Exhibition on Polish WWII airmen opens in Gdańsk
Polish Radio 07.12.2020 07:40
“The Airmen” is the title of an exhibition which opened on Sunday in the grounds of the World War II Museum in Gdańsk, northern Poland.
“The Airmen” exhibition in Gdańsk. Photo: PAP/Adam Warżawa (see source)
It features photographs of over 30 Polish pilots and soldiers of other military formations who served in the British Royal Air Force in the 1940s. The photos are by London-based Polish artist Michał Solarski, who visited the veterans in their homes over the past six years together with his wife, Joanna Frydel-Solarska, who contributed the text accompanying the pictures.
On Michał Solarski’s website she wrote of “The Airmen”: “They were heroes, even though they hated to be called so. They arrived in a foreign land and fought for it, hoping in that way they could help their homeland. All of them made significant, if lesser known, contributions to the RAF’s history.
“The journey in search of those forgotten heroes took us from our native Poland, through the UK, Canada and the USA. Getting to know all of them was worth every effort made and every mile travelled. Over time, we realised that photographing became an excuse for meeting those extraordinary people, even if for a brief moment. It would not be possible to convey all of their stories and the emotions that accompanied them. The photographs prevail. After all, what can tell a beautiful story better than a picture.”
In addition to Solarski’s photos, the exhibition features a selection of archive photographs documenting the service of Polish soldiers in Britain. The exhibition remains on view until March 6, 2021.
The 144 Polish pilots named in the RAF Roll of Honour for the Battle of Britain constituted the largest non-British contingent engaged. Twenty-nine of them were killed in battle. Between July and October 1940, Polish airmen downed 170 enemy planes and seriously damaged 36. In a speech on August 20, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the contribution of Polish airmen to the Battle of Britain in the following words: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. The Battle of Britain is the name given to a series of aircraft battles that were waged from July to the end of October 1940 against the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) to save Britain from Nazi invasion.
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By the way, really appreciate the lovely spin with regard to the very famous Churchill quote: made of course with reference to all the pilots of the BoB (if not the RAF as a whole); the way it is framed here, while, literally absolutely true, it is made to sound as if the quote was about Polish pilots only.
I've always liked Dowding's better: 'Had it not been for the magnificent work of the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of battle would have been the same' - all the more telling because of his initial scepticism.