English traces in Małopolska

A view of the fortified castle in Pieskowa Skała. At the bottom there is a view of the garden around the defensive walls; next to it, there is a tower. In the background is a view of the forest.
Every year, on the anniversary of a British bomber's crash over Kraków, the city inhabitants gather at the place where the most significant part of the machine fell. A monument is soon to be erected there to the people who flew to the aid of fighting Warsaw. Residents of the United Kingdom are the most numerous visitors to Małopolska. Do they also go to places connected with their history and culture? Here we also have the traces of great English writers and even a gallery of English paintings in a completely unexpected place.

British airmen to the aid of fighting Poland

On 1 August 1944, an uprising broke out in Warsaw to liberate the Polish capital from German occupation and establish Polish rule against the advancing Soviet army. The Allies decided to support the fighters with airdrops of weapons from the air, but the Soviets did not provide airfields located several dozen kilometres from Warsaw. British and American planes flew from Italy, covering about 1500 km one way. The night from 16th to 17th August 1944 was one of the most significant airdrop actions as 19 RAF (Royal Air Force) planes took off for Poland. There were Polish and British crews - English, Australian and South African. On that night, the German anti-aircraft defences massacred the allied aircraft between Kraków, Tarnów and Kazimierza Wielka. Among them was the British Liberator KG-933 P of No. 178 Squadron RAF, which at 2.27 a.m. fell in Kraków, between today's Powstańców Śląskich Bridge and Kotlarski Bridge. The plane was destroyed while still in the air, as its wreckage fell on both sides of the Vistula River and into the river.

The machine crew were pilot W. D. Wright (died on the spot), mechanic L. J. Blunt (body not found), navigator, Australian J. P. Liversidge (died on the spot), gunner F. W. Helme (body not found), gunner J. D. Clarke (died on the spot), and radio operator, Australian A. Hammet, who parachuted into the Kocmyrzów area. Wounded, he was taken to a manor house in Goszyce and then to a unit of the underground Home Army, fighting alongside Poles against the German occupiers. After the war, he returned to his country and married a Polish woman.

This is just one of many such stories. In many places in Małopolska you will find traces and memorabilia of British airmen and soldiers.


  • Kraków Zabłocie, Boulevard of Allied Airmen. An obelisk dedicated to the crew of the British Liberator KG-933 P. There are plans to build a large memorial. Every year, on the anniversary of the downing of the British machine, Kraków inhabitants meet to commemorate the participation of allied aircraft in flights over Poland.
  • Kraków, the Home Army Museum In the museum presenting one of the largest underground armies in the world, you can also see a flight suit probably belonging to A. Hammet.
  • Luborzyca (near Kraków). In the cemetery there is a monument to the first burial place of the eight-person crew of the South African Liberator EV-941 Q, later exhumed at the Rakowicki Cemetery. It is a damaged propeller from the aircraft; one of only two that can be seen in Poland (the other is in the Wadowice City Museum).
  • Odporyszów, the Marian Sanctuary On the Church’s belfry is a memorial plaque to the seven-man crew of a British Halifax JP 276 A, which was shot down over Dąbrowa Tarnowska. The oldest crew member was only 35 years old. All of them were killed. Their plane was flying with a cargo of medical supplies for fighting Warsaw. The location of the plaque is special, as it was from this bell tower that the first flights in the history of mankind were made on a specially constructed machine.
  • Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Synagoge – Centre of Meeting Cultures Here you can see authentic parts of a British Halifax JP 276 A, shot down over Dąbrowa, and learn about the fate of its crew.

Great grave of British prisoners of war

It is hard to believe, but as many as 522 soldiers of the British Empire are buried in the Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków. The place where they are buried covers 330 square metres. Soldiers from India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and native British men lie here. Where did they come from? Most of them died in prisoner-of-war camps established by the Germans in what is now Poland. It is worth remembering that the prisoner-of-war camp depicted in the famous film "The Great Escape", with a host of world cinema stars, was also located on Polish territory. Most British soldiers buried in Kraków are prisoners of war from Camp VIIIB near Opole. The centre of the British section is a stone monument surrounded by steel plates with the names, military unit, regimental emblem and a short epitaph.

Crew members of British aircraft that were shot down over Poland during World War II are also buried here


  • Kraków, Rakowicki Cemetery The British soldiers' quarters are located in the northern part of the cemetery just outside the fence.

They saved London. The most secret of secret missions

Every British person knows that the SOE (Special Operations Executive) was a secret unit that carried out intelligence and diversionary work worldwide during World War II. Its purpose was also to inspire resistance in occupied countries. Incidentally, the head of the SOE pointed to the example of the Polish Home Army as a model to be replicated, and half of the intelligence reports reaching the SOE came from Poles. It also concerned information on V1 and V2 missiles, so crucial to the British.

Between August 1944 and March 1945, 2894 V2 rockets fell on London, and the losses were increasingly severe. Polish intelligence seized an almost complete V2 missile from a German training ground. Polish scientists examined it, and the missile and its documentation were prepared for transport. The Most (Bridge) operation, prepared jointly by the Poles and the SOE, took place in Małopolska. Planes with Polish-English crews taking off from Brindisi in Italy landed in Małopolska near Tarnów, despite German garrisons being stationed in every major town. The planes carried couriers and the most secret intelligence information. During the Most III operation, Dakota KG-477 V of 267 Squadron RAF was to carry V2 elements and the afore-mentioned documentation. On the night of 25-26 July 1944, the mission succeeded despite dramatic circumstances (the plane was stationary on the landing field for over an hour and a half instead of a few minutes). The Allies received detailed information about the rