Brestovac Sanatorium: The Croatian Tuberculosis Hospital Built On a Love Story

Viktoriia Makeenko
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Brestovac Sanatorium, on the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia, was once a place where tuberculosis patients were sent for treatment of their infections. Situated in the forests around Mount Medvednica, it has an eerie presence, given its rundown appearance, but it’s not all doom and gloom, as the facility was once the setting for a historic love story.

Constructing a tuberculosis hospital in the Croatian wilderness

Derelict interior of the Brestovac Sanatorium
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

As with North America, the early 20th century saw Europe plagued by high cases of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that largely affects the lungs. With a need to treat the increasing number of cases, doctor Milivoj Dežman decided to erect a place of care that became known as the Brestovac Sanatorium.

After careful planning and construction, the facility opened its doors to patients in 1909.

A love story prompted the construction of the Brestovac Sanatorium

Graffiti on a crumbling wall
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

It wasn’t just the high number of cases that prompted Dežman to build the Brestovac Sanatorium. The doctor had a much more personal reason, in the form of theater actress Ljerka Šram. The pair had grown up together, but lost touch as teenagers. When they reconnected years later, there was a spark, and the two eventually entered into a relationship.

In the early 1900s, Šram became sick with tuberculosis. Upset over his lover’s predicament, Dežman convinced local officials to allow him to construct a hospital that would not only allow her to receive treatment, but others in the area who were suffering. Sadly, Šram is reported to have passed away in 1913.

Transformed into a military hospital

Exterior of a building in the middle of a forest
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

While the Brestovac Sanatorium largely operated as a tuberculosis hospital over the decades it remained open, it was taken over by the military during World War I and II for use as a field hospital. Given the brutality of both conflicts, these types of facilities were needed as part of the war effort.

Brestovac Sanatorium falls into decline

Semi-lit tunnel at the Brestovac Sanatorium
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Following the Second World War, the Brestovac Sanatorium became an increasingly undesirably place for patients. When paired with medical advancements in relation to the treatment of tuberculosis, the facility became more obscure and fell into decline. As a result, in 1968, the decision was made to close the site.

Nature reclaims the site

Entryway into a dark room
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Over the subsequent decades, nature has begun to reclaim the Brestovac Sanatorium, which has fallen into disrepair. The site is heading toward collapse, with paint peeling off the walls. Surprisingly, the windows still remain intact, a rare feat for a structure that was abandoned over half a century ago.

A popular site with urban explorers

Exterior stairway at the Brestovac Sanatorium
Photo Credit: Ieiris202 / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

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Located not far from Sljemenska cesta, the Brestovac Sanatorium has become a popular site among urban explorers, who’re drawn to the area because of its remoteness and history. Those who enter the building can find evidence of benches, shower cubicles and a reception area, allowing them to catch a glimpse of what the facility was like when it was operational.