Josip Križaj (aviator)
March 13, 1911|
Kopriva, Austria-Hungary, now Slovenia
October 8, 1948|
Snežnik Plateau, Yugoslavia, now Slovenia
Kingdom of Italy|
Second Spanish Republic
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
|Years of service||1930–1948|
|Awards||Order of courage|
Križaj was born in Kopriva on the Karst Plateau, then part of the Austro-Hungarian county of Gorizia and Gradisca. After World War I, the region became part of the Kingdom of Italy and Križaj became an Italian citizen. Already at a young age he showed a passion for flight, which led him to pursue a pilot's course at the royal officer school in Capua near Naples, Italy.
Due to his Slovene ethnic origins, he was not allowed into the regular Italian Royal Air Force, but he was nevertheless granted a place in the reserves. Because of the physical hardships endured during the training and his pro-Slovenian and pro-Yugoslav national political stance, he flew a Fiat AS.1 airplane on 25 June 1932 from Udine to Ljubljana, crossing the border of Yugoslavia, which led to much media interest. In 1934, he became a Yugoslav citizen. Following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he joined the Yugoslav volunteers that fought on the side of the Spanish Republic. He was a member of the Squadron España, and was shot down once and captured during the war. After his return to Yugoslavia, he moved to Serbia, where he lived during World War II.
After the war, he became a SFR Yugoslav Air Force military pilot. His life ended on 8 October 1948, when his aircraft, a Yakovlev Yak-3, crashed into Mount Snežnik in southwestern Slovenia because of poor visibility in dense fog.
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