The Airmen

After the joint Nazi-Soviet victory in the invasion of Poland of 1939, a large part of both the flying personnel and technicians of the Polish Air Force were evacuated to Hungary and Romania. From there, most of them made their way to France and then to Britain. For the others who were arrested by Russians in occupied Poland, the journey to the UK started somewhere in the frozen woods of Siberia. By the mid-1940s some thirty-five thousand Polish airmen, soldiers and navy personnel arrived in the UK, making up the largest non-British military force in the country, of those, some 8500 were airmen. By the end of the war around twenty thousand Poles were serving in RAF. Polish personnel served in all commands and in all theatres, and earned a reputation for exceptional courage and devotion to duty. After the war only a small proportion of the pilots returned to Poland, and those who returned were very often treated as enemies of state and were arrested by communist government.

In 2008 I started a long-term project that focuses on those who remained in the UK as well as those who emigrated to the USA and Canada after the war, due to hostility they were experiencing in Britain at that time. Now only a handful of them are still alive. The images I have taken over the past five years form a poignant reminder and valuable historical record of the bravery of these men and women.


Michal Solarski