English Section

Polish WWII veteran dies in London

03.08.2022 23:45
Maj. Sergiusz Papliński, nom de guerre 'Kawka’ (Jackdaw), a living legend of the Polish community in Britain, has died in an old people’s home in London, five weeks before his 95th birthday.
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Born in September 1927 in Radom, central Poland, into a patriotic family, Papliński joined the Home Army, the most important anti-German resistance movement in World War II, at the age of 15.

He was a prisoner in a communist detention centre and a soldier of Freedom and Independence, a Polish underground anti-communist organization.

In 1946, he escaped from Poland, making his way to the American sector in Berlin in an uniform of the Soviet NKVD secret police. Through Italy, where he attended a cadet school, he moved to Britain with the Polish Second Corps.

In an interview published by the Warsaw Institute Review two years ago, Papliński recalled: “In England, I was an active member of Freedom and Independence. Our section cooperated with the American and British army, which trained us for special force paratroopers (called the Silent Unseen, cichociemni in Polish).

"We were all sure that World War III with the Soviets would break out. The sabotage and parachute training were held in England and West Germany, where the Americans gave the entire military camps over to us. I was in the first group to train there in the early 1950s … We were supposed to take Poland back from the communists.”

Papliński’s life reads like an action movie. In later years, he worked as a waiter, in a quarry and a casino, before graduating from the Royal College of Art in London.

As a painter, with a studio in South Kensington, he fulfilled his pre-war dream of an artistic career.

He remained active in the life of London’s Polish community until an advanced age. He was an honorary member of Poland’s elite military Grom Operational-Maneuver Response Group.