Salvation and hope: Dr Milos Dj. Popovich and the scouting movement in the Kingdom of Serbia
History of Medicine reached its apex in the second half of 19th century. Thanks to the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, as stated by Dr. Mika Markovich, Medical Science was turned upside down. New findings were telling us that it did matter where one lived, what, where and how one worked, what kind of water a person drank, and the kind of habits one had. As the old proverb goes: „ Better prevent than cure“, was a standing warning, asking everyone to change the old habits.
But in Serbia old habits still ruled. There were very few doctors at the time, and those few were not well regarded by, either their own people or by the authorities.
Situation was not as it should have been; poor clothing, water often polluted. Young generation, students, were hit by tuberculoses. Dr. Milos Dj. Popovich wrote:
„Our complaint is not that not enough children are born, but that the mortality is high. Close to 40% of males never make it to serve the Army. Serbian people are weak today and they must get stronger“.
His answer to these problems was in sobriety and scouting.
Dr. Milos Dj. Popovich was born in Cajetina, in 1876 where his father’s job happened to be at the moment. He graduated from Vienna Medical School where he was also trained as a dentist. It was in Vienna that he encountered the Sobriety Movement. He was the first to write books in Serbian on how to care and maintain one’s teeth.
He founded the first military dental station on the premises of the Main Military Hospital in Belgrade. Few years later he did the same thing in Nis. At the beginning of 1917, with the help of Lady Tabet, he formed Military Dental Station in Vodena. He was a man of endless energy, a public figure, but above all father of Scouting in the Kingdom of Serbia. He became a life time honorary President of Scouts in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and later in Yugoslavia. „Brother Misa“.
In 1901 he formed Sobriety Club in Belgrade and Dr. Jovan Danich, man of experience, became its president. Soon, this Club got support from the Good Templar’s Order. Dr. August Forel, renown Swiss professor, well known figure in fight against alcoholism took an active part in this Organization. Good Templar Order was established, and the rule of total abstention was adopted.
Whoever joins this movement is under an obligation not to consume, produce or offer alcohol to others. Thanks to financial help provided by Good Templars, series of books, articles and pamphlets were printed where all the ills and doom of alcohol was explained . This literature also discussed themes of contiguous diseases, particularly tuberculoses.
Dr. Milos Dj. Popovich was one of the most prominent members of the Sobriety Society. Tireless and mobile, passionate orator, he was in charge of ALLY (SAVEZNIK) magazine. He is also credited in influencing the creation and performance of short theater pieces, such as If I knew earlier, Damned Glass, Dead and Piety.
Even though the Sobriety Movement was taking roots in Serbia, Dr. Popovich was not fully satisfied. Old habits tend to stick. They do not diminish and disappear; they can only be overtaken by other habits, good or bad. Sobriety was, therefore, missing its content.
Dr. Popovich found it in scouting.
Around 1908, not being in possession of the original book written by Baden-Powell, he translated segments from a book written by Dr. Lion, German military doctor. Word Scout was translated as Chetnik.
He would remark that: „We, in our history did not have men, like scouts, who roamed forests and unknown spaces, but we did have Uskoks Haiduks and Chetniks who defended the honor and possessions of our people.“ That is how the ALLY -CHETNIK magazine was created, and the word scouting was translated as Chetnistvo; the Boys Scouts became Little Chetniks. Upon the creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Dr. Popovich, for the sake of national tranquility, accepted the word Scout (Izvidnik), word that remained to this day.
This new venture immediately encountered difficulties. The distribution of ALLY – CHETNIK magazine was forbidden in Austro-Hungarian Empire. No one in Serbia wanted to publish Lion’s translated book entitled Chetnik. It was Dr. Popovich who decided to publish it at his own expense. Only than did the Serbian Literary Voice (No 269) praised this book, calling it a golden book for youth. Austro-Hungarian authorities proclaimed it „as dangerous“. During the war and the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbia 1915-1918, there was a demand for this book. It was confiscated and burned, but several copies survived. In 1925 it was printed again under a new title: SCOUT (IZVIDNIK). The subtitle of its second edition was named CHETNIK-pocket size book, its purpose to educate young people in arts of becoming good citizens (as per 10th original English edition SCOUTING FOR BOYS by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Adjustments done by Dr. M.DJ. Popovich to suit Serbian reader).
