A | P | U : An American Medical Mission Builds a Hospital in Post-War Poland

In June of 1939, the American Unitarian Association sent one of its delegates Europe to assess the situation of Czechoslovakian and Jewish refugees. In 1944, the Geneva office of USC assembled a team of Polish doctors and social workers “anxious to carry out a relief project for Poland.” In early 1945, the group worked closely with Dr. Jedrychowski, the Minister of Navigation and Foreign Trade of the provisional government to devise a plan. The government requested that the team first do relief work for deportees in France and Germany before going to Poland, and in May of 1945, the medical team went to France to begin working with Polish displaced persons (DPs). The team would then proceed onto Germany to rehabilitate an UNRRA hospital in the British zone of Germany in December 1945, after an exploratory mission had been conducted by the Executive Director of the USC in the same month, where a meeting was convened with the chiefs of UNRRA mission in Poland – who had just arrived in Warsaw just 2 months earlier – as well as government officials and the Polish and American Red Cross. During the meeting, the severe shortage of doctors and medical infrastructure / equipment: “ ‘there is only one ambulance in all of Poland,’ ” as well as the pervasiveness of undernourished, underclothed, and sick children, was discussed.  An agreement was signed with UNRRA on June 7th, 1946, for the USC to arrange a medical teaching mission to Poland from July to September of the same year.  Two months later, the medical mission team would reach Poland in November 1946 to restore a hospital in Piekary, a mining town in the Southwest of Poland, Upper Silesia, close to Katowice.

This exhibit draws out several points of engagement with the Polish Medical Mission Team that worked at the Kosciuszko Hospital, which became situated in several geographies: Coal, Iron Curtain, and Medical History. Political sensibilities, humanitarian impulse, national pride, and moral technologies formed the loci for personal and interpersonal engagement. These, I argue, are social mapping practices that, engaged with the staticity of geographies, sought to rewrite macro phenomenon at a local, agentic, level. Hospitals are not just sites of delivering medicine: they are complex compositions that revealed what mattered and what needed to be changed. This site is meant to complement the paper, as a conceptual structure or "map" to reading the story / history of the KoŇõciuzko Hospital rehabilitation. As such, the texts and images here are merely introductory, but paints the contingency in which the episode occured. 




Alex Chen