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Sunday, 1 September 1940
Anniversary - a tragic anniversary. I see the walls of Torun, sunk in mist, seized by terror. A year ago I have brushed them by the wing of my aeroplane - in a farewell. I can see those walls, at this moment I have the same feeling as when I said good-bye to Torun. Clouds and mist were all the way down to the ground - Torun disappeared immediately in that mist. How sad I was then, I felt as if I was saying good-bye for ever. Of course I did not think so then. I do not believe now also that I will not return there, nevertheless, dear Torun, will I ever see you again? Ah, how awful it is!
4 September 1940
14 Hour. Unusual weather for September - the sun is hot as in July.
I am on the balcony of a building. "Duty pilot" - in front of me the airport is spreading. Really I will start my proper service tomorrow, today I stand for Peter, who must eat lunch, and this post cannot be left unmanned. I have to stop - Peter has returned - so I have to go back to my normal boring jobs. Pity to leave the nice breeze, which ruffled my hair so pleasantly.
I started servece as a "duty pilot". Strange service, I do not yet know the language, but have a responsible function. Without my signature nothing can be done, but I sign not knowing what it is - ha! I play a director in the pre-war Poland.
8.30 Hour. Fog hangs over the airport, there is cold wind. But the forecast for today is good - it will be sunny.
Lets look at the fact, the day before yesterday, the 3rd of September, I started flying in England, on "Magister"*, a small machine, a kind of avionette - yes, all the time one has to be a pupil, a beginner.
14 Hour. I don't know why, but I do not like this service. Everything is very nice in here, there is nothing to do, and yet I would prefer not to be here. In Poland I was always more tired before duty than after it - well, I can't help it - I do not like it.
English soldiers, the infantry, are digging ditches under my balcony. I admire their sense of duty. They do not grumble whatever the the impression that every Englishman is proud to be a soldier. You can rely on those people.
"The one who is persevering, willing to fight and understanding the aims of his fight - wins".
The other day the duty mechanic read an excert from his letter "they have bombed Nottingham at night, many buildings are ruined, 5 women killed,
* Author's Note: Miles M.14 Magister was a British two-seat monoplane basic trainer.
9 wounded". This is awful. I feel sorry for those people, the enemy is destroying their possessions, the property gained over many years, and on top of that taking the human lives. Will they stand firm? - comes the question. This is a high duty. Every night the sirens are howling, every night the bombs are exploding, threw everywhere by the enemy.
A year ago, on the 5th of September*, I was throwing bombs on the German 39th columns. Strange moments. I remember, after throwing the bombs, I have put the machine into the dive and started to shoot at the column. I was in a rage at this work, I was not afraid of the bullets flying right by my machine.
Even more - I was taking revenge. On the 3rd of September** I was high flying over the East Prussia, over Allenstein, we have been doing recconnaissance - What are you writing? - somebody asked me - Nothing special, personal notes - I answered. - Be careful, if they would get into their hands - Ha! - I said - people die for the truth. But I thought about it, he frightened me a little.
"One has to be afraid of the truth"- that how it is in life - "Life is hard, when it is not crowned with a real hope"
19.40 Hour. Silence. The dusk is falling, a veil of mist clothes the trees, covers the horizon. High, high in the sky the clouds spread themselves over the airport. Silence and peace all around. Ha! where is all that evil? where to look for it - I do not see it - but what is that noise, what is interrupting the silence. A plane. And who is in it? A man...
Apparently, things become hot, they are to take Battle*** from here, they are arming it and sending it away. Considering the destination of those machines, the offensive on England is expected. Yesterday England, especially London, suffered the biggest air raid so far. If only it would come at last, then maybe the scales of victory would tip on our side - and our hopes would open up.
11.40 Hour. We are lying in the sunshine by our machines. We are to fly in the afternoon, but I doubt if it would happen, because some recent flights were cancelled - they think of the raids.
Yesterday, for the first time I went outside the barracks - we went to Nuneaton. I danced and got to know a few girls. Some of them were pretty, not bad girls. They are quite keen on men, if only I would know English, I could start something serious, in my style. But even so, I will manage, although English is hard, it will somehow get into my head.
On the 6th I got £2.12. They pay us pilots little. Mechanics of our rank get more. Officers and others are protesting, apparently it is only now, later all will be regulated and paid up.
