As the recently appointed Assistant Curator at the Museum of Health Care, I am constantly finding out new and fascinating things about the objects in our collections and the broader history of health care that underpins them. I also have the privilege of learning about the men and women who forged careers in medical science and who practice(d) medicine or nursing. Just last week one such story was brought to my attention by Donna Mossman (KGH School of Nursing ’68). She inquired whether the Museum of Health Care was commemorating the death of her classmate, Nancy Malloy, in any way. After finding out about her work and untimely death, I would like to honour Nancy’s memory by telling her story.
A native of Brockville, Ontario, Nancy completed her studies at the KGH School of Nursing in 1968 and her Bachelors degree in Nursing Science at Queen’s University in 1969. She worked for several years as a teacher in Montreal before moving to Vancouver in 1979. There Nancy joined the BC branch of the Red Cross, working as a nurse and hospital administrator at remote hospitals. During this time she also completed her MBA.
Nancy worked with the Canadian Red Cross for nine years, completing missions in Ethiopia (1990), Kuwait (1991), Belgrade (1993), and Zaire (1995) before arriving in Chechnya in 1996. Acting as medical and hospital administrator on these missions, among other titles, Malloy played a key role in facilitating the provision of medical care in areas rife with warfare and violence.
With a freshly signed peace treaty between Russia and Chechnya, Chechnya remained fraught with tension after two years of warfare when Nancy Malloy arrived at the hospital at Novye Atagi, approximately twenty-five kilometers south of the capital of Grozny. Aid workers lived in an almost constant state of stress, as the political situation remained uncertain.
Early in the morning of 17 December 1996 a group of armed men entered the hospital compound at Novye Atagi and made their way into the sleeping quarters of the international workers, where they shot and killed six Red Cross workers and wounded a seventh before fleeing. Nancy Malloy of Canada, Ingeborg Foss and Gunnhild Myklebust of Norway, Sheryl Thayer of New Zealand, Fernanda Calado of Spain, and Hans Elkerbout of the Netherlands died. Christophe Hensch, of Switzerland, recovered from his wounds. The Red Cross withdrew its remaining international workers from the hospital shortly thereafter.
The identity of the perpetrators of this heinous act remained unknown until last year. Immediately after the incident, both Russian and Chechen officials pointed fingers at the other side, but in 2010 Russian Major Aleksi Potyomkin confessed to being a part of a Special Forces unit whose mission to pursue Chechen fighters went horribly wrong in 1996.
Malloy’s record of service to her country and to the citizens of the world has been recognized by many. She was posthumously awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Committee of the Red Cross, in recognition of her exemplary service and of her courage and devotion to the wounded and sick. In September 1997 she received the Meritorious Service Medal from then Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, and in June 2001 a monument to Canadian Aid Workers was unveiled in Rideau Falls Park, Ottawa, in honour of Malloy and Tim Stone, to recognize those who have died abroad whilst supporting Canada’s role in international development and humanitarian assistance. Her friends and classmates also honour her memory through the Nancy Malloy Memorial Award, administered by the Queen’s University School of Nursing.
Let us all take a moment today, and in the coming week, to remember Nancy Malloy, to appreciate her conviction that one person can make a difference, and to honour the selfless efforts and sacrifices of aid workers around the world.