On July 10th, 1940, the Battle of Britain began.
A total of 145 experienced and battle-hardened Polish airmen fought in the Battle of Britain - 79 airmen in various RAF squadrons, 32 in No. 302 Fighter Squadron and 34 in No. 303 Fighter Squadron.
303 Squadron made the highest number of victory claims during the Battle of Britain, despite only joining it halfway through.
Overall the Squadron scored nearly three times the number of kills of the average British fighter squadron with one third the casualty rate.
In fact, the Polish record was so impressive that Stanley Vincent, the RAF commander of the base at Northolt, took it upon himself to verify their claims. Following the squadron into combat Vincent witnessed how the Poles dived at the German bombers in their Hurricanes ‘with near suicidal impetus’. On landing back at base Vincent exclaimed ‘My God, they are doing it!’. One RAF pilot noted with admiration ‘When they go tearing into the enemy bombers and fighters they go so close you would think they were going to collide’.
Glory to the heroes!
2 Oct 1938. Czeski Cieszyn is a town in the Karviná District in the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic. Polish troops enter the city.
L'armée polonaise lors de manœuvres avant l'invasion de la Pologne par l'Allemagne et l'Union soviétique en septembre 1939 - 1939
© Colorisation par MK Color
Basilica of St. Josaphat (Milwaukee, WI)
The Basilica epitomizes the striving of early Polish immigrants to express their ethnic heritage, spiritual devotion, and patriotic pride by building impressive houses of worship. The first Poles came to Milwaukee in the 1840s, but their numbers did not become significant until after the Civil War. By the late 1800s, Polish immigrants were streaming into Milwaukee by the thousands, quickly becoming the second largest ethnic group in the nation’s most German city. There were seven Polish Catholic churches in Milwaukee by 1900, each with its own parochial school.
Crown of Polonia: "As regular readers know, I emigrated to Poland from Milwaukee, a port city on Lake Michigan. No one knows where Milwaukee is when I’m in Poland, so I usually say, „If you head north from Chicago along the lakeshore, the next big city you encounter is Milwaukee.” People nod as if they understand — at least the conversation can go on. That northern route is the path I take each time I come back from Poland to visit my family in America. My parents usually pick me up at O’Hare, the Chicago airport. Then we go up on one of the Interstate Highways built across the continent in the 1950s. (They were supposed, among other things, to help the U.S. Army in case of Soviet invasion.) As the car noses over the frontier between Illinois and Wisconsin, I start looking for a copper dome over the horizon. A bend in the road, and there it is: the massive brown balloon supported by sandstone piers with clocks facing the cardinal directions. It’s a symbol of my city. But it’s not a library or some great civic temple. There’s a cross atop that dome. It’s the Basilica of Saint Josaphat. Poles built it.
The Basilica of Saint Josaphat: an angel holds the holy water font. The walls vibrate with sconces and scrollwork and trompe l’oeil marble. A slick stone floor stretches to the main altar, 50 yards away. Beyond the baldachin, in vivid oils, a bishop in red is ready to die. That man, of course, is Josaphat Kuntsevych (Jozafat Kuncewicz), of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, a monk and “archeparch” killed at Vitebsk in November of 1623. Here he is treated as an icon of the Catholic West against Eastern Darkness. The altarpiece was executed by Gonippo Raggi, a painter sent to Milwaukee from Rome by Pope Pius XI, who as papal nuncio in Warsaw had survived the invasion of Poland by the Bolsheviks. Pius loved Polonia.
By the way, it’s not a politically-correct picture: an Orthodox cleric in a high black kamilavka points his bony finger in accusation at Josaphat while a peasant with a big red beard raises the axe to murder him. Ecumenical dialogue, anyone?
Look up: the dome that soars 76 meters above the street is blank on the outside, but here on the inside it swarms with life. Apostles. Fathers of the Church. Celestial bodies. Eight windows with eight different Madonnas. Giant canvasses that follow Raphael. And, in huge gold letters around the base, this verse from the First Book of Kings: “I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” Except it’s in Polish, lest we forget who made this place. . . .
They built it. Because they could not afford to hire labor, they gave their own work. The washerwoman came home, made the children something to eat, then shifted debris from the foundations of the edifice, one apron-load at a time. Her husband drove the horse that hauled the sledge that carried the dirt to the dump site west of the Kinnickinnic River. Her brother hustled blocks up the scaffold. People still tell these stories in Milwaukee.
Go there on a Sunday now. The basilica parish is administered by Conventual Franciscans, some with names like Poczworowski. They have one of the best choirs in town. (I have heard this choir give a hesitant rendition of Serdeczna Matko, which they call „our parish song.”) The grand organ throbs and thickens the air into honey. Ladies in fur coats who’ve come in from the suburbs — some, the granddaughters of washerwomen — sit next to Mexican maids, the new arrivals, who rustle in nylon jackets. And after the Sanctus they’re all on their knees. Because this place is holy, hallowed by God, and from time to time, in this time as in all times, God’s people need to stop in and see Him."
A Polish soldier during training at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland.
The U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javan Johnson (2020).
A battalion of the Polish army on maneuvers with Swedish-made bofors guns and 37-mm anti-tank guns during August 1939.
Color by Mikołaj Kaczmarek