Radio London announced 400 people killed. The Germans are throwing bombs
* Author's Note: The Invasion of Poland also known as the September Campaign began on 1st September 1939
** Author's Note: Michal was a career pilot in 42 Squadron of the 4th Air Regiment of the Polish Air Force from August 1937
*** Author's Note: At this time Michal was part of 300 Bomber Command and I assume he is refering to Fairey_Battle which were in use by 300 Bomber Command before the Vickers_Wellington
over the whole city, aiming at the residential districts. The English have become sad. Yes, but were you hurt when in Poland thousends were killed? No, it did not hurt, if it would, all this would not happened The tension and excitement get higher. The defence is organised quickly (tomorrow I am assigned to the anti-aircraft duty, to the machine gun). It begins... and looks like a real thing. My God, if only it was us, us!
I was honoured to be on duty at the machine gun. Oh, son-of-a-bitch, just come under my barrel!!! I was supposed to be on duty from 4.30, but fortunately this scare was cancelled, then, at breakfast time again the defence stations were ordered - something is brewing.
The wind is blowing from the airport, it became warm. One has to sit here 4 hours, quite boring -
Bramcote, 10 September
I am again at the machine gun. I can't say that our training has any special tempo, it's very slow, it looks as if the English were not in any hurry in spite of the present situation. Today, for example, I did two flights, it does not look at all likely that one will finish with learning soon it's not pleasant for an experienced pilot.
Hitler is failing, his offensive is not succeeding. This gives time to the English. Only now they are organising themselves, with every day they become stronger. Oh! when they really want something, they can achieve a lot, I believe in it We are in a state of alarm Nr. 2 - that means a medium danger, as there are three degrees. Sometime ago, when there was an alarm, I did not believe in any danger, it was all a pretence. Now I believe in it and realise the danger,the danger is real.
There is a strong wind, the hedge near me is rustling noisely. I can hear the melodie of "The song of the wind" in it - "its pain and sorrow are calling me". Why is it that only now I can understand so well our beautiful songs, their words. Oh, wind! take my call to her, let her hear me, let her know that I think about her and long for her. That English girl from Nuneaton cannot take her place, though she embraces me so tenderly.
A "Gypsy sun" starts to shine on us - the moon in the second quarter sailed on the sky. It is bright, with only some black spots. I look at it a lot - and see a lot. I see the reflection of melancholy eyes. - "Look at the moon - Manka* B. said to me - look often, when we will be apart; you will know that I also look at it. We shall think of each other, it will give us pleasure". Probably another half-hour to sit here, it is about two hours after the
* Author's Note: Manka is Polish for Mary.
sunset. I am not sure - a poor man, I do not have a watch -
I am a bit unsettled. First the instructor who hampers me all the time and who thinks that his job is to obstruct me, while he is as much an expert as I am, we came to this country together, only he was here earlier and so they made him an instructor. That's not everything, the instructor, like all instructors, always finds something wrong, that is his role. Another example: I was one minute late for duty, the second lieutenant immediately had to tell me off. He thinks that I need to be watched, that I do not understand my responsibilities. He did not ask why - I had just finished supper, because I had finished my flight late. As my senior in rank he had the right to make his remarks, but in a proper way. When will we learn to respect and value each other? I blame the senior officers, they still think they are lords in the pre-war Poland, where they were allowed any blunder, but the juniors were not. You are mistaken, gentlemen, more should be demanded from you, because you are supposed to be more intelligent. When a certain lieutenant allowed himself to be so late that I missed my supper, I did not say anything - it happens, I understand - but what about me? When I do it - at once there is telling off. I have answered him a few words, between others - "I too am somebody". I do not like any of it, I have no satisfaction from my work, because of this attitude of our officers. When will those people learn?
I was to go to a dancing today. I have already put my name up, then stop, there is no pass for me - why? God knows who's responsible - the chief, the commanding officer or somebody else? They do what they want, one does not count for them. The chief took my name down, the commanding officer signed it - but still there is no pass and one can do nothing about it. What a pity, a nice, cheerful English girl asked me for today. Ah! the world today - you want to dance?
4 hours at night by the machine does not appeal to you? Let there be no moon tonight - or I will have to sit there, there is nothing I can do about it ...
