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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Poland’s last living member of the Silent Unseen special-ops unit turns 101

09.01.2022 11:00
Aleksander Tarnawski, the last surviving member of the Silent Unseen elite special-ops unit in WWII celebrated his 101st birthday on January 8. 
Aleksander Tarnawski, the last surviving member of the Silent Unseen elite special-ops unit in WWII.
Aleksander Tarnawski, the last surviving member of the Silent Unseen elite special-ops unit in WWII.PAP/Leszek Szymański

Eight years ago, he made his last parachute jump to mark the 70th anniversary of his first landing with a group of Polish Army parachutists who were dropped behind enemy lines into German-occupied Poland.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki conveyed his birthday wishes to Aleksander Tarnawski. “I express my deep respect and gratitude for your service for free Poland”, he wrote in a Twitter post, describing Tarnawski as a model soldier, a modest man, fully devoted to his homeland.

The Cichociemni, or Silent Unseen, were an elite special-operations paratrooper unit created in Britain.

Some 2,500 volunteered for service in the unit, with around 700 finally completing the course. In total, 316 were parachuted into Poland between 1941 and 1943 to join underground resistance. Of this number, 112 were killed – nine during flights or jumps, and 84 in combat or murdered by the Gestapo. Ten took poison after being arrested and nine were executed after Stalinist court verdicts after the war.

After the war, Aleksander Tarnawski settled in Gliwice, southern Poland, and has lived there since. He graduated in chemistry from the Silesian University of Technology, and worked there as a chemical engineer until his retirement. (mk)