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queen olga__2_vrefokomeio_athinonATHENS PUBLIC NURSERY

In the early 19th century, Greece had to deal with a great problem. The terminal diseases, in combination with low living and educational standards lead to the presence of many orphaned or abandoned children who either died or were left wandering in the city of Athens unprotected.

During the period from 1839 to 1859 the Municipality of Athens initially took care of abandoned infants by giving them to poor women called "nothotrofous" who provided them with food and shelter during the first years of their life. This however, did not solve the problem as most of the infants either did not survive the hardships or ended up homeless again, as there were no means to further support them beyond the age of infancy.

In 1859, the Mayor of Athens founded the "Municipal Nursery of Athens" with the intention of receiving and upbringing the orphans and the abandoned children. Initially, the Nursery was hosted in houses donated by various benefactors. The administration of the Foundation was comprised of a four-member committee called "Adelfato" appointed by the Municipality of Athens and whose President was the Mayor of Athens.

In 1874, with the intervention of Queen Olga and the substantial donation of the philanthropist J. Kontogiannaki (Consul of Greece in Russia) the Nursery purchased its own building in Freedom Square (Koumoundourou Square).

The Queen was named High Patron and she established a five-member Ladies Committee which assisted the "Adelfato" in the management of the Nursery in order to effectively help its work and viability.

The Ladies Committee was appointed directly by the Queen and was responsible for the clothing of infants, supervising staff and for the collection of donations for the Nursery. The committee members were responsible to inform to the Queen, to whom they were accountable for their activities, regarding the Nursery's work. When the funds run low the "Adelfato" appealed to the Ladies Committee who in turn always responded positively.

Mr. A. Zinnis, the Head doctor had highlighted the need for a hospital for sick infants from the very beginning of the Nursery's operation. Infants would still be found abandoned at the Nursery's entrance, malnourished, sick and sometimes only a few days old.

Finally, in 1878, a special section for research on children's diseases and for hospitalization under the direction of Doctor A. Zinnis was built within the Nursery premises. Medical students specializing in pediatrics were all located in the new section and in 1890-1891 the new wing moved in to a separate building, established by Queen Olga. It became the first hospital in Greece specializing in childcare.

The construction of a Church in which abandoned infants would be baptized followed. This was considered important due to the high mortality of infants. While the construction of the temple had been approved, financial and procedural problems appeared, which were overcome after the Queen's intervention, who in 1892 founded the Church of Saints Anargyroi.

The buildings of both the Hospital and of the Nursery still exist today. The Nursery building houses the Municipal Gallery of Athens while the building of the Hospital houses the Municipal Nursery of Athens. The church of St. Anargyroi remains at Koumoundourou Square.