The Slovenia Times

Slovenia and UK mark Friendship Day

UK Ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler addresses the Slovenia-UK Friendship Day event. Photo: Aleš Kocjan/STA

Slovenia and the UK celebrated their friendship and alliance with an annual ceremony on 6 May in a village in southeastern Slovenia where a British bomber crashed just before the end of the Second World War and the surviving crew members were rescued by the locals.

Addressing the ceremony along with UK Ambassador Tiffany Sadler, Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said the UK had played a key role in defending Europe and defeating the Third Reich.

Nazi Germany wanted to eradicate all other nations, including the Slovenian, he said, adding that the nation would no longer exist if Germany had won the war. Therefore, Slovenia is "even more proud and happy to celebrate the friendship between nations committed to democracy, the rule of law and fighting for the rights of the weak."

Turning to the war in Ukraine, Šarec criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for using history to try to prove that Ukraine did not deserve to be an independent country. No ruler has the right to undermine another country's sovereignty, territorial integrity and its way of life, he said.

The defence minister also hailed Slovenia's membership in NATO and the EU. "Had we been on our own, we would have lived much worse than we do today, which figures clearly show."

Sadler, who will be leaving Slovenia soon, underlined the importance of alliances and friendships at a time when war is raging in Europe. She too, expressed the importance of Slovenia's and UK's membership in NATO.

The ceremony took place in Gornji Suhor, a village near Vinica, where the British bomber B 24 Liberator VI crashed on 31 March 1945 after having taken part in a bombing campaign targetting the infrastructure in Graz, Austria.

Four out of nine crew parachuted from the bomber, while the rest crashed. The surviving four were flown to their home base from the Krasinec airfield on 2 April 1945.

In 2018, former President Borut Pahor and Sophie Honey, the UK ambassador at the time, unveiled a memorial plaque at the site of the crash.

A similar event, the crash of a Spitfire MH980 that claimed the life of Edmund Ramsbotham, a 21-year-old British pilot, who was downed near the village of Suhorje in southwest Slovenia in late April 1945, was commemorated on the eve of Slovenia-UK Friendship Day.

Moreover, the two countries marked the 20th anniversary of Slovenia's NATO membership at the Pivka Museum of Military History.

Sadler presented the museum with a Queen's Own Highlanders kilt, while Aleš Musar, the spouse of the Slovenian president, presented the museum with a ceremonial sword that Slovenia had previously gifted to Jeremy Mackenzie, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 1994 to 1998.


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