August 19, 2019
In 1934 a balloon with two Belgian stratospheric pilots, professor Max Cosyns and his assistant Nere van Elst landed in the little Slovenian village of Želivlje.
The pilots took off at 6:00am from Hour-Havenne airport in Belgium and reached the altitude of 16,000 metres several hours later. On their descent strong winds carried them across Austria until after a 14-hour flight they finally landed in Ženavlje. Their flight was reported live to various radio stations and media outlets across Europe and the USA from the radio connection in the balloon’s gondola.
Some of the older citizens of the remote region of Goričko had seen a balloon 40 years before, so they knew what it was and helped with the landing. The event became quite a sensation, with about 6,000 people were attracted to the site, among them many reporters.
For a few days the Mura river region became the centre of international media attention and the domestic and foreign press for the first time described an area that had until then been ignored. A journalist from Ljubljana wrote for Jutro newspaper: “This is not Siberia, it is a land of kind local people, whom the pilots will remember for a long time to come.”
After some rest, Cosyns and van Elst headed towards Ljubljana, and from Ljubljana they took a plane to Zagreb, where they received king Alexander’s medal of honour, the newest map of the Slovenian lands and Doctor Slavič’s 1919 book Prekmurje.
August 18 became an important day in the history of Goričko, and in 1997 a memorial with a bronze statue, the work of Mirko Bratuša, has been placed in the spot of the balloon’s landing.