Some time ago I was taken aback by a film about one amazing Italian doctor who was a remarkable 20th century saint – see my post here. I highly recommend watching this inspiring Italian film on Moscati’s life, “Giuseppe Moscati. Healing Love”.
Recently I discovered another – very similar! – saintly doctor, a German with a Russian soul who’s life and deeds were not less impressive and inspiring. Unfortunately there is no film yet about him, but I am happy to post some words here.
Theodore Haas (1780-1853) is called the “holy doctor.” They also say that he was the kindest man in the Russian history. And, as the Russian history is full of paradoxes, you probably should not be surprised that the kindest person in that predominantly Slavic and Orthodox country is considered to be a German Catholic Frederick Joseph Haas (Theodore Haas).
The holy doctor has done more for Russian commoners in the early nineteenth century than all the doctors in his era . His white robe was seen in prison hospitals and convict shipments . A German by birth, he had a great opportunity to become a successful ophthalmologist at home. However, having received an invitation to work temporarily in Russia , remained forever . Initially, Theodore Haas opened his private practice and made it very successful and generating much revenue. In his clinic , and some other medical institutions of Moscow , he was treating eye diseases free of ordinary people , for which he was given state awards. He was invited to treat members of the imperial family, as well as patients from all over the country. And, despite the fact that he spent much time on free medicine and charity, despite his wishes, he made a fortune. He obtained two houses in Moscow and a cloth factory in the suburbs.
During the Napoleonic Wars , Theodore Haas leaves practice and joins the regular army . He comes to Paris with Russian troops. After the war, Theodore Haas goes home and , despite the entreaties of the family, returns to Russia . There he finds his destroyed hospital and a lot of the work waiting for him in the public service . Theodore Haas gets a new assignment. Now he is the chief physician of the Moscow prison . There he encountered a blatant system treatment of prisoners and persons under investigation . Iron shackles , the lack of effective treatment , both in prison and hard labor . And Theodore Haas gets to work , which has become his life’s work .
From 1828, he devoted himself as a member of the Moscow prison protection committee for 25 years of caring for the prisoners who had been exiled to Siberia. He was firmly convinced that man is inherently good because God created him in his image. Therefore, was a man who had strayed from the right path, nothing more than an unfortunate, sick man who is to heal only through humanity.
A short story. Every week on Sparrow Hills the next party of convicts sentenced to hard labor was departing for Siberia . Relatives were allowed to accompany them to a village near Moscow . And every week doctor Haas had also been walking with them till this village. Before parting he used to give candies and oranges to the criminals.
– Well, how would your candies help these hungry people? ! – Detractors said. – You’d better give them some bread.
– They will get bread sooner or later, but sweets and oranges they will never see – replied Fedor Petrovich (as he was called in Russia) .
“The Holy doctor” recasts his personal funds for the prison clinic at Sparrow Hills . By complex contracts with the General Gendarmerie , Theodore Haas replaces the iron shackles of other, more humane. Now, they are trimmed with cloth or leather. It initiates the request for pardon convicts and redemption serfs. In his active support of revised sentences and built hospitals and schools for the prisoners and their families. He managed to overturn a humiliating procedure shaving heads. However, all “acts of humanity ” have not gone unnoticed in the king’s officials, who did not understand why make life easier for criminals. Through the efforts of a handful of bureaucrats Theodore Haas was removed from his post. This event did not break the spirit of the “good doctor” and he continued to be an angel in a white coat to all who need his help.
He knew people very well. He immediately saw what kind of a man was in front of him. Despite that he had no fear even before hardened villains, murderers and would boldly enter a chamber. He tried to soften their souls, to comfort. He wrote: “The medical profession gives me access to not only the body but also the soul of the patient. And a try to heal the soul is as important as the healing of the body.”
In 1844 he opened a hospital for the homeless, funded by his entire personal wealth and private donations. The holy doctor Haass worked until the end of his life in that hospital.
After the doctor’s death only a few old telescopes were found in his apartment– that was all that remained of his property. Getting tired of the day view of human suffering , Haas at night enjoyed looking at the stars.
His coffin was carried on the hands of doctors to Vvedenskogo cemetery in Lefortovo. It was accompanied by a huge crowd of 20.000 people. Moscow Governor-General Earl Zakrevskii sent Cossack squadron under the command of captain with orders to ” disperse the mob .” But as they reached the funeral , Captain, stunned by the sincere grief of ordinary people, dismounted , ordered the Cossacks to go back to the barracks , and he went on foot behind the coffin.
“HURRY UP TO DO GOOD!” – this is what the holy doctor Haas used to say, and this saying is still famous in Russia.