Why was one born into this world? -- in order to live. Funny, presumably, not to live like that? And when all that will finish? - let it finish at last. There are signals that it will be soon, that the Germans are about to invade if only. Well, they must break their necks and at last "life" will start. Life! where are you? The bombs are flying, killing, destroying, why? for what reason? Stupid people, the world is so full of riches, it would be enough for all the people. But people are like bandits, like thieves, they cannot share it amicably. I do not want much and I do not like to murder, but I shall murder,
when I shall get into my machine, because you have to give me back what is mine, I have a right to fight for it. Only I feel sorry that Vincent hinders my training, he thinks that I cannot do it by myself, but it's not true - I can. "Do not be naive, do not trust people, do not expect justice from them, you have to fight for it" -
I am loosing my calm, writing those words, I am getting very nervous -
Saturday, 21 September
Somehow things do not seem to work out for me. Is it bad luck? I do not even speak about the fact that I am only getting about half of the pay due to me, because some stupid clerk degraded me to a lower rank in the English system, but I have almost become a thief. Today I was accused and sent for a disciplinary report to a colonel for "stealing" a hat. It happened like that (is it not a bad luck?) - I have almost been taken for 'thief, had to answer for a unknown person's deed and it was not pleasant.
In the cloak-room somebody took my hat. Well, it happens, I swore and took a hat hanging in the place where mine usually hangs. I thought - son-of-a-bitch exchanged them. I accepted the situation, although the hat I've got was in a much worse state than my own. I went for dinner in the usual way, when a bloke comes to me with: "is it your hat?" - No - I answered, I am not going to lie about it. Ha! ... I took the hat. I became very embarrassed, stood there hatless like a real thief, and a military policeman took my name it is my sacred duty - he said - and the whole affair went to Mr. P. I thought he will punish me. If only! I was prepared to say - if I am punished, then it must be because I have stolen, so I am a thief. A thief cannot be in the army, especially as a pilot, so let them put me into the prison. That is my place and my punishment. - I did not have a chance to say those words - he did not punish me, only said - it is not done -
Tomorrow again I shall have the honour of talking to him, I must clarify my rank, my duties and my pay. Just think! Peter gets 9 pounds and I - 5 pounds and a half and we have the same rank and the same function. And not only Peter. I know that it won't be easy, which one of our officers worry about his men, they do not care about us. The case is clear, however, oh, really, how is all this possible. And money, who would not want money!
Yesterday we went to town with Peter, went to a pub, had "double" of some drink (I don't know what it was), very good, we felt very well after it. We have completely changed, we even started to talk in English and all the girls smiled at us - I swear: all of them, there was so much choice we did not know which to choose. In the end we have chosen two young does, they walked with us to the bus - what a pity that we had to go so early to be in the barracks at 8. We were to meet today, but alas, we have no pass. A meeting you can always arrange, a pass - very, very seldom.
Today is a beatiful, sunny day. The motors are roaring in the air.
We are training flying in formation. So far I did not fly in formation, perhaps tomorrow I shall rest, I still have to finish some preparations.
Slowly I am learning the so called "English drill". Sometimes I am pleased with my work. But only sometimes - there is still too much dirt around.
Dinner break. Thanks to Peter, our monotonous life changed colour. Yesterday Peter bought radio, in the moments of music our grey monotony obtains some special originality. A longing arises in us, a feeling that the world, which is beautiful does exist, that there is a different life, which is possible to achieve. We shall achieve it - now is only a transitory period, which will end at last.
"When the morning light comes, the earth and the sea sing praises to thee" (the words of a well known hymn, part of the morning prayers)... a bright sphere have risen above the horizon, so bright that it is impossible to look at it. Its rays entered my cabin, immediately one sitting in the gunner's cabin feels better. I am sitting at the machine-gun since 6 o'clock, again this sitting, because we are in the Alert nr.l - the worst one. I do not understand this - the alarms increase, but there is no change in the situation. We are waiting, and to say the truth, nobody is scared by the alarms - actually we are relieved, because the alarm to us is like a trumpet preceding the trumpet of victory.
The day begins. I observe this coming day - everywhere it comes in the same way. It rises like a man - wakes up reluctantly, rubs its eyes, washes, and then starts normal life. The sun rose over Leskow* long ago. For two hours at least mother is pottering about, and grandfather too. Mother is milking the cows - or maybe the Russians have taken them all. Mother, my mother, who loves me like nobody in the world, mother who seldom is not thinking of me, who prays to the Lord to help me, Mother, Mummy, your son is no good, doesn't think about you enough. But Mummy, how much I would like to return to you, to care for you and be good to you. And grandfather? the poor man is probably very weak now I do not know whether my brother is strong enough to take his place. Oh God, will I see my grandfather again? I was to make his portrait - a pity. I was a comfort to him, he was pleased with me, loved me too. And Manka, what is happening to her - she is wasting her youth. I wonder - is she still so fat? Ha, her life was happy - but now? I pity her, would like to steady her life. I hope the bolshevicks did not take Paul - the poor dear. O! Not only it would be too heavy a blow for the whole family, but how would mother endure such a misfortune
* Author's Note: Leskow refers to the family home in the district of Olpen (Alpien now located in Belarus). Michal's brother (Paul) was contacted and my brother has visited Uncle Paul, who is still living in Olpen. Michal died before he could visit Poland, but did live to see the fall of communisum in 1989. See: Poland Russia relations for more details.
