Štefánik survival march
November 1915, Aleksandrovac, Serbia: Pressed by the progress of Bulgarian army, French military pilot Lieutenant-Colonel M.R. Štefánik is forced to burn his airplane and join Serbian troops and civilians marching toward the Serbian and Albanian mountains to reach the Adriatic coast of Albania.
Marching with Michael Bourdon, his devoted flight mechanic for nearly 120 km trough Serbian countryside, mountains, forests, and villages.
The itinerary of Štefánik’s 7-day survival march in Serbia : Aleksandrovac, Brus, Jankovaklisura, Blac, Barbatovac, Kuršumlja, Stankov, Banja, Dubnica, Priština + 8 km
On the march, Štefánik and his comrades had to fight for their lives against guerrilla groups attacking them while crossing the mountains on the way to Priština
Skirmishes continued for Štefánik on the train transport to Kosovska Mitrovica; then followed a retreat to Prizren
In Prizren, one of the best French military pilots, captain Paulhan decided to take a risk in order to save Štefánik, his friend. They took off and flew over 200 km (about 3.5 hours) through the ravine of the Biely Drin Valley that is only 200m wide!
Štefánik, afflicted and coughing blood due to the inner stomach injury assisted captain Paulhan in navigation through the thick fog.
On the way from Albanian mountains, close to Adriatic coast, confused defence forces opened friendly fire on the aircraft. Paulhan and Štefánik had to risk a crash-landing in a nearby marsh.
After the friendly forces found and recognized Štefánik, they arranged his speed-boat transport to Italy where he was further transported by train to a hospital in Rome where he recovered from the injuries and the hardships of the devastating march.
Afterwards, he moved to Paris where he met Dr. E. Beneš (the future president of Czechoslovakia) for the first time. Štefánik was then invited to a number of social events and evening cocktail parties with leading French politicians and world diplomats.
The days that followed constitute a real start of Štefánik's diplomatic career; his major objective was nothing less than to set up a solid base for establishing Czechoslovakia, a new country in a new, post-war Europe.