On the 7th June last I received the following email.
Dear Mr. Gatfords !
My name is Jana Kobal. I am a journalist from Slovene commercial TV station Pop tv. I’m preparing a story about Slovene aircrash investigators. Becuse the plane accident that happened in 1966 near Brnik, the one that you survived, was the only passenger plane accident on the territory of Slovenia, I will include it in the story.
Mrs. Brigita Zorc gave me your contact.
I kindly ask you, would you be prepared to tell me a few words about the accident, how you dealt with it afterwards and why have you decided to visit Slovenia again. We can do it on Skype.
Looking forward to hearing from you
I contacted Jana and arranged to have an interview with her on Skype this morning, July 1st. She is going to incorporate the interview in a TV programme for Pop TV. She said that she will send me a link to the programme when it is broadcast and also a transcript, in English.
I will make a new post to the blog when I get this information.
July 1st 2019
8 thoughts on “July 1st 2019. Interview with Slovenian journalist.”
Dear Mr Gatford,
I hope that you don’t mind me writing about your sad experience. My name is Neil Risk and I was moved by the stories of those including yourself who were affected by the crash.
I was an 8 year old boy at the time living with my parents in Trieste. My mother thought that we should come to Llubjana following the crash to visit the survivors who were in hospital. We did so on at least one occasion and may well have returned a second time. I do not recall much of the visit other than the fact that the patients we did visit seemed very brave and appeared to accept the awful tragedy that had befallen them without complaint. We brought comics and books and met some of the students you mention in your memories of that time. I hope that we were able to provide a small measure of comfort during those visits. Once again I hope that my recollection is not regarded as being an unwelcome intrusion.
I am so grateful for your contribution to my blog. I’m not sure if we met in the hospital as for the first week or so, because of my head injury, I was in a different ward from the rest of the survivors. However, you may have met my mother. What you have described is so wonderful: that your mother gave up her time (and yours) to come to Ljubljana to visit us. I know that we were all so touched by all the kindness and consideration shown to us all, and that obviously includes that of your mother and yourself. I will respond to you at greater length in the (near) future. For the time being I just wanted to express my gratitude for what you did in 1966 and taking the time to contact me now.
Very best wishes,
I tend to four youngsters in Fulford cemetery, York, that perished this day..I place flowers by their graves every anniversary
Thank you for sharing that on the blog. I came across the following:
around 2014, I think, and found it most poignant. For so long I had not been able to find out anything about the crash but since writing the blog I have made contact with several people.
Are you related to any of the four people buried in the cemetery?
Very best wishes,
Hi Michael, I was a friend of your sister, Shelia and had only seen her just before you left for holiday, as I wanted to wish her happy birthday, and if my memory is right it was her 21st, as mine had been a week or two before. Over the years I have thought about her often and wondered how you and your mum were and hoped that
you had been able to have a good life despite the horrendous accident. It’s hard to know what to say, but I am full of admiration for your courage and bravery.
Thank you so much for responding. We have just moved house and are still waiting for broadband to be installed. I will respond at length soon as l have lots to ask you.
Very best wishes
Thank you for getting in touch and for your lovely comments. It’s a long time ago now and I don’t remember many of my sisters’ friends, in Sheila’s case since she went to live in London. Did you know her from Welwyn Garden City or from London. I’m guessing it was London since you both had turned 21 about the same time and I only remember meeting her three times that summer: once when I met her in London, once at my cousin’s “leaving for Canada” party in June and the third when she came home for her 21st and to go on holiday with us all to Yugoslavia.
I still miss my sisters and my father so much. Because of going to different secondary schools (Sheila and Janette stayed in WGC whereas I went to school in St Albans) and, in my case too much time playing cricket and hockey, we had rather drifted apart. That summer we had just started to get to know each other again.
My mother was amazing. How she coped with me staying out ’til 3 in the morning and going to university in London I’ll never know. She did live with us in London from 1985 to her death in 1997. These were wonderful years for us all.