- to lose two sons. Oh God! Thine will be done - but protect those innocent people.
Thursday, 26 September
At the present time, a man is like a fly, not for a moment can he be sure of his safety. Why do I say it - well, not long ago a German aircraft flew right over the airport and started to shoot from the machine guns. Nobody expected it, how could we? Fortunately, he aimed at the standing machines, where at that moment there were no people, because we have just come from tea. Thank God there was no loss of life, but it could have been if only he had aimed nearer to the hangar, where there stood a lot of people. They are beasts - but I admire their bravery and impudence. He had good tactics - at such speed it is very difficult to catch him so low. The ground anti-aircraft can be taken by surprise, just like ours have been. Worse luck, he has discovered our airport, which so far has been unrecognised and therefore peaceful I do not feel well, have a headache, there was a cold draught during the English lesson. And those awful unhealthy English cigarettes on top of that -
Bramcote, 30 September
I have lost the will to continue with this diary - why? Perhaps because it is too long and nobody knows when this "novel" will end. I am just after a flight. Our training does not go forward very fast - the English are not in a hurry - I do not know what to think about them - they are still not in a hurry.
Yesterday I have celebrated my BIRTHDAY*. Ha! celebrated - what a celebration. I remember a year ago, also in exile, I have really celebrated it, considering the situation then. I did think of organising something, but really don't know. Above all - the people. It is a miracle if 4 persons can go out together. We have managed to go out on bicycles with Peter on Saturday, the day before my birthday - yes, it was all right, but not the real thing. There was no life, no atmosphere. I wanted to get drunk, we have even been to the buffet, but somehow after a few glasses of good wine, we left. There were some girls, but so what - one has a good time whem the girls are willing and there is time - but we did not have it. Ha! it passed without any impression, a pity, perhaps next year. Hm...! next year? it is so uncertain... Ho Ho! what can happen to a man in that time? there can be nothing to remain of him. What a time for people to live in -
We have today an afternoon for sport. I have just been to the Swimming Pool in Hinckley. And again I have left the ted by the beauty in the world, and in the ture (no, before it, I wanted to say) are the pretty girls. People are saying
* Author's note: Nameday - Saint Michael (Roman_Catholic)
that there are no pretty girls in England - there are, but generally not so pretty like, for example, in Paris. But they are nice, they smile and send meaningful signs - in so many words - they are very homely. Paricularly towards the Poles, as I have experienced a few times. -
29 October 1940
I don't remember when last time I have written any notes, a lot of time has passed, many things have changed. The most important - since 15th I am a sergeant, and so I have became an important person - for the English a sergeant does not stand so low, he has a big responsibility and is absolutely trusted. This opened many new privileges and comforts for me, for example one eats like a lord, lives separately, can go to town without asking permission. What else?
My most serious problem is with the English language - very slow progress. I am too lazy to work, but on the other hand I know very well that it is necessary. Every evening I struggle with the girls, I get embarassed and of course any progress is always delayed. But the English girls are fine, they understand the situation very well and in important things they always find a solution.
I have already got involved with some English girl, but I am still a bad character, I did not change a bit. I disappoint them all in turn, because I do not keep my promises, and none of them can find me serious. My aim is simple - hmm! simple, perhaps not so simple, I do not know myself what I really want. I would like the prettiest, the best, the most kind girl, but is this simple? The girls have as many good points as the bad, so the final choice is really difficult, difficult to say that this one is absolutely the best. Yesterday I was in a bad mood and said some stupid things to "Pola", my teacher of English (I give Polish names to all the English girls, something suitable, who could remember all their names, but it is necessary to remember - "My dear? what?"). She does not deserve that, I am sorry now. Ha! I have thought that the young blond was better. A pity, but it is too late, I would like to mend things somehow.
How nice it is to have a few days of lazyness, nothing to worry about, rest in bed with fine music on the radio and in the afternoon go to Nuneaton. I have 4 days of holiday. Today I am not very happy. Why? Well, first Pola, later the Huns spoiled the night with their bombing and there is something else. Yesterday one of my mates said to me - "be careful with that one" - Ha, you said it too late, she already loved me. Well, never mind, what is to happen, will happen. But probably it is not true, it happened a good many days ago. All this was uncommon in England until those Polish rogues came, they spoil good English habits and the girls want love, love, nothing but love. We relish it, who wouldn't?
