Heritage Trails through Dolenjska and Bela krajina




The beginnings of Zgornji Hrastnik hospital reach back to mid-February 1943 when in the hamlet of Smrečnik near Komarna Vas, a hospital and rehabilitation facility at Hrastnik was established. It was located in the only house and farm buildings that were not burnt. In spring, two buildings were erected in the forest above the hamlet, which were the predecessors of Spodnji Hrastnik hospital. In mid-June at the beginning of the Italian offensive, the wounded were evacuated and accommodated in these two buildings, but after some time, they were moved again to the Škrilj rehabilitation unit in the village of Štale. The unit operated until the German offensive of October 1943 when the wounded were moved again. They were hidden in a makeshift camp on Bukova Gorica.

This was the founding of Zgornji Hrastnik hospital. It was the first hospital in Kočevski Rog that was not built in a deep hollow but high on the slopes of a hill. Initially, it comprised only two buildings with beds and a roof for the kitchen. The first building was a dormitory for recovering patients, called "the kennel". It was built of rough logs and measured 8 x 5.5 metres. Next to it, a roof for a makeshift kitchen was erected, which after a proper kitchen was built served as a laundry. In the same year, a second building was constructed to accommodate the personnel.

In late December 1943 Dr Janez Milčinski - Peter became the new manager of the hospital. Under his guidance, the project of the expansion of the hospital was initiated in early 1944. It gradually transformed the facility into a hospital for the badly wounded and for demanding operations. In late January a new surgery was built, called "aseptika". Prior to that, operations had been carried out in the dormitory for the wounded, on the table at which the patients took their meals or on a bed with the surgeon kneeling down next to it. The new surgery contained a new operating table and all necessary furniture, made by the hospital's carpenter according to the plans of Dr Milčinski. His plans were later used for the equipment of surgeries in all Rog hospitals. The building had two large windows and a large opening in the ceiling, which provided ample light. With the construction of "aseptika", a line was drawn between aseptic and septic surgery in partisan hospitals.

In late February another large building for the wounded was erected; the patients called it "septika", because it contained a facility for septic surgery. There, a bacteriological laboratory was set up in mid June 1944 for the needs of the Slovene Central War Partisan Hospital. In April, several child births took place at the hospital.

In late March, the construction of a kitchen with a brick stove and closed hearths for cauldrons was finished. Two other small buildings accommodated a bakery and a warehouse. In case of imminent danger, a camouflaged bunker was built for the wounded. For all Rog hospitals, an evacuation plan in several stages was prepared. It was very important that no footprints led to any of the hospitals. The only way to enter Zgornji Hrastnik hospital was to step off the Komarna Vas road at a specific spot and climb onto a cliff. From there one had to walk on fallen tree trunks and through thick bushes to a path that finally led to the hospital.

In almost a year and a half of the hospital's operations, over 400 wounded were treated at the facility. Most of them were seriously wounded. Sixty-nine died.