Unsung Polish Eagles by Canterbury’s Alicja Jakubowsa

Canterbury resident Alicja Jakubowsa has spent four and a half years researching the contributions of Polish pilots during World War Two. She shared some insights with us into the process behind writing her book, which is titled “Unsung Polish Eagles”, below:

 

Where to start? I would say the whole concept of writing this book begun at the Canadian War Cemetery in Dieppe, which is near the Normandy coast of northern France. My friend John Hippisley kindly agreed to take me there, so that I could pay my respect to a Polish pilot who in 1943 crashed on his Spitfire at Neufchâtel-en-Bray in France, hence his grave was situated there. His name was Lt. Franciszek Jan Kozłowski who at the time served in RAF 316 Squadron and I learn about him whilst on a visit to the RAF Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum in Ramsgate, based in Kent. I then realised how very little I knew about my Polish Air Force that fought during WWII. I do vaguely remember, I was taught my history at school back in Poland, however, I was born during the communist era, hence, any sources related to our culture and WWII history were limited – it did not help that I was also raised in an environment where insecurity and poverty prevented me from having intellectual discussions in my childhood home and learning about the Polish history. I therefore, came to England not knowing the full scale of the contribution and sacrifices of my fellow countrymen and women during WWII.

 

I remember a moment when I was fascinated seeing various posts of the Polish pilots prior to Brexit and following attack on the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in London – many took to social media to remind people of the time, when many Polish pilots fought alongside their French and British Allies and defended British territories and in the Battle of Britain. That moment was crucial, as it set the stage in wanting to learn more about these brave service men and women. I also realised that the newest Polish ex-pats living in England, also knew very little about the sacrifice of so many, including my son, who came with me to England. The more I learned about the Polish airmen the more my interest grew, but most of all mixed in with this curiosity was admiration and deep sadness for those who gave so much for so little to secure our freedom, which we enjoy to this day. I was also surprised, how little many present-day Britons were unaware that their own ancestors fought side-by-side with the Polish exiles to defeat the Nazis during WWII – and many others across the world are growing up oblivious and indifferent to the wartime history of the Polish airmen’s contribution to the Allied war effort who fought and died on the French and British battlefields, as well as other frontiers.

 

It was a privilege, writing this book “Unsung Polish Eagles”, as the knowledge gained from research is invaluable. Not only did I learn about the whole Polish Armed Forces who fought in the wartime, but, I acknowledged wholeheartedly the pride of my heritage and appreciation for the freedom my country fought so hard for. Though, writing this book was not without its challenges, on a physical as well as on an emotional level. It took me 4.5 years to actually finish the book, there was moments during that period of writing where I thought I would never finish this book – but the inspiration I took from all those brave men and women, who did not hesitate to give their lives for freedom and democracy touched me deeply and that kept my determination going. Often times, we associate wars with gallantries and victories and many text books remain without portraying the gritty visceral reality of real human loses and tragedies behind all the numbers and statistics. Those casualties were real people of flesh and blood, who had their own dreams and aspirations, but their lives were cut short; many died so young, without experiencing the gift of life, like many of us do today. I hope my characters of this book will come alive, to you the reader, as I wrote them with all my heart and soul, as a tribute to their heroism and their losses.

 

This book offers a personal account based on the memoirs of these pilots and historical facts, of what it was like to be a Polish fighter pilot during their war service. 80% of the book is based on facts, including the majority of conversations between the pilots were also based on true events. I hope this book will inspire more Polish people to learn about their ancestors and of course for those who may want to know more about their own ancestors, as every country has something to be proud of.

 

Alicja is currently searching for a publisher for her book “Unsung Polish Eagles”, so if you would like to get in touch with her and find out more, please send her an email at: [email protected].

 

Originally published on Page 32 of Canterbury CommunityAd Magazine, December 2022 – Issue 42

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