The End of our Partnership
I have been asked repeatedly of late about the status of the relationship between us and the Strelzyk family.
The destinies of the Wetzel and Strelzyk families took different paths after our escape.
We, the Wetzel family decided in January 1980 to get out of the media spotlight in order to resume as normal a life as possible. The Strelzyk family on the other hand were regularly present in the media and furthermore made public appearances when there was not anything of obvious importance to say. Unfortunately they have clearly forgotten with the course of time how preparations for the escape actually occurred. The versions of the story from Peter Strelzyk even go as far as to say that he planned the entire escape, built everything and essentially took us along only as an act of pity.
The reality of what happened is actually quite different. It is correct that the escape was financed for the most part by him. However, the construction and assembly of the balloon was entirely my work. I also constructed the fan and gave up the engine of my 250cc MZ motorcycle for this purpose. My contribution to building the basket and the burner was also very significant.
The high-point of this effrontery was reached in May 1980. We had received a telephone call from the offices of publisher Malcolm Forbes (Forbes Magazine) and were asked why we had declined the invitation. We had known nothing of an invitation until this point.
What had happened?
Malcolm Forbes had invited us to a hot-air balloon festival at his mansion in France, the Château de Balleroy which would be taking place on 8th and 9th May of that year. Forbes had sent the invitations for both families to Peter Strelzyk. He had accepted his invitation for himself and declined our invitations on our behalf and without our knowledge.
We were fortunate to receive this call from Forbes’ office and were able to participate in the balloon fiesta after all.
Peter Strelzyk has never answered the question as to why he decided to decline our invitations for us.
In spite of this incident we became somewhat closer again in the months that followed with the understanding that something like this would not happen again.
Unfortunately a similar incident occurred again in 1983 and we thereafter saw no reason to remain in contact with the Strelzyk family.
In the same manner we were called by the organiser of an event to which we had been invited and were again able to attend.
Unfortunately I am unable to determine whether these were the only two incidents of this kind or if there were others of which we knew nothing.
I am, however, at a loss to understand such behaviour.