History of the Warsaw Nursing School in Warsaw, 78 Koszykowa street

The Warsaw Nursing School was established in 1921 as the first such kind of a school after regainment of Polish independency. It’s idea based on the initiative of Ignacy and Helena Paderewski and Henryk Sienkiewicz, as a foundation of private financial donatioms. It was sponsored by Dorothea Hughes, American nurse of Polish origins, the American Red Cross, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Polish Red Cross, the Ministry of Health, and the University of Warsaw Faculty of Medicine.

Ignacy Paderewski acted for the school establishment already in 1913. After the WW I outbreak in 1914, together with Henryk Sienkiewicz they set up the Committee for Polish War Victims Assistance in Vevey and in London. Helena Paderewska organized in the US a training for nursing aids, so-called “grey Samaritans”. After the war ending they worked in the ARC missions on the Polish territory.

When returned to Poland in 1918 Paderewski and his wife noticed bad quality of hospital care and complete lack of qualified nursing personnel. They invited Dorothea Hughes to organize modern nursing in Poland.

In June 1920 the ARC delegate met representatives of the Ministry of Public Health, the Warsaw Municipality, the University of Warsaw Faculty of Medicine, and the Polish Red Cross. These organizations took part in the School organization. The Foundation for the Warsaw Nursing School was set up. Mss C. Noyes, director of the Nursing Bureau in Washington, indicated Helen Bridge as the first director. Helen Bridge, with rich experience in nursing education and administration, came to Warsaw on May 5, 1921. Before School opening she contacted Polish authorities, took care for renovations, equipment, developed curricula, and the rules for students dormitory, as well as popularized the nursing profession (not well known in Poland yet) in journals and newspapers. There was a huge public interest in the School. The Warsaw Nursing School prepared numerous dedicated, well-qualified nurses, opened for new ideas of modern care for human health. Women 21 years old and more could apply to the School, with good health, and at least junior high school completed. Miss Hughes scholarships were granted to the indigents, because living in dormitories was obligatory.

The Polish Red Cross offered two buildings at the hospital on Smolna 6 street for the School. Furniture, equipment, underwear, linen, and kitchen equipment were offered by the American Red Cross.

In 1922 the Rockefeller Foundation offered 100 000 US dollars for a new building, the rest came from the Polish Government. Equipment was financed from credits given by the Warsaw Municipality (approx. 100 000 PLN). In April 1929 the School moved to this new, own building at 78 Koszykowa street. Apart from auditoriums, laboratories, research, administrative and economic infrastructure, there was also a dormitory for 150 students living in 1-2 persons rooms. Practical trainings were realized in the Infant Jesus Hospital at Nowogrodzka street, in Karol and Maria Hospital, in Health Insurance Settings, in patients’ homes, etc.

Miss Bridge stayed at School until 1928. Since December 1, 1928 the Foundation Council appointed Zofia Szlenkier to a director post, who managed the School until December 1, 1936, when she passed the post to perfectly qualified Jadwiga Romanowska – the graduate of the 1st team of the Warsaw Nursing School.

During the Warsaw siege in 1939 part of the building was assigned for a hospital for the injured Polish soldiers. The School survived occupation in very difficult and dangerous conditions. Thanks to her wisdom and patriotism, Ms Romanowska defended the School against German supervision and closing. The School stayed Polish and independent until the very end, nevertheless during the Warsaw Uprising the building was taken up by the Germans and their injured, what caused very extremely difficult situations. Under her patronage, knowledge and acceptance the School took part in the resistance, was a bastion for the Home Army soldiers, who received help, shelter, care, and concealment there. A bloody combat operation of the 3rd armoured battalion “Golski” took place there, in which 12 HA soldiers fought against the Germans in the Ministry of Communication building. At the end of October 1944 new government did not allowed the School for further activity, although the director started searching the possibilities of its reactivation immediately. The Central Welfare Council appointed Jadwiga Romanowska to a director of the Children House in Czarny Dunajec, what she seen as a temporary post, waiting for return to Warsaw. She strived insistently but vainly at Polish authorities for returning the building at Koszykowa 78 in Warsaw, taken for a military hospital.

After that she submitted to the Minister of Health a proposal of opening a school at the Medical Academy in Gdańsk, still hoping for her return to Warsaw. The School in Gdańsk was opened in September 1945. Its students has been continually receiving certificates of the Warsaw Nursing School.

The Warsaw Nursing School has not come back to its building until now.

Helena Witkiewicz, Chairman of the WNS Graduates’ Circle