He was born in February 1920 in Kamionna, near Miedzychod, Poland, just 5 miles from the German border. At age 8 he saw his first aeroplane and set his course to be a pilot. He graduated from high school in May 1939 and was passed as medically fit for the Air Force.
In the July and August 1938, he attended a Gliding School in East Poland and qualified as a glider pilot which meant he was accepted into the Officer Cadet School at Deblin on the course starting in October 1939. Amazingly, his father had to sign to say that he would pay for any damage caused if he crashed an aeroplane!
He spent the summer at an Air Force base near Lodz where his course was accelerated due to the imminence of war and he qualified as a pilot on the RWD8 trainer. He then went home on two weeks leave but on 28th August 1939 he received a telegram recalling him to the Polish Air Force base at Lawice near Poznan to join the 3rd Air Regiment.
On 1st September 1939 he was sitting outside when six aircraft appeared and started to bomb the barracks and returned later to bomb it again. With a few others, he raided the cookhouse for cold snacks which he survived on for the next few days whilst he travelled to Central Poland.
On 7th September 1939 he was near Warsaw and heading towards Deblin but was diverted as it had also been bombed. For a while he was accommodated at the deserted married quarters and there he had a narrow escape when a bomb fell nearby but failed to explode. Others were injured in the raid but there were no emergency services to help them. After this he was put on a train heading towards the Carpathian Mountains then on towards Romania. On 17th September he slept in a barn in a village near Horodenka and it was here that he was captured by Russian tanks and infantry. They were marched at bayonet point to a school where they were locked in, without food, for four or five days.
They were then piled into cattle trucks and driven east to a huge old cowshed which was in use as a holding camp and was across the Russian border. After a couple of days they were given bread and thin barley soup from a field kitchen. When they were taken to the train to be moved, he worked his way to the back of the column and escaped by jumping into a ditch with a few others. They made their way to the nearest town where they bought food and, cheekily, thumbed a lift from the last lorry in a Russian convoy; this was a good move as it was heading west towards Lwow in Poland. They were dropped off a few miles short of the city and walked the rest of the way.
The Citizens Committee fed them bread and cabbage soup and accommodated them in a dance hall. He enrolled at the University and enrolled where he was given a student’s identity papers. He tried unsuccessfully to get a grant to live on but a Polish secretary told him she could put him in touch with the Underground and arranged for him to be fed three times a week at the hospital kitchen.
In October he was contacted by the Underground and given new winter clothes. Eventually he was given money and told to go to the south and to take a train alone to Drohobbycz and to talk to nobody. On arrival he was to turn left out of the station; he was picked up and moved house to house, sleeping by day and moving by night until he crossed into Hungary on the night of 5/6 January 1940.
He was arrested and taken by sledge to a Polish refugee camp near Lake Balaton and was then placed with a farmer in Szabedhidweg. He decided to make his way to France and was stopped by an unfriendly ticket inspector but then helped by the stationmaster to get a train to Budapest. There he went to the Polish Consul where he arranged a passport and a ticket to travel to France as a student. He went via Zagreb (Jugoslavia), Milan and Modena (Italy) and into France at Sept-Fonds, near Marseilles, arriving on 22nd February 1940.
He was taken to the Polish Air Force camp at Lyons Foire where he was told he would train as an army despatch rider not a pilot. By June he had no idea of what was happening at Dunkirk but was sent to Granville in Normandy to report to the Infantry. When they found out about the fall of France his party asked the local Mayor to supply them with buses to take them to La Rochelle. They travelled via Orleans where the locals were celebrating the end of the war; they arrived at La Rochelle to find that their ship had been sunk. However, they got on board the SS Adverpool, a Scottish Collier, and sailed on 19th June, arriving in Plymouth on 22nd June 1940.
Photographs courtesy of Kazimierz and Nicholas Pakula