The traditional Slovenia-UK Friendship Day celebrations take place in Gornji Suhor
Gornji Suhor pri Vinici, 31. 3. 2022 | press release, speech
Slovenian president Borut Pahor and British ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler marked Slovenia-UK Friendship Day with a special ceremony in Gornji Suhor pri Vinici, with Mr Pahor delivering the honorary address. The guests were also addressed by the British ambassador and by Črnomelj’s mayor Andrej Kavšek.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Mayor Kavšek said that while every war was a cause of division, it also brought people together in solidarity, selfless mutual assistance and friendship. ‘Friendship makes us stronger and better. Let us celebrate it,’ he added, and thanked the people of the village for the hospitality they showed every year on this occasion.
In her speech, given in Slovenian, Ambassador Sadler pointed out that this year marked the 30th
anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the UK and Slovenia. She highlighted the numerous ties between the two friendly countries and nations, and, on behalf of the British government, thanked the people of Slovenia and the UK for nurturing and strengthening this friendship. She gave special thanks to President Pahor, at whose initiative Slovenia-UK Friendship Day had been established.
After the ceremony, President Pahor and Ambassador Sadler laid a wreath at the memorial plaque commemorating the Allied members of the crew of the B-24 Liberator Mk VI bomber that crashed in the area during the Second World War.
Keith Miles wrote a special letter for the day highlighting the numerous shining examples of the friendship and similarity between the Slovenes and the British. ‘I am sure there are many more examples of this friendship I am unaware of, but one thing is certain – that friendship will endure.’
Mr Pahor began the day with an official lunch to which he had invited this year’s special guest, Keith Miles, who was the first official representative of Slovenia in the UK back in 1991 and on whom he conferred the Order of Merit for his personal contribution to the international recognition of Slovenia and his work in establishing, developing and strengthening relations between Slovenia and the UK. The award will be given at the presidential palace, hopefully in May. As Mr Miles was unable to attend today’s events because of illness, his speech was read out. The official lunch was attended by British ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA
Slovenia-UK Friendship Day was inaugurated by President Pahor and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex during the latter’s official visit to Slovenia in 2019, with the hope that it would become a traditional event. In 2018 President Pahor and the-then British ambassador Sophie Honey unveiled a memorial plaque in Gornji Suhor pri Vinici commemorating the Allied members of the crew of the B-24 Liberator Mk VI bomber that crashed there in 1945.
The text of the Slovenian president’s ceremonial address is given below (the spoken text will prevail in the event of differences)
residents of Gornji Suhor,
dear friends, Slovenian and British,
and, from a distance, Mr Keith Miles, the honorary speaker at today’s celebrations who has unfortunately been prevented from travelling to Slovenia by Covid.
Keith Miles’s life and work are an embodiment of British-Slovenian friendship.
Even before Slovenian independence, Mr Miles was busy weaving threads of friendship between the Slovenes and the British, for which we are sincerely grateful and award him a state honour.
thanks to people of the village and in cooperation with the embassy, our gathering in Gornji Suhor has become a tradition.
This is the fourth time we have gathered at the site of the crash of the Royal Air Force aircraft on 31 March 1945 to mark the noble assistance that the local people gave to the pilots who survived the accident.
For five of them, Slovenian soil became their final resting place before being returned to their homeland,
while the other four were helped by the people of Bela Krajina to survive and return home safely.
Today, faced with war on European soil for the first time in 80 years, we again realise how important it is to always stand up for what is right – for our own freedom.
All the speakers before me have felt a duty, as I do, to mention Russia’s unjustified and groundless attack on Ukraine. Gathered here with the allies with whom we fought in the Second World War, with our British friends, we feel compelled to draw attention to the tragedy we are witnessing: to the unjustness of this aggression, to the necessity of sanctions and, above all, to our common desire to see reason prevail, for the fighting to stop and for the issues between the two countries to be resolved by peaceful, diplomatic means.
Here in Slovenia we are proud of the fact that we were among the first in Europe, in 1941, to organise ourselves against the occupier and end the war on the winning side.
We were helped in this by our allies and by their battles in eastern and western Europe and in the Mediterranean.
This was vitally important to our own struggle and success.
As both speakers before me have said, war comes with many serious and tragic stories. We are seeing them in the case of Ukraine as well.
But in the end, the stories of bravery and heroism are much greater and more numerous.
In connection with this, I would like to point out that history has almost always proved, and will prove in the case of the current conflict in north-eastern Europe, that victory goes to those in the right.
Ukraine has the moral advantage for two reasons: because it was attacked without reason or justification, and because, despite this, it has been prepared since the very beginning to sit at the negotiating table with its attacker and resolve this complex issue peacefully. Along with you, I hope that this will happen quickly and that the war produces fewer victims, less suffering and fewer tears because of the smart, visionary decisions of those who have the power to do it and bring an end to the war.
the friendship between Slovenia and the United Kingdom was forged during one of the cruellest and most difficult periods of human history.
It was forged in courage and humanity.
European integration and today’s European Union are also based on courage, humanity and reconciliation.
Even though the UK has left the European Union, we believe that this is not (and will not be) any impediment to our friendship and alliance.
I am sincerely delighted at the ambassador’s suggestion that Slovenian-UK Friendship Day should, from now on, feature events related to climate change and to all other issues concerning our common future.
This is an issue that concerns me and led me to set up a special advisory committee.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who has, in the last four years, helped to make this a traditional event – one that we look forward to and which so many people have today attended, even in the face of these challenging weather conditions.
I would like to thank you, Mr Mayor, and all those who have helped you to organise this event, particularly the local residents, the children appearing and all of you who have honoured us with your presence.
I was the initiator of the event and I am very happy to see how it has developed into this wonderful tradition. Next year I will attend as an ordinary citizen and I cannot say what the next president will decide.
I do hope, particularly in light of your enthusiasm, that they, as well as the next British ambassador, feel this opportunity, this privilege, to celebrate Slovenian-British friendship in a place where the people themselves feel it so strongly.
Let me say once again: it is three decades since Slovenia became a sovereign partner in the international community. For all that time I have stood with Slovenia, in one way or another, in various posts, through good times and bad. When I look at the country’s international profile, I can say, with a pride shared by all of us, that we have in this time created a reputation and identity as a country that resolves its problems peacefully, is an active member of the European Union and of Nato, is an integral part of the western world and has many ties of friendship around the world. Long may that continue. Slovenia must be committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes and peaceful cooperation even with those countries that have different views to us. Occasionally things disappoint us in life, but we have to believe that trust, cooperation, overcoming resentment and reconciliation are always a step towards the hope that our children and their children live in peace, security and prosperity, and that they are able to develop their many talents in peace.
Finally, Mr Mayor, residents of Črnomelj and of Suhor, the people of Bela Krajina:
thank you for maintaining this memorial and for being ambassadors of friendship.
Friendship with the United Kingdom means a great deal to Slovenia.
Madam Ambassador, please send my personal regards to Her Majesty the Queen and to the British prime minister with the message that we will nurture this friendship and do everything in our power to develop it, and that we look forward to a common future together.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA