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Cellar Hospital 1956

The unique emergency hospital, which got its name ’Cellar Hospital’ from the medical staff, was established in the cellars of the Ambulance building in Markó street on 24th October 1956, the second day of the Hungarian Uprising. The hospital was set up because the National Ambulance Service found itself under warlike circumstances within hours as fights spread in the autumn of 1956.

A great number of casualties needed treatment after the first few hours of the uprising and further fights and a rising number of casualties were anticipated. Because of the gravity of the situation, the founder and director of the National Ambulance, Dr Béla Orovecz (1909–1966) supervised the rescue operations in Budapest himself. After seeing the fights of the night before, he ordered the set-up of the emergency hospital in the former air-raid shelter in the morning of 24th October, as well as the arrangement of suitable medical equipment for the treatment of casualties. The mere 8-year-old National Ambulance followed the practice of World War II., when casualties were treated in the cellars of the Markó street building during the siege of Budapest. The air-raid shelter, which had been empty for 10 years, was used again as an emergency hospital. Patients were attended by ambulance workers and supervising doctors here again. Even a separate surgery was set up for emergency operations that often saved lives. The set-up of the hospital was facilitated by Orovecz’s World War II. air-raid experience.

Seeing the ongoing fights, the Ministry of Health allocated a greater medical supply suitable for prolonged treatments. Drivers of the Budapest Bus Company volunteered to help the Ambulance and delivered the mattresses, bandages and medicines to the hospital by the company’s buses. Later on the Ambulance used these buses and their drivers several times: they helped to rescue and transport casualties during the severe fights. Thus the lives of several casualties could be saved in those days. The workers of the Ambulance acted impartially during the Uprising and the doctors of the Cellar Hospital helped, treated and operated not only freedom-fighters and pedestrians but also Soviet soldiers. During the fights some ambulance workers were injured or died on duty. Ödön Rónafalvi, assistant doctor for the Ambulance and Sándor Kecskés, ambulance man were killed in action. Due to the increasing number of patients and the lack of space, casualties at the Cellar Hospital were transported to other hospitals regularly. In the last days of October and at the beginning of November Béla Orovecz, the director of the Ambulance, started negotiations with Dr Milán Constantinovits, the head surgeon of the eye-hospital located in the 6th district, and arranged its take-over and the transfer of the Cellar Hospital.

The Ambulance took over the building and this was the birth of the first Ambulance Hospital, which became the centre of emergency treatments. We will always remember the Cellar Hospital, whose short history manifested such loyalty and cooperation, which are very rare in history. With this exhibition at Kresz Géza Ambulance Museum we would like to pay homage to the victims, the patients and all the devoted workers of the Cellar Hospital.