Dr. Popovich did not solely rely on this book. He traveled through little Serbian towns and villages, he gathered youth around himself, not in auditoriums but in school yards.
In return, he was enthusiastically received. He would say: „ First and foremost duty of us scouts is to learn how to remain healthy, for our sake, for the sake of our families, our people, our state, and in the end, for the sake of all humanity.“ The meaning of these words is priceless. He was not the first to tell them, but they were rightly said, and he had high hopes for the coming generations.
He would say: „It is not true that illness is destiny. Endure, don’t surrender! You will win! Scout is never dead, unless he is really dead!
Therefore, following the words of Baden-Powell, Scouting is a school of health, survival and morality. It is a way of acquiring useful habits, habits that will chase away the mortal ones.
Dr. Popovich would say: „ Slavs lack sufficiently developed sense of duty. Development of that sense is one of the most important duties of scouting“.
There ought to be responsibility for personal health and behavior! These were his expectations from scouting.
He embraced this organization, its rules, artistry, dress code and all its characteristics; but he also emphasized deeper behavioral goals: faith in God, respect for a ruler, helping hand to those who rule.
It was his belief that weak should be given help.
There ought to be respect for private property; we should do good deeds; reliance on our elder (be that a parent, older brother, or an older friend)… There ought to be reliance on doctor. It is a doctor, and only doctor who can answer every, but every question in any scientific area. It is only doctor who can also give an answer to any personal question, even „the shameful one“.
Putting a doctor above parent, teacher, priest, was quite a new approach for its time.
Scouting dealt with sexual education, also. Virginity up to a certain age was a rule for scouts. Illness was illness; none can be shameful, even if transmitted through sexual contact. Attempting to hide it from an older person and particularly from a doctor could be fatal. Each sickness produces best results when treated at an early stage. Scout is frank. He does not lie. He only speaks the truth.
Dealing with adults was more difficult. „Don’t you see - he would say - that in Great Britain it is King himself who is the guardian of scouts! Local authorities in Germany, Hungary, and France generously help scouts and it is not true what the pacifist and socialist are saying that scouting spreads belligerency. It does contain certain rules similar to the military, but that is all. In Serbia the bitter opponents are confirmed friends of alcohol, who think that without that vice none can get by“.
The first decade of the twentieth century demonstrated that scouting was running out of time as far as its growth and spread were concerned. This was due to the succession of wars that followed.
During the Balkan Wars (1912, 1913) from the Baden-Powell’s ranks of hundreds of boys scouts small corps of volunteers were formed, now known as Little Chetniks. They provided helping hand to their County Centers and hospitals. These actions resembled those of boys in South Africa during the Siege of Mafeking in the English-Boer War.
Great War of 1914 put a stop to their activity.
In the words of Dr. Popovich: „Our scouting was lacking practical and technical know how. Therefore, our pre-war scouting could only be taken as precursor to the full-fledged one that followed.“
Later on, in spite of the war and the fact that he was exiled from his occupied fatherland, Dr. Milos Dj. Popovich renewed the Sobriety Society and Scouting.
In 1917, in the picturesque Vodena, today known as Edessa (Greece), once again the spirit of salvation and hope flew high, together with his life long belief in betterment of future generations.
USKOK: (From the verb to jump into). Guerilla. Member of a small military or paramilitary formation. Its members would enter from Austro-Hungarian Empire deep into the territories under Ottoman Empire’s rule. Their mission was to punish authoritarian rulers (Agas & Begs). They are revered by their own people, considered folk heroes and often celebrated in folk songs.
HAIDUK: (Hajduk: anti-Turkish highwayman). Local warriors against Turks. Between the months of May and November, they would take off to forests and mountains giving resistance to Turkish rule. They played an important part in the well-known uprising of 1804 against Turks. Revered by people as folk heroes.
CHETNIK: Voluntary organization founded in 1903 in Serbia. Its policies and goals based on those practiced by Uskok’s and Hajduk’s. Their mission was to protect Serbs from Turkish and Albanian terror in the territories under Ottoman Empire‘s rule. When circumstances permitted, they would cross into Turkish lands to carry on with their battles. (Translated by Branka Koljenishich – Rifai)
Датум последње измене: 2008-04-03 22:15:33