The first chapter of Cristina Sartori's book entitled Padre Placido Cortese (2010) holds a title after Majda Mazovec               ©Urška Strle

When a tiny, long-haired elderly woman curiously opened the door of her cozy flat, I was a bit surprised, for I expected a rather different figure in regard to the facts I was told about her. Dr. Majda Mazovec (1920) is a retired, yet still vivid pioneer of Slovenian cardiology, who considers humanistic foundations to be essential to her medical vocation.

During the WW2 she was a promising student of medicine at the University in Padova, Italy. While at the outskirts of Padova, in Chiesanuova, one of many Italian fascist concentration camps was located.
Majda learned about the nearby camp when she tried to get in contact with her arrested and interned cousin, who – as it turned out – was also among the internees in the Chiesanuova concentration camp.
Soon Majda became a part of undercover help network, led by a Franciscan monk Placido Cortese (1907-1944) who secretly operated as an assured anti-fascist and helped many who were being prosecuted by the fascist regime. As a priest he was appointed to Chiesanuova concentration camp to conduct a religious service for the internees. However, it was young and determined Majda, who convinced p. Cortese, “a small limping man with glasses, dressed in black monk robes”, to help the internees with extra food, money, providing them letters and information.
“I was motivated for such an activity, for I found it extremely unjust that I could study medicine while others were dying of starvation. There were also my relatives and friends among them and maybe people, who were more important to be in the world than me, a green student of medicine,” dr. Mazovec told.
Majda worked as courier and was in charge of smuggling money, letters and information on relation Ljubljana–Padova. That was a very adventurous and dangerous task, which might have proved costly at the expense of her life in case her legal activities in the excessive time of war were discovered. She was lucky enough she hadn't been caught. She never visited the concentration camp herself, neither did p. Cortese tell her about the circumstances in the camp - for safety reasons.

Prompt and witted, courageous and empathetic, "a green student of medicine" later became an important Slovenian cardiologist. It seems she has chosen the right profession, if we take into account the difficult, yet hearty actions that could have cost her a life.

Her venturous deeds unintentionally question us, what would we have done if we were in her shoes. Would we risk our lives to help others as many anonymous individuals like Majda did? Would we?


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