by Kevin Hampton, Curator of History
“…the thing that seems to do the boys most good is to see and hear American girls talk.”
Helen Bulovsky always wanted to care for others. When war came, she was determined to do her part. Despite a chronic heart condition that all but ensured an early death, she joined the Army Nurse Corps at the age of 22.
First serving in France at a Base Hospital staffed with nurses from Milwaukee, Helen was later sent to an Evacuation Hospital just behind the front lines.
“It’s a wild nightmare real war – trenches, entanglements & guns and worst of all hundreds of patients. Patients laying on the ground under trees – some on cots.”
Caring for a continual stream of wounded soldiers affected her well-being, but did not stop her from performing her duties. “Yesterday I worked so hard that after the doctors left I cried – I really don’t know what for, but I couldn’t help it.”
Helen did her best while serving those that needed her most. As the war continued, so did she, seemingly gaining strength from those that she served.
“We are advancing toward the front with the boys and each day and night seems more like hell. I am getting tired and lonely and there seems to be no one to tell my troubles to and the only answer to my weariness is the groan of the wounded boys around me. They certainly are brave about it.”
The year after the war ended, Helen returned home and continued her nursing career. She died suddenly from heart disease in 1923, at the age of 27. Her career dedicated to saving others left a lasting impact well beyond her short life.
To learn more about Helen’s story, visit the temporary exhibit WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. This exhibit will be available to the public until January 2019.