The tale of two angels

A story about brave, talented and vivacious young medical doctor, who lost her life trying to save a drowning child at Lake Geneva.
A story about brave, talented and vivacious young medical doctor, who lost her life trying to save a drowning child at Lake Geneva.

At the secluded part of the New Cemetery in Belgrade, under a century old trees, a visitor may find one of the most striking and according to some art historians, most valuable piece of artwork at the cemetery. A high-relief depicting Our Savior, embracing a sleeping young girl, firmly holding a small infant, who is grasping tightly onto her. The inscription on the white headstone beneath the relief reads: “Into Death for Another” – Nada 1896-1922. The high relief is located at the Tomić-Tomanić family crypt and it is devoted to Nadežda - Nada Tomić, a young medical doctor who died in the Lake Geneva while trying to save a drowning infant.

Born nurturer

As a young girl, Nadežda Nada Tomić witnessed all the atrocities of the Great War. Together with her father Jovan and younger brother Miodrag she retreated across the Albanian Mountains with the Serbian Army to reach the safety of the Corfu Island. In 1917, she graduated from the grammar school in Nice (France) and as a government scholarship recipient, enrolled in the Medical Faculty in Geneva, since she was a nurturer by nature.

Being such a close-knit family, but scattered in Belgrade, Geneva and Zurich (where Miodrag was studying), Nada, her brother and their father kept in touch through numerous caring, gentle letters full of love. This hearth-warming correspondence is preserved in the Archives of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Le Petit Sauvage

Nada loved medicine and took her university education very seriously. The little spare time she had, she spent outdoors, hiking, painting in the mountain surroundings, learning new languages, or making friends and caring for local underprivileged children. Unlike most of the girls her age, she was not interested in the usual pastime of her generation, so a Swiss gentleman who tried to court her, affectionately nicknamed her “the Little Savage” (Le Petit Sauvage). During the long night shifts of her residency at the Pediatric ward, her favorite thing to do was to knit caps and socks for her little patients and sometimes spoil them by sneaking some biscuits.

Ultimate sacrifice

In June 1922, Nada was spending some time in the idyllic and tranquil mountain village of Champex. On the fatal day (June 10,1922), she wrote the last post card to her brother, who received it the following day, together with the news that his beloved sister drowned at Lake Geneva.

According to the eye witnesses Nada rented a boat around 5 p.m. and took two kids for a ride on the lake. It was windy and the boat was rather small. All of the sudden the little boy fell into the water. Without thinking twice, Nada jumped after him. Unfortunately, the wind started to blow stronger and pushed the boat further away from them. The people on the shore saw her trying to waive once or twice with one hand, probably holding the child in the other, before they disappearing under the murky water. Nobody came to rescue. Whether it was just a shock, or lack of will, it was difficult to say. Her body was retrieved two hours later, while the body of the little boy was found two days after.

Bravery recognized by the International Red Cross

The requiem service for Nada Tomić was held at the Russian Orthodox Church, while she was temporarily laid to rest at the Russian Orthodox Church Mausoleum in Geneva. Her remains were then transferred to Belgrade by the end of November 1927 and buried at the New Cemetery in Belgrade. The author of the symbolic high relief at the Tomić-Tomanić Family Crypt was a prominent sculptor Rudolf Valdec. In recognition of exceptional bravery and sacrifice of the young medical doctor, the headstone was financed by the International Red Cross.

If you know an interesting story, connected to a person buried at your local cemetery, contact us and let us know? We will be happy to share it with others.

Text and photo sources:

  • Nadezda Tomiceva (1896-1922) – Zoran Zivkovic Hristic (
  • New Cemetery in Belgrade – Open History Testimonial, published by PUC “Funeral Services” Belgrade, 2011, ISBN 978-86-914905-0-8
  • Archives of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  • Foto Archives of New Cemetery in Belgrade