Remembrance of the Great Escape: Slovenia Honors WWII Heroes
A Slovenian Tribute to WWII Heroes
In a heartening display of respect and remembrance, the Cultural House Metlika in Slovenia recently hosted an event to commemorate the heroic events of 1944. During the darkest days of World War II, Slovenian partisans orchestrated a daring rescue of over a hundred allied prisoners of war from German captivity near Maribor. The rescued prisoners were then transported from a partisan airport in the village of Otok to an allied mission in Bari, Italy.
Event Highlights: Unity and Memory
The mayor of Metlika, Martina Legan Janžekovič, addressed the assembly, and historian Dr. Martin Premk delivered the keynote speech. Dr. Premk, a member of the Presidency of the Association of Fighters for the Values of the National Liberation War (NOB) of Slovenia, underscored the importance of remembering the shared struggle against fascism and Nazism during the World War II. He emphasized the need to remember the values of that time – cooperation, comradeship, coexistence, courage, and the pursuit of peace and life.
“Raven’s Flight”: An Annual Tribute
The commemoration, known as “Vranov let” or “Raven’s Flight” is part of an annual remembrance project. It was originally held at the former partisan airport in Otok, where a renovated DC-3 Dakota aircraft stands as a potent symbol of the past. This year, due to inclement weather, the ceremony was moved to Metlika. Dignitaries from the Slovenian Army and the Gorjanska četa Association were in attendance.
The Courageous Rescue of 1944
In August 1944, Slovenian partisans rescued primarily downed pilots, including 87 Britons, from a German camp near Maribor. These prisoners were then transported through occupied Slovenia to the partisan airport in Bela Krajina. The Municipality of Metlika has been commemorating these events since 2012.
The Partisan Airports: Picadilly Hope and Picadilly Hope A
The original partisan airport, Picadilly Hope, was established in the village of Otok in spring 1944. Its name was given by the allies who first landed there with five British planes on September 17, 1944. However, due to its small size and limitations during rainy weather, a new airport, Picadilly Hope A, was built in nearby Krasinec. Both airports were operational until the end of World War II, serving as crucial points of transport and evacuation.
Bravery and Sacrifice: The Legacy of the Partisan Airports
Through the partisan airports, over 800 rescued allied aviators were able to return to their bases, and nearly 1,500 wounded partisans were transported to allied hospitals. In addition, 2,000 children, women, and elderly were safely evacuated. The airports also facilitated the transport of thousands of tons of allied assistance, thereby playing a crucial role in the war effort.
Looking to the Future
Organizers of “Vranov let” aim to use this event to remind younger generations about the alliance between Slovenian partisans, the Slovenian population, and Western allies during World War II. They hope that these stories of bravery, sacrifice, and unity will instill a sense of pride and respect in the Slovenian youth for this significant part of their history.
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