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    Restaurateur in Serbia Hosts Poles for Free

    In a heartwarming gesture of gratitude, a restaurant owner in the city of Valjevo, located in western Serbia, has decided not to charge Polish patrons for their meals. This decision was inspired by the story of Polish doctor Ludwik Hirszfeld, who battled a typhus epidemic in Serbia during World War I.

    The initiative began around 2020 when Paweł Wysoczański, a Polish director, visited the restaurant to shoot a film highlighting the altruistic efforts of Polish doctors towards the Serbian people. The restaurant owner, Djordje Momić, shared in an interview with the magazine “NIN”, “It was the first time I heard about Dr. Hirszfeld and his work for my people. The whole story really moved me, so I decided to somehow repay him.”

    Momić, who believes in having a mission in life, expressed, “I am 69 years old. I believe we should all be bridges between people and act with humanity. If a Polish doctor could come to help the Serbs during an epidemic, I want people to know about it. It’s extremely important to me; I like to help however I can. Advertising is not important to me; being human is.”

    The restaurant gained attention when the Polish embassy delegation visited in March. Upon requesting the bill, the waiter responded, “Dr. Hirszfeld paid it a hundred years ago,” as reported on the embassy’s Facebook page.

    Ludwik Hirszfeld, a Polish doctor who arrived in Valjevo with his wife Hanna during World War I, dedicated himself to treating soldiers and civilians. He volunteered as a doctor in the Serbian army and played a crucial role in combating the typhus epidemic. Besides treating the sick, he conducted courses on typhus and other diseases.

    Thanks to Hirszfeld’s work, the Serbian army was among the first to implement blood transfusion on a wider scale, which was a pioneering method at the time. After returning to Poland in 1919, Hirszfeld became the director of the Institute of Sera and Vaccines in Warsaw.

    However, during the German occupation of Poland in 1939, being a converted Jew to Catholicism, he had to resign from his position. Subsequently, he and his family faced persecution, eventually finding refuge in Yugoslavia, where they were granted honorary citizenship.

    Despite numerous challenges, including the loss of their daughter to tuberculosis and Hirszfeld’s own death from a heart attack in 1954, their legacy of compassion and service endures.

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