Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Hero in His Homeland

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Hero in His Homeland

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Armstrong

He might look like any normal pensioner, but modest Willy Kaczan is a national war hero.

The fighter pilot fought with the Royal Air Force in the Second World War and is revered in his native Poland.

He has just returned from a trip to his homeland where he was met by the national air force and opened a war exhibition alongside senior politicians.

Born in Poland, he joined his country's military academy where he trained to become a pilot in 1938.

And during the Second World War he survived being put in front of a Russian firing squad on three occasions.

After escaping to Britain, he joined the Royal Air Force where he targeted enemy U-boats, before being shot down by a German Messerschmitt.

After the conflict, he moved to Tyneside and now the 82-year-old, of Killingworth, has recalled the incredible events which have filled his life.

Tragically, in 1939, while in Romania with his flying academy, Mr Kaczan was told his family had been slaughtered by Russian forces who were occupying his homeland.

"When I went home the house was empty," he recalled. "I went upstairs to where my parents had been sleeping and it was as if someone had painted the walls red with a brush.

"In the next bedroom, my sister and her daughter's blood was all over the place.

"They had apparently been hacked to death."

Towards the end of that year, he joined around 300 of his fellow villagers in an uprising against occupation forces. Mr Kaczan was taken prisoner and was attacked so horrifically during interrogation that he almost died.

"The beatings were unbelievable. I couldn't see because my eyes were so swollen. I couldn't speak and my nose was broken," he remembered.

"Then they took me in front of the firing squad. They said they would count to three and then shoot.

"Fortunately, they didn't execute me ( although they made me go through that experience three times as they tried to get me to give them information they were looking for. …

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