The idea of hospice is quite old and it can be traced back to the 4th-5th century when it referred to a place of shelter for the poor. The word ‘hospes’ in Latin means ‘a guest’. It can be said that the origin of hospice has its roots in medieval times. At that time, the pilgrimage movement became very popular (Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela). The pilgrims found places of refuge in monasteries and inns which also served the ministry of mercy for the sick and the dying. In France those institutions were called the ‘Shelter of Good God’. The next centuries and the development of medicine resulted in a definitive separation of hospital treatment and social care. The hospice care means an active and versatile care of chronically and progressively ill. Palliative medicine, which aim is to take care of the sick in the advanced stage of cancer, developed on its basis (pallium – in Latin ‘a coat’). After WWII the pioneer of hospice movement became an Englishwoman – Cicely Saunders (1918 – 2005). She was the one, who thanks to her persistence and grit / determination started the first hospice in London – St Christopher’s Hospice (1967), which still exists and operates.
A person very distinguished in nursing in Poland is Hanna Chrzanowska (1902 – 1973) – a nurse, a holder of Rockefeller Foundation scholarship, a lecturer at the University Nursing School in Cracow. The first hospice – St. Lazarus Hospice – was founded in 1981 in Cracow. Today there are about 200 institutions of this kind (including almost 100 groups of home care, 12 day-care centers and over 30 full-time hospices). The dynamic development of hospice and palliative care in the last decades places our country in the European lead.
The idea to found a hospice in Śląsk Cieszyński (Cieszyn’s Silesia) arouse in 1997. The initiators of this idea were the chaplain of Silesian Hospital in Cieszyn– priest Mirosław Szewieczek, Tadeusz Niwiński – a doctor, and evangelical theologist – Janina Bruell. They served the sick according to their denomination, so from the very beginning it has been an ecumenical initiative. Luke Evangelist Hospice was registered in the district court in Bielsko in 1998. At the beginning a big support was provided by the hospice in Bielsko – St. Chrisopher Hospice. The town’s authorities showed support by providing a place and grants to train nonmedical volunteers. Our Hospice takes care of people (mainly from our region) suffering from cancers. Apart from medical or nursing help we provide psychological and spiritual support to our patients and their families. A special care is given to children orphaned by our patients. For many years we have also run a storehouse of medical equipment. The work of our volunteers and the goodwill of the local community enables us to organize a lot of various actions and campaigns (Hospice – it’s also life, Valentine’s Day Concert, The Fields of Hope). Since 2010 our Hospice has been a public benefit organization.