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Carola Szilvássy – Illustrated Diary

Carola Szilvássy worked as a volunteer nurse during the First World War. It proved to be a watershed moment in her life. She officially completed the school of midwifery, and was authorized to travel to the front where she worked as an assistant nurse to surgeons, gathering experiences and steadfastly tending the injured. She spent two years on the Russian-Polish front, and every day made notes in her diary about what had happened. Her concise, laconic observations create a picture of the fate of nameless soldiers the baroness attended to with great compassion. Among the objective accounts of war there are very many exclamation marks, which accurately portray the tension and anger that built up in Carola.

From her notes we find out who, for instance, Sándor Kiss, Gyula Batthyány and Hans Éder are, but also what played an important role in her everyday life overshadowed by war. Communal dining, playing music and regular carriage driving also proved worthy of note even on spiritually depressing days. In 1917, her self-sacrificing service was recognized with the Order of Elizabeth, First Class.

The following are just a few noteworthy excerpts from Carola’s diary.
23 August
Finally. The call-up papers have arrived! 11 at night from the Red Cross hospital! Walking with the sergeant, then drunken cab driver and his wife!! To the Military District Command. Etc., etc. Preparations on 24–25, then on our way from 26.
26 August
Off at 3 in the morning!!!! At Oradea (Nagyvárad) station in guest rooms, in the city, in Valea lui Mihai (Érdmihályfalva) 400 Russian prisoners (5 officers) cheered wildly! In the evening in Carei (Nagykároly), a great ovation for us! On the morning of 27, 500 injured awaited at the Island, but we had to leave earlier. We met them at noon at Nagybácska, there were no officers or seriously injured! Cowardly priest!!!! We hear sometimes the best and sometimes the worst news station by station! At Kőrösmező, champagne supper with lieutenant colonel Körösi!
29 September
Away at 9 in morning! At Gálcsécs Gyula Batthiányi! Lunch Ungvár! Half past three Berezna Mare (Nagy Berezna)! At the house of the robbed pharmacist! In his room with suspicion of cholera! At post office, lieutenant talked about yesterday’s stupid panic! Frugal supper!! Downpour! Fever, storm! Elemér arrives with Lajos Windischgratz and Márton for potato soup! They were searching for deserter Vlachs in the evening!! Campaign plan!!! Gendarmes wanted to catch Márti! Complaints of the old doctor! Village full of cholera patients!
9 October
6 in the morning inside, in the kitchen in Bosnia, huge rumpus! Excellent breakfast! Priests talk about their awful night spent in the church! Good billet! 22nd regiment captured the hill above Turka! Several hundred Russian prisoners taken! German injured at the house!
16 November
Long walk in the hills! Forgiven to Sipos! First at the doctor! Slovak boy thinks I am spy! We attack on our left wing, but to our bad luck at Uzsok Pass Viennese Sandsturm flees! In the evening dressing stations set up! Sehrer brings bad news! Work till half past midnight! Unsettled, dreamless night!
17 June
8 in the morning, march into Reserve-Spital! Kind Polish regimental surgeon! Dumb Polish doctor! Complaints from Viennese doctor! Good surgeon! Touching Slovenian! Kind Hungarians! Terrible amount of work! Until 7 in evening! Poor painter is nervous! In the evening Gyula Batthiányi, Inkey, Bogyay, Balla! Grodek is ours! Here, we lost 100 in two days!
13 July
All injured away, only 10 left! Very little work! At noon, in afternoon, beautiful places with Balla, by carriage over meadows and forests! Hills on a stunning plank! Erzsébet Order arrives! Hindenburg bombards Warsaw with 600 canons! Kiss bids farewell. Major Fehervári taken by Hoffmann!
10 August
In the morning much dressing! After 10 away! Breakfast with Eder! Then on train! Leave for Stanislau at half past 11! Half past three arrival! Other hospitals! In shops! Singing Hungarian soldiers! Dinner with music!
7 October
Diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Russia collapse. Little work. Carriage driving and lunch with Kiss! Difficulties at Pruth bridge! Carriage driving in afternoon with Éder! Signum evening, Kiss and Eder! Hase sings! Before, Balla at supper!
7 November
Amputated Hungarian boy without fever for first time! Sükösd in street! Nurses taken on! Cinema! Quotations in piquant film! Eder at supper! Illyés with violin! Excellent evening etc. etc.
18 December
Balla back. In the afternoon, singing rehearsal with Józsika! Odescalchi with me! Before that, big problem! Pfanner, with Sükösd with me for a minute! In hospital, Polish carriage driver lied! Huge excitement! Balla for supper with me! + half film. To cinema Jósika. Dobelhof.
5 January
Successes on the whole front! Even more work! 14 anaesthetics! Kiss at supper! Then Eder, Balla! I go to bed!
24 February
Resection! I am assisting! Then Trebits! Soon after lunch Eder, then later in atelier! Eder paints Szent. T) cinema after hospital, poor detective film ) with Eder and Balla! At home telegrams are waiting! Márika died! Tragic and so incomprehensible! I send Eder away! Alone in the evening!? I go to bed, awake till 3!
6 March
Nervous day! In morning Hernia appendicitis operation! Then Elemér in hospital! After lunch 10 minutes atelier! After supper Balla, Eder, we get home from the hospital at half past seven! And then at the doctors! With Elemér at night!
21 April
Eder on duty! I am assisting at a long, middle ear “radical surgery”! Pfanners invite me to Czernovizt. I am not going. At noon with Sükösd and Majevszky! Long chat with former on street! Dinner with Kiss, then Szent., Inkey, Balla. Night duty at cadets.
10 May
Rather a lot of work. Kiss made captain yesterday. […] At noon with Eder in their garden talking about the excursion! Then tea with three of us! Carriage driving with Eder! Half past 8 to Pfanners! Torchlight procession etc. etc.! Acquaintances! Constables being nice! Flattering, vile people! After dinner, Kiss and Eder!
15 June
Great confusion with hospitals! In afternoon with lieutenant colonel Bihar! […] Very courteous, kind! With him at railway, before Mrs. Pfanner! Mrs. Jámbor cheeky! Turns out Lukrécia is an adventurer! Last year she was turned out of Huszt!
12 July
Lot of work, new injured! Balla did not go! With me from 12 to 1! After lunch I was at Szin! With me home! Bathes, sleeps, travels! I go carriage driving by myself into beautiful treasury forest! Mrs. Pfanner feels unwell! Walk with A.! Beautiful evening!
5 August
New injured! Baranya! Mrs. Pfanner, Eder are already there waiting! Very good evening! On 18 at table! Sternbergs go to Maramureș (Máramaros) Island!
Baroness Elemér Bornemissza, Karola Szilvássy: Candid Notes of Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) (Kendőzetlen feljegyzések Kolozsvárról)