We are all waiting for the explosion of the time-bomb, which the Huns have thrown yesterday near the airport. I wonder, do they know about our airport?
Now, as far as our work, it is like it was long time ago, in the good days. When the weather is fine one has a small flight - but I did have one really serious flight. In the evening, a long range flight in the mountains, in the fog. I have found the airport already in the dark. I had real satisfaction - I have shown what I can do. Oh! pardon -"The black eyes" on the radio - I will continue later -
Bramcote, 2 November
Today is the Day of the Dead. A sad day. I write sad, but do I really understand this word. Perhaps it will be sad, because I have heard that the Alert Nr. I is ordered, it will not be possible to go to town. Yes, they are crying over there, for sure crying over me as dead and the dead one is here. Hm, yesterday I did not even think of those who possibly cry, I was having fun, and not decently. Ha, this is life, a tragedy and at the same time a strange reality - like in a cinema. I know it is not nice, I know, but forgive me, I am only a man. How far from me and how unconceivable is that reality. I am living and I want to live, I do not want to see those crying at the graves, the candles - I do not want -
Syerston*, 24 December
I do not know why I was so lazy for such a long time. I did not mention that for quite a long time I am at a new station, did not say how I was, or that Nottingham is a nice town and I have already many different impressions of it. Somehow it just went. Nuneaton is not lost without a trace, I left Betty there, a sweet girl, I am beginning to pine after her.
Why I have started to write today, exactly today - well, because it is Christmas Eve. I would like to write something, to note a few thoughts from this moment. Yes, but my dear God, I have forgqtten how to think, I would like to, but I can't. It would be nice to be today... it would be nice... Oh God, how unreal it all seems. A second Christmas Eve in exile. A long time ago, when I was in Rumania on that day, could I imagine that the next Christmas I will spend in a foreign country. I am spending it so, and so it must be, and anyway am I even conscious that it is Christmas Eve, I have to force myself to think about it, there is no real feeling. This evening we are to meet in the common room, perhaps then?
I would like to write about my current affairs, but I shall postpone it, it is not fitting to write about them on such an occasion We have just had Polish News - 16.20 hour. Religious sermon. Peter takes the accordion, plays a melancholy tune. Sadness. God, why there is so much sadness for people in this world -
* Author's Note: RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire near Newark-on-Trent
Year 1941 Thursday, 2 January
Now, if I finish my life - it will be in 1941 - they will write that I have lived 25 years. Already we are talking about 2 years of wandering in the world. Oh! it is high time to finish it, I have wandered enough and got to know the world: it is beatiful, but I prefer Polesia*. Oh, Polesia, I am writing this, because I can see Polesia, I can see it through my window.
A vision, window like a picture - the white ground, a copse with sad trees. Just this sadness, this melancholy in nature - this would sooth me Snow fell this night. Quite a lot of it. I had an adventure with Gajewski. We were driving from Nottingham at night. The snow was falling, very dense snow and there was frost as well, so the car windows were completely covered. The windscreen wipers could not cope. Unusual weather and with the New Year... it was hard, but the end was good, so perhaps will be this year...
What else can I write. Something about love? It could be, I am seeking this one and only, mysterious one. I am seeking also an open one, naked - Oh! it is difficult to find one like this in England. So far I did not have any luck in finding love in bed. That's the problem - in bed, not on the corridor. Well, never mind, perhaps one day (not perhaps, certainly!). At the moment it has to be the one in the corridor. But all the same, they are dears, these English girls, so kind, so natural, not stiff as the Polish girls (how dare you), sociable, not like the Polish girls (who is he? what is his social position?) and really pretty, some of them even very pretty.
There is blizzard again. Poor car, again it will be covered in snow. I am looking at it and can't comprehend that I have a car, that I am so lordly as to own such a nice car - ha! if only that was in Poland! - there I would be conscious of it.
Something else - I should answer Betty for her "lovely" letter. Dear girl, I should, but it is so hard, my English! Oh! what I would give now to know English perfectly - it would be a long time until -
* Author's Note: Polesia is a region of Poland (part of which is now located in Belarus).
Final Note: This is the last page of the diary. It was not discovered until after his death in 1992. Suffice it to say that he did not marry Betty, and therefore he decided to keep the diary secret in loyalty to his wife (my mother) for the 51 remaining years of his life. He never mentioned the war to me, and I spent all my early years on RAF bases, with the knowledge that he was a very good father and soldier, and will always remain so in the hearts and minds of those of us left to remember him.