Rachel Chalkowski

Chalkowski and the babies under her responsibility were about to feel the war in close proximity - a shell fell directly on the ward

Rachel Chalkowski was born in France and at the age of fifteen and alone, realized her dream and immigrated to Israel. She also fulfilled her other dream and she became a midwife. When the Six-Day War broke out, the young Chalkowski had a great deal of responsibility – she was the midwife responsible for the delivery rooms at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and was an operating room nurse as well. Chalkowski would move between the delivery and operating rooms, always contributing as much as she could where they needed her most.

When the war began, the  hospital was well aware of it as the IDF was shooting nearby, and shells fell in the streets around it. The hospital shelter was in poor condition and Chalkowski and her staff faced a dilemma – it was difficult to recommend to the new mothers that they go to the shelter because of its condition, but it was impossible to promise their safety in the wards. Many of the mothers chose to go down to the shelter, and following Chalkowski’s advice, the babies left in the ward were moved into an inner corridor, without windows, for safety. Chalkowski and the babies under her responsibility were about to feel the war in close proximity – a shell fell directly on the ward.  Fist-sized chunks of plaster fell around the cribs, a water pipe that had been hit flooded the ward, frightened mothers hurried to check on their new-borns. Miraculously, the shell did not explode and none of the babies was hurt. A great tragedy had been averted.

When the war ended, there were many wounded to treat, and the small State of Israel, recovering from war, suffered from a shortage of medicines. In particular, one specific drug was needed to treat a violent infection that affected the wounded, throughout the country. Chalkowski managed to convince the hospital administration that her mother, who remained in France, might be able to help obtain the drug. She received a special permit to telephone France, provided she not talk about personal matters. Chalkowski’s mother contacted a Jewish doctor in France who gave her a prescription, she convinced the pharmacy staff that she needed such a large number of vials of the drug and she managed to send the shipment on one of the first flights to Israel after the war to save the lives of wounded soldiers.