White eagles and gold chains
The spring 2023 series of Sunday talks closed with a talk on a slightly different aspect of the Battle of Britain given by Artur Bildziuk, chairman of the Polish Airmen’s Association, ably assisted by his wife Danuta.
Both of Artur’s parents served in the Polish Air Force during WWII and his formative years were spent in the company of those same Polish Airmen who contributed so much during the war, inspiring an interest in the history of the Polish Air Force.
Encouraged by family friend Stanisław Skalski, a Polish Air Force veteran of the Battle of Britain, Artur learned to fly, which added more fuel to his passion on the subject.
Artur explained the history of the Polish Eagle over the centuries, including the time when there were two versions. After WW2, when the country was under communist control, the eagle lost its golden crown and talons inside Poland but these symbols were kept by Polish communities outside the country. The eagles were reunited, including the golden crown and talons, as recently as 1990, when the communist regime was ousted.
Artur went on to explain that in recent years enamelled Polish Eagle badges have been presented to London Boroughs which have significant connections to the Polish community, particularly those with connections to the Polish exiles who fought in the Battle of Britain.
The badges are attached to the mayoral chains as a permanent memorial to the Polish community in the borough and the specific connection to WW2.
Artur’s talk sparked off a lively discussion on the Polish forces in WW2 and how they were fully associated with the Allied forces but retained their own identity. This caused some early problems, but the Polish airmen rapidly gained in reputation and acquired some significant ‘friends’ including notable airmen such as Douglas Bader.
The fate of the personnel who returned to Poland after the war and did not fare well under the communist rule was a source of further discussion.