From left, Mayor of Valašské Klobouky Josef Bělaška, Štěpánka Viceniková and Igor Fryč unveiled a commemorative plaque to RAF pilots, March 4, 2023, Valašské Klobouky, Zlín Region. During World War II, pilots Josef František, Matěj Pavlovič, Wilhelm Kosarz and Josef Balejka worked in RAF squadrons as the Czech Four-leaf clover.
Valašské Klobouky (Zlín Region) – The quartet of pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) nicknamed the Czech Four-leaf clover is commemorated by a commemorative plaque in Valašské Klobouky from today. Exactly 106 years ago, one of them, Josef Balejka, was born in a town in Zlín. Pilots Josef František, Matěj Pavlovič and Wilhelm Kosarz worked with him in RAF squadrons during the Second World War, to whom the memory is also dedicated.
After the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis, the four pilots met for the first time in Poland. Later, they also worked together in France and especially in Great Britain. However, only Balejka survived the war. “His three friends all fell. Josef František fell first, then Wilhelm Kosarz died and then Matěj Pavlovič,” said Vladimír Ambros, chairman of the Military History Club of Otaslavice, to ČTK today before the ceremonial unveiling of the memorial plaque.
One plaque dedicated to the Czech quatrefoil has been installed since last year in Otaslavice in Prostějovsk, František's birthplace. The other hangs in the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, Kent. At the turn of June and July, the club plans to unveil another one in Vlkonice in Klatovsk, i.e. Pavlovič's native village. According to Ambrose, a memorial plaque in Karviná, where Kosarz was born, is also planned for the future.
Today's unveiling of the memorial plaque in Valašské Klobouky, which was accompanied by a flyover of Gripens, was attended by some family members of the pilots, including Balejka's relative Štěpánka Viceníková. “The main initiator of the entire project was my aunt, Mrs. Marie Ritterová, the wife of Josef Balejka. She wanted to express her respect and gratitude to her husband and his comrades, who gave their lives for our freedom in the air battle for Britain,” said Viceníková.
After the war, Balejka flew for the international organization UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration). In 1946, he decided to leave Czechoslovakia for Britain, where, according to the mayor of the city, Josef Bělaška, he made a living as a transport pilot, bus driver or inventor. He definitively returned to his homeland after 1989. He died in July 2004 in his hometown.
The plaque is located in the vestibule of the Valašskoklobouck primary school. According to the mayor, symbolically, because he liked to visit the Balejka school after his return to his homeland after the Velvet Revolution. “He held various talks with the pupils here, including me, and told engaging stories about his war hardships and experiences. We then thought it was very appropriate to place a plaque at the entrance to the primary school, so that the present and future generations know who the Czech Four-leaf clover was and who was Josef Balejka,” said Bělaška.
The author of the visual form of the commemorative plaque is the academic sculptor Miroslav Zvonek. It is dominated by the faces of all four pilots. According to Ambrose, the aviators took a joint photo in the fall of 1939 in Paris as a model for the creator. Since 2017, a wooden statue that stands in the park in front of the elementary school has also been commemorating Balejka in Valašské Klobouky.