When I was a kid, I read a book called Strange but True: 22 Amazing Stories by David Duncan (1973). I remembered that book today because of a story in the Prague Post, which I had got to from a headline in Prague Daily Monitor.
“ČR remembers 1972 JAT airplane explosion”
And under that, the first line of the story: “When Zdenko Kubík thinks about the day of the crash, what he remembers most is the sound the bodies made as they fell to the earth — a rustling overhead, like wind snapping at canvas.”
Having read that much, I knew that I already knew a part of the story. I had never forgotten the tale in David Duncan’s book about the stewardess that had survived a plane crash. But I had never remembered any details of the crash – why it happened, or where, who the stewardess was, or what nationality. Just that she had fallen 33,000 feet (over 10,000 metres) and lived.
It was 35 years ago today, 26 January 1972. A Yugoslavian plane flying from Copenhagen en route to Zagreb and Belgrade blew up over East Germany, the result of a bomb planted by Ustaše – a Croatian terrorist group. The plane crashed to the earth outside the village of Srbská Kamenice in North Bohemia, Czechoslovakia. 27 people were killed and one survived – a 22-year old stewardess, Vesna Vulović.
Discovering the facts of that story that was in a book from my childhood is like synchronicity, except that instead of a temporal relationship, there is a relationship of vicinity. I had remembered that story for over 30 years, then read about it by chance and suddenly realised that it all happened just up the road. Eight years ago, I lived in Nový Bor, which is only about 16 km away from the site of the crash.