The township of Dolsko in Slovenia held a series of commemorative events on Saturday to honor a former resident who worked as a doctor in Taiwan for about half of his life before dying here in 1990.
Several prominent individuals from medical circles and politicians were invited to attend the three-hour gathering, which featured music, poems and speeches in remembrance of Janeza Janeza.
Janeza arrived in Taiwan in 1952 after surviving communist purges in Yugoslavia and China, settling in the coastal town of Luodong (羅東) in Yilan County to tackle the serious shortage of medical personnel and equipment.
He spent the remainder of his life at St Mary’s Hospital in Luodong, providing medical services to the poor.
Residents showed their respect by calling him Oki, a nickname meaning “the Great,” though he also went by the Chinese name Fan Feng-lung (范鳳龍).
Forced to flee Yugoslavia in 1945 after being falsely accused by the communists of collaborating with the Nazis, Janeza never returned to his hometown just northwest of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
However, his family in Dolsko remained in contact with him and knew that his work in Taiwan was highly appreciated.
Zvonka Zupanic Slavec, a professor at Ljubljana University Medical School, said that to this day people in Dolsko are very proud of Janeza because the good name he built in international medical circles helped craft a positive image of Slovenia, a young country that has been in the shadow of regional powers throughout history.
For years, the parish in Dolsko wanted to keep alive Janeza’s memory and set up a documentation center in his honor.
A statue of the doctor was also erected on the campus of Ljubljana University, honoring Janeza as a model doctor and missionary, Slavec said.
The Janeza Memorial Center last year started planning Saturday’s events, held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the doctor’s birth on Jan. 14, 1913.
Among those invited to the gathering were Taiwan’s representative to Austria, Chen Lien-gene (陳連軍), and a delegation from St Mary’s Hospital.
During the three-hour ceremony, Chen presented the Diplomatic Medal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to one of the doctor’s family members to show Taiwan’s appreciation for his services and highlight the bond between the two peoples.
Chen Zen-yong (陳仁勇) of St Mary’s Hospital also presented a video of memories of Janeza shared by people in Taiwan who knew him.
The audience laughed at some of the more humorous descriptions of the doctor’s strictness on the job and his tenderness in private, but also had to fight off tears when learning of his insistence on operating on others knowing that he was seriously ill himself and might not have long to live.
Janeza died on Oct. 11, 1990.
He was buried in Luodong because he had told friends and colleagues that Luodong was where he chose to work and where he would be laid to rest when the day came.
Chen Zen-yong said he was particularly moved when the author of Janeza’s biography, Tome Ciglar, spoke of Slovenia’s gratitude for Taiwan’s hospitality in enabling the doctor to fulfill his wish to serve humanity.
He said he had long looked forward to the trip to Slovenia, because he hoped to learn about the environment that could foster individuals who could travel to a faraway country and spend most of their life there with patients suffering from critical diseases or injuries.