Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Spasoje Madirazza (1898–1969)

by Barry York

This article was published:

Spasoje Madirazza (1898-1969), medical practitioner, was born on 18 January 1898 at Drnis, Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary, son of Ivan Madirazza, and his wife Luisa, née Vilicic. His father and grandfather had a well-established medical practice at Split. Spasoje studied medicine at the University of Zagreb (M.D., 1926), married Nada Babich on 3 June 1926 and joined the staff of the university's public hospital. In 1929 he went into general practice at Jasenovac, Slovenia, and in 1932 gained a diploma of public health. Madirazza became involved in politics as an advocate of unity between Croats, Serbs and Slovenes. In March 1941 he was called up for service in the Royal Army, but in April, following the German occupation, moved to Budinscina as a civilian.

Some of his wife's family were murdered by the pro-Nazi Ustashi. Madirazza regarded members of the Ustashi government of Croatia as 'bloodthirsty beasts without any trace of humanity'. In June 1941 he was barred from holding public office. He was later condemned to death. Such was his popularity in the town of Budinscina that he was subsequently reprieved. Sent to Pag in the Adriatic Sea, he saw the remains of thousands of civilians who had been killed in the Slana concentration camp before Italian troops occupied the island. He gave medical aid to the islanders, including the anti-fascist partisans, but was anti-communist in his views.

Attempting to escape to Italy, Madirazza, his wife and four children reached Slovenia, after their ship sank. They settled at Logatec, where he worked in the local hospital among typhus sufferers. In March 1945 he caught the fever and was bedridden for months in British hospitals in Italy. He was appointed chief doctor of the Yugoslav Chetnik hospital under British military command at Mercatello, Italy, in September 1945 and emigration medical officer at Diepholz, Germany, in April 1947. Emigrating to Australia as a labourer, he reached Sydney on 19 November 1948 in the Castelbianco. He spent eight months with his family at the Bathurst migrant camp, working as a caretaker; he then served as a medical orderly at the Scheyville holding centre before running a milk bar with his family at Surry Hills, Sydney.

Industrious, conscientious and humane, Madirazza approached life with the attitude: 'Do not give in to misfortune but on the contrary go forward the more bravely where your fortune permits'. In 1952—at the age of 54—he enrolled in medicine at the University of Sydney; he passed fourth, fifth and final year subjects, and was registered to practise on 2 June 1954. He was naturalized in the same year. During his studies he grew interested in the depression syndrome affecting some of his fellow immigrants, and opened a private practice at Petersham. There he was respected and revered.

Fluent in Serbo-Croatian, Italian and English, Madirazza also spoke German, French and Spanish. He loved music, mathematics and history, especially the history of Dalmatia. After several years of hectic private practice, he died on 29 July 1969 in Lewisham Hospital and was buried with Catholic rites in Rookwood cemetery. His wife, daughter and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 24 Jan 1970, p 184
  • naturalisation file, A435/1, item 49/4/5627 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Barry York, 'Madirazza, Spasoje (1898–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 January, 1898
Drnis, Dalmatia, Croatia


29 July, 1969 (aged 71)
Lewisham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.