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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Last Polish WWII fighter pilot dies in New York

15.04.2020 10:25
Jerzy Główczewski, the last living Polish fighter pilot who fought in World War II, died in New York on Monday, at the age of 97.
Jerzy Główczewski, pictured in 2017.
Jerzy Główczewski, pictured in 2017.Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

Born on November 19, 1922 in Warsaw, he fled Poland soon after the Nazi and Soviet invasions of 1939, making his way, through Romania, to Palestine, where he later graduated from a Polish high school in Tel Aviv.

He then joined the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade and, having undergone flight training in Britain, was posted to fly Spitfires in the No. 308 "City of Kraków" Polish Fighter Squadron.

He was decorated with the Polish Cross of Valour three times.

After the war, Główczewski lived for a short period in France, before returning to Poland in 1947.

He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology, and worked on some of the city’s post-war reconstruction projects.

He left for the United States in the early 1960s, where he lectured at the North Carolina State University and pursued a career as an architect in the USA and Arab countries.

Główczewski is the author of three volumes of memoirs: Accidental Soldier (2003), Optimist After All (2004), and The Last Fighter Pilot (2017).

In an introduction to Accidental Soldier, which has been published in the United States in an English translation, Główczewski wrote: “I have lived on the edge of a precipice, yet have somehow managed to miss the worst fate. I have been steps away from death, a refugee fleeing deportation, starvation, and death camps.

“While fighting on two fronts during World War II, I had been shot at innumerable times; while in combat, I have without a doubt caused the death of others.

“After the war’s end, living under a Soviet-imposed communist regime, I was spared torture and prison. And I did not choose emigration, but circumstances forced me and my wife and daughter to accept it.”

(mk/gs)