Sister Berchmana Leidenix

Though Sr. Berchmana Leidenix was born in Vienna, Austria, she spent most of her life in Bosnia. She was born on November 28th, 1865. She finished training for nursing children and a completed another course for nurses in Vienna. After her novitiate studies in the convent, and having acquired three diplomas, young Berchmana went to Bosnia toward the end of the 1880s. At that time, Bosnia had just barely been liberated from four centuries of Turkish occupation.

Sr. Berchmana was well known for her ecumenical spirit. She earned the nickname of the “Turkish Sister” in the years when she worked in the village of Breske near Tuzla, (Bosnia) because she never missed a chance to teach Muslim children to read and write and nurse them as well as nursing any other children when they were ill. We must bear in mind that she did that at the end of the 19th century, in the years when a literate person in the Bosnian countryside was almost unheard of.

Sr. Berchmana became known among the Palian Orthodox inhabitants as the “Serbian Mother” during the last years of her life there, thanks to the numerous good deeds she did for them, not allowing the differences between their religion and hers to come between them and never treating the Orthodox differently from the Catholics.

During the First World War, Sr. Berchmana worked in a military hospital in the town of Višegrad, Bosnia. She tended to all the wounded with identical devotion and unselfishness, no matter if they belonged to the then regular Austro-Hungarian army or its opponent, the Serbian army. Such conduct brought her much praise, important recognition and even medals.

Sister Berchmana was against the idea that the sisters should withdraw from Pale in autumn 1941. She claimed that the sisters never did any harm to anyone, and that everyone including the Orthodox Serbs, have received a lot of good from the sisters. In those terrible nights of 11th - 12th December among the five nuns who had to leave Pale was 76 year old Sr. Berchmana too. She barely had the strength to walk and with the help of the fellow sisters somehow she reached to the village of Careve Vode. Despite all the help and effort on the other nuns' part, old Sr. Berchmana was completely exhausted and almost half dead. She simply could not take one step more.

Next day, the Chetniks found a sledge and took her, after the other prisoners, to Sjetlina. She was put in with a village family, together with another captive, a certain Mrs. Kocovic. Sjetlina was the last place where she saw the other four sisters. They left for Goražde, and Sr. Berchmana was left behind to recover her strength a little.

Then on 23rd December 1941 two Chetniks came back telling her she would join the other sisters at Goražde but the others had already been killed. They put her in their sleigh pretending to take her to Goražde. Upon their return, the driver told the villagers that the sister had safely joined the other sisters, while one of them had her rosary around his neck. According to a written statement, she was killed on December 23rd, 1941. She set on her way to meet her four sisters indeed, but not in Goražde. They met in heaven!

According to Mrs. Kocovic, the Chetnik who came to take Sr. Bercmana away came back very soon. The one who murdered Sr. Berchmana also took her robes off and took them to Mrs. Vesna Stublic. She remained a prisoner in Chetnik headquarters in Sjetlina and had to sew a Chetnik flag from the black material of the old nun's robes. 

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