Gen. Walter Jajko, IWP Professor of Defense Studies and US Air Force Brigadier General (Ret.), delivered the First Annual Kościuszko Chair Military Lecture on Friday, 16 September. The subject of the lecture was the Battle of Britain, in general, and the 303rd Polish Squadron, in particular.
The event - coordinated with Aquila Polonica Publishing - marked the release of Arkady Fiedlers' book 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron. The audience expressed great interest and purchased many copies.
The lecture was inaugurated by Mr. Christopher Olechowski, a Polish-American businessman, comparative literary scholar, and poet, who recited a poem about the Katyn Forest Massacre, entitled "The Katyn Ledger," by his late father Jan. Olechowski Sr. was a Polish officer captured by the Soviets following their invasion of Poland, in alliance with the Nazis, in September 1939. He avoided the fate of thousands of his fellow officers, methodically executed at Katyn, only because he managed to escape and disguise himself as a civilian. Nevertheless, he was forced to endure Gulag slavery before receiving a chance to depart the Soviet Union along with Gen. Anders' Free Polish forces.
As Gen. Jajko indicated, many Katyn victims desired to continue their fight for Poland's freedom. This included the struggle against Germany on the Western Front, where many distinguished themselves, in particular the peerless pilots. Polish officers, soldiers, and aviators who avoided the Nazi-Soviet dragnet escaped to France via such countries as Hungary and Romania. Following the fall of France in June 1940, the Free Poles were evacuated to Britain to fight alongside the Allied forces for the duration of the war. Once on British soil, the Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, which lasted from 10 July - 31 October 1940, in the 303rd Squadron within the framework of the RAF.
The Polish squadron was the highest-scoring unit in the Battle of Britain and incurred the least damage. Much of this was due to the bravery and dedication of the Polish pilots. In addition, Gen. Jajko pointed out, the Poles scored more hits precisely because they disregarded standard British air tactics, employing ingenious and daring ones of their own.
Gen. Jajko emphasized that the Battle of Britain was a great victory for the British, but unrequited sacrifice for the Poles. The latter, the first Allied nation to resist and consistently fight the Nazis, were eventually handed over to the Stalin at Yalta. Adding insult to injury, the post-Churchill Labour government of Clement Attlee failed to invite the pilots of the 303rd to the grand 1946 Victory Parade in London. The leftist British government had already recognized the communist puppet regime in Poland, which saw these pilots as enemies, in spite of their contribution to Nazi defeat. The Labour cabinet envisioned a British-Soviet postwar order in Europe and preferred not to antagonize Moscow.
In spite of immense Allied ingratitude, the pilots of the 303rd could live their postwar lives with a clear conscience. "Truly, the 303rd had served as the Antemurale Christianitatis" fighting in the spirit of the battle cry of Polish nineteenth-century insurrectionists: "For Your freedom and Ours!"
Please click here to read the full text of Gen. Jajko's speech: Gen. Walter Jajko, Kosciuszko Military Lecture, September 16, 2011
Born after the Second World War in the Sherwood Forest region of England in the Polish Army's postwar demobilization camp, charmingly referred to by Polish soldiers as "Beczka Smiechu" ("A Barrel of Laughs"), at the age of five Christopher Olechowski, along with his parents Jan and Janina, sailed to New York City in 1952.
He graduated from New York University with two Master's degrees in Comparative Literature, and spent three years during the 1970s in Kraków (Poland) as a Kościuszko Foundation Scholar at the Jagiellonian University. During the winter of 1981, as a secret emissary of a small Polish exile organization "Pomost" to underground Solidarity, he was caught up in the turmoil of Gen. Jaruzelski's Martial Law. Following that experience, Mr. Olechowski decided to focus his attention on the needs of the new Polish émigré post-Solidarity community by developing and directing various social, employment, and education programs. In 1993, he became director of a multi-million-dollar non-profit Home Health Care program, which he has, over the years, expanded and continues to operate. During those years, he also completed his Master's Degree in Publication Administration at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
Today, aside from his day-to-day Home Health Care Program Development and Operations, he is a third-term chairman of his Community Board in revitalized Greenpoint/Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most recently, in 2009, he was elected to serve as the National Adjutant General to the Polish Army Veterans Association of America (PAVA) as a "Heritage Member": a second-generation child of Polish war veterans.
He resides in Greenpoint with his wife Jolanta, and has two daughters, Antonina and Monika.
Christopher Olechowski's father Jan died in
Jan Olechowski's literary career as a journalist and poet began before the
Jan Olechowski's short volume of poems was last published by PAX in
"The Katyn Ledger" would only see publication in the
Read into the Katyn ledger
The names.. lifeless words
And pray a litany for all those
Without lips, eyes, faceless
A number, stoned in silence,
Deathblow so cruel.
Oh lips that are no more
How would they cry when exploded
Eyes by suffering gnawed
Hollowed into night, muted,
In what horrified gaze
Did you bid farewell to this earth
In our fragile trembling days
Let our common plight uplift us
The last gesture of the dying
Deceived in the forest in Katyn.
A wind licks at the upturned graves
Obscure remnant of their executioners
We pray, in sorrow, under the cross
For the right to our own lawful deaths