Documentary shows Slovak bond with WWII US pilots

AS THE celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) culminate, several related events and projects are underway. One, a documentary film, details the relationship between US pilots who operated in Slovakia during World War II – and the locals who helped them, especially in the revolt that started on August 29, 1944 and expanded to practically a nation-wide resistance against then-official state fascist regime.

AS THE celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) culminate, several related events and projects are underway. One, a documentary film, details the relationship between US pilots who operated in Slovakia during World War II – and the locals who helped them, especially in the revolt that started on August 29, 1944 and expanded to practically a nation-wide resistance against then-official state fascist regime.

“Neznámi Hrdinovia” (Unknown Heroes), directed by Dušan Hudec and made in co-production of EDIT Studio, the Slovak state TV and Radio, RTVS, and the SNP Museum in Banská Bystrica, explores the role of Slovaks in helping the Allied pilots. It is to be broadcast on RTVS Dvojka on August 23 at 20:00.

During this war, 46 US bombers and eight air-fighters crashed in Slovakia, while 106 pilots died and about 370 were captured and sent to detention camps. The films presents stories of people who were connected through the anti-fascist resistance, bringing together the voices of those pilots who survived and the descendants of families who helped save them, the TASR newswire wrote.

According to the film, the Americans, after their airplanes were downed, tried to return back to their airbase – or to get to Slovak territory, as there, inhabitants were friendly, unlike in Hungary or Austria.

“It is unbelievable, how strong ties were established between Slovaks and Americans,” Hudec said. “Americans felt total trust in Slovaks, like they had never experienced before. They took their word with unlimited trust.” Hudec managed to find, during the shooting of the film, descendants of the families hiding members of the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to today’s CIA, during the war. “They were Slovak patriots for them; who hid an enemy pilot without caring about potential consequences, as they considered it their Christian duty,” Hudec continued. “It was natural for them. They took care of the pilots and protected them like their own children.”

Producers also used some never before screened historical footage, selected form previously unedited material. Hudec was searching for material in the National Archives in Washington for three weeks. The film was made in the US, Slovakia and at the Austrian concentration camp Mauthausen.

An accompanying event to the TV premiere is an eponymous photo exhibition in the Hviezdoslavovo Square in Bratislava, running through August 31.

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