Today, the President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović attended the celebration of the 76th anniversary of the Halyard Mission.
The President of the Republic pointed out that the village of Boljanić at Ozren is the place where the most beautiful pages of Serbian-American relations were written 76 years ago.
“I wish us to send a strong message of peace from this place and once again I would like to point out the need to create a stable environment in which we will permanently replace conflicts and disputes with cooperation and better understanding. We are deeply aware of the fact that only a peaceful and stable region can enable economic development, progress of all countries individually, and thus a better and more secure future for the generations to come”, said the President Cvijanović.
The President of the Republic emphasized that heroism and common historical victories must not be forgotten, and should be an incentive for better cooperation in the future.
The President Cvijanović added that it was a pleasure to be in Boljanić at Ozren, today, to celebrate together the 76th anniversary of one of the largest rescue operations of allied pilots behind enemy lines during the Second World War.
“We hereby pay tribute to the anti-fascists and the brave people of Ozren, but also to all those who shared common values and high ideals in the fight against ideologies of evil that threatened all mankind”, said the President of Srpska and added she was proud that this event was organised in the Republic of Srpska, a few days after it was marked in Serbia, since it is a significant activity that was organised on both sides of the Drina River.
The President Cvijanović reminded that the “Halyard” Mission, also known as “Air Bridge Operation”, lasted from May 1944 to February 1945 on the territory of the occupied Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The President of the Republic emphasized that the operation was carried out by the 15th Air Corps of the American Army in cooperation with the Yugoslav Army in the homeland, but also by the civilian population, Serbian peasants, without whose participation and help it would not be possible to carry out such a complex rescue operation.
“The words of one of the pilots evacuated from Boljanić, Marvin Stolof, speak best about the contribution of the local population, who said: “All the time while we were waiting for the evacuation, we moved freely around and talked to the villagers who were very kind to us. That part is called Bosnia, but in that whole area live the same people who live in Serbia. They were very hospitable, they offered us everything they had, constantly asking us if we were hungry. It was a bit uncomfortable for us…As for me, I can say that I owe my life to them. Once again, I thank them for everything”, stated the President Cvijanović.
The President of the Republic reminded that an improvised airport was built in the fall of 1944 on the site where today the 76th anniversary of this important action is marked. Since the end of that and the beginning of next year, about 60 allied pilots, including the Head of the U.S. military mission Colonel Robert McDowell were evacuated on three occasions.
The President of Srpska pointed out that the airport was built and equipped in just ten days, and the general efforts of the Serb population, soldiers and civilians, who participated in the rescue mission, testify to the great sacrifice and basic opposition of the Serb people to the ideologies of evil from World War II as well as a huge desire to contribute to the final victory.
The President Cvijanović emphasized that they also testify to the strong historical alliance of libertarian peoples who saved humanity from evil, and the renewal of these values can be based on the memory of joint accomplishments, such as the “Halyard” Mission.
The President of Srpska stated that from now on, this place should be “a place of our gathering, not only as a symbol of our alliance from the past, but also as a lasting gratitude to the brave people of Ozren who always knew what freedom means and who always selflessly fought for it”.
“Let this be an incentive for us to think differently and let history not be too tight to the truth, true events and true alliances, and let us be spared of the falsification of history”, said the President of the Republic of Srpska.