particular, was used for drinking for a long time.

Until the Second World War, a good number of farming families in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, whose houses were closer to the Tisa River, used Tisa water for drinking and cooking. To ensure safer water collection, the municipalities built four rafts, called "water carriers," which were fenced, and from which women would fetch water from the Tisa River with buckets. One "water carrier" was located towards Čika Ljubina Street, another towards Jaša Tomić Street, and the third towards Svetozar Miletić Street, in the immediate vicinity of the ferry. Vranjevo also had one "water carrier" behind the ruins of the Novi Bečej fortress. Probably because of this, there were no artesian wells in the areas closer to the Tisa River until 1932. An exception was the so-called Pivnički well located in Novi Bečej at the corner of Vuka Karadžića Street and Sonja Marinković Street.

Dr. Ljubomir Pavlović, thanks to, among other things, his persistence in advocating for the digging of artesian wells, became very popular throughout the district, so he had the courage to run for parliament in the Hungarian Parliament, replacing the long-standing district deputy for the Novi Bečej district, Gedeon Rohonci. In this battle, which was not without pressure, violence, and sabotage from Rohonci, the people placed their trust in Dr. Pavlović.

After the First World War, Novi Bečej had five or six doctors. This number remained until the Second World War. They were: Dr. Goldman, Dr. Grin, Dr. Stakić, Dr. Simić, and Dr. Kubaj (three Jews and two Serbs). Just before the war, Dr. Spajić and Dr. Fišer also arrived, but at that time, Dr. Kubaj and Dr. Goldman left Novi Bečej and ceased working. In Vranjevo, until 1932, there was a doctor, Dr. Miloš Vasić, and after him, Dr. Živojin Ćeremov until the Second World War, and beyond, who was the most popular doctor in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo.

After the First World War, there were two pharmacies in Novi Bečej, one first owned by pharmacist Jasnić, then Stanojević (later bought by Oto Knizl), and the other, located where the pharmacy in Novi Bečej is today, was owned by Ladislav Gulović.

According to the claims of elderly residents of Vranjevo, initially, the pharmacy in Vranjevo was located at the corner of today's Bore Glavački and Svetozar Marković streets, and it was run by pharmacist Kasander, then later by Mladen Vasić. Later on, the pharmacy was relocated to the corner of Svetozar Marković and Josif Marinković streets. Initially, it was managed by Deže Bizek, and later by Gliša Veselinov.

In addition to doctors and pharmacies, Novi Bečej also had a midwife who, until the Second World War, wasn't very busy because the majority of childbirths were still being carried out within families with the assistance of an older woman from the family or the neighborhood.

A public steam bath was opened in Novi Bečej in the 1930s, but it had low usage, so the owner, Horvat, struggled to make ends meet.

Certainly, we cannot be satisfied with the current health conditions in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, although they have significantly improved with the construction of numerous sanitary houses and apartments, the introduction of plumbing, and access to clean drinking water. However, there are still many houses that fail to meet even the minimum hygiene standards. In addition to issues like dampness and earthen floors, there are problems such as outdoor toilets, unresolved sewage systems for the entire Novi Bečej and Vranjevo area, and the ongoing issue of waste disposal.

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