Vienna, 4 November 2005 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik participated together with her Swiss counterpart Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey in the commemorative event "Thank you, Switzerland" in remembrance of the Swiss aid for Austria’s hunger-stricken population in the years after the Second World War. More than 200 former "Swiss children" and many Swiss host families and "brothers and sisters" were also in attendance.
"In 2005, Austria celebrates important anniversaries: the 60th anniversary of the 2nd Republic, the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty, the 50th anniversary of UN membership and the 10th anniversary of membership in the European Union. These memories of the reconstruction period and the development of Austria after 1945 are also connected with our memories of the poverty in the post-war era which particularly affected the children," said Plassnik.
"This commemorative event, which is founded on the basic idea "We were helped - we have not forgotten", is another important part in the mosaic of this commemorative year. It is also an expression of the special and incomparable quality of the relations between Austria and Switzerland. Our "Thank you" is intended as an expression of Austria’s appreciation and respect for the great humanitarian tradition of our neighbours", said Plassnik.
"At the time of the greatest poverty it was Switzerland who helped without delay, with great human dedication and material support. From November 1945 the Children’s Aid of the Swiss Red Cross organised a free meal programme in Vienna and those parts of Lower Austria that were occupied by the Soviet troops, as well as holidays for Austrian children in Switzerland. Between 1945 and 1955, about 35,000 children were taken in by Swiss host parents. Many of these "Swiss children" have maintained relations with their former Swiss host families to this very day, and today’s event has helped some of them to re-establish the network of neighbourliness", said Plassnik.
"The Swiss aid is unforgotten to this very day", continued the Foreign Minister. "We are carrying on this idea of helping. This event aims to remind today’s generation of the importance of aid campaigns in times of need", added Plassnik.
As a visible token of gratitude, a gift was presented to support a reconstruction project launched by Switzerland and Austria in Kosovo. Together with Casinos Austria AG and Raiffeisen Holding, the "Swiss children" who had undertaken the trip to Berne from Austria donated a total amount of 31,600 euros.
The "Thank you, Switzerland" event contributed to building bridges across borders. "We feel what it means to be close, to have helped each other at a time of great need and poverty", concluded Plassnik.
Within the framework of the commemorative event a documentary short film featuring memories of the children’s holidays was shown, and a TV welcome address was broadcast by the well-known Austrian actress Christiane Hörbiger, who herself was among the "Swiss children" in 1947.
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