I have mainly been OK over the years although my reactions have all been very severely delayed. I think I was in a state of shock for several years after the crash. I think the first time I cried was about 15/16 years afterwards as a result of going home to look after my mother’s dog and discovering some old family photos. I don’t know why but around 2009 I started having nightmares about the crash and my time in hospital in Ljubljana. I saw a therapist over 2011/12 which was wonderful: who wouldn’t love talking about themselves to someone who just listens and makes no judgements. Nevertheless that best therapy was visiting the memorial just outside Ljubljana in 2017 and meeting the two doctors who were junior doctors in 1966 and were a significant part of the care given to the survivors.
I have more I would like to write to you but that will come later as I want to send this so that you don’t think I am ignoring you.
I have some photos of Sheila taken in 1965/66 if you would like me to send them to you.. One was taken when she and my mother were part of the women’s cricket team that played the men at my cricket club,
Very best wishes,
My apologies for the long time in answering your e-mail. We were waiting for the birth of our second grandchild and he was born on the 26th November. He had an infection and so was in hospital for 10 days (with suspected baby meningitis), fortunately tests proved negative, but he was still kept in under observation and on antibiotics. We were kept very busy helping to look after our three old grandson, who bless him could not understand that Mummy had to stay in hospital. As with all these things labour started in the middle of the night and both parents left without saying goodbye. The other Granny was there, but his behaviour has indicated that he is scared they are going again. He is adjusting now, but things still a bit delicate.
I think you are an amazing person, to have lost your whole family without the ‘comfort’ of being able to say goodbye
I cannot imagine. Your mother too, it must have been so very difficult for her but she had you and that must have been a great blessing. The human mind is truly amazing, and I think when you started having nightmares was the right time to confront what happened and the Therapist was the only way to go. I do hope that now you can feel that you have been able to reach some peace, and whilst you never forget, you can at least remember your family as it was.
In fact I met Sheila at Welwyn Garden City college where we both did a secretarial course and still kept in touch after we went our respective ways, meeting from time to time for a catch up. I recollect that she did come and see me in Woolmer Green where I lived with my mother, who incidentally, liked Sheila. In those days communication was not as easy as it is now with mobile phone and emails. All was done by public phone (we did not have a phone) and letters. I recollect that she had another very good friend at College, but I simply cannot remember her name, Think they might have gone to school together?
I remember that she worked for the BBC and liked her job . I also recall that by then she had met a boy called Mike, I think I only met him once, but I remember thinking that I did not like him very much and that he was not right for Sheila!
I also remember that our Class Teacher (again not sure of name maybe Mrs. Talbot), arranged to take the class to Venice for a trip during the summer holidays. I was a one parent child, and there was no money for me to go. They came back very excited and described Venice to me, it sounded wonderful and I promised myself I would go one day. Well , several years later I did and it was just as beautiful as described to me.
Yes please, I would like a photo of Sheila.
With the limited sources available to me then, I did try to find out how you and your mum were and wanted to write to her. But there was also a strange mixture of not wanting to intrude, make the grief worse when she was suffering in a way that at 21 I could not comprehend, and to be honest still cannot. But as the years have gone by and I have lost loved ones and asking the question why?, which you must have done so many times, I think I have a little better understanding that reaching out to someone to offer condolences is not a bad thing, if it helps them to feel less alone.
I am now 76 and have two beautiful daughters and two gorgeous grandsons, and I count my blessings and often wonder where Sheila would be now and what she would be doing, and what would she have achieved and feel very sad for the lives cut short. I remember her being very bubby and vivacious and wanting to go places.
I hope you don’t think I am being too personal, but I liked Sheila and her death left a gap in my life, as friends are so important and have thought about her often over the years.
I hope that you have been able to find happiness, and that you had some wonderful years with your Mum.
If I can answer any questions you may have I will be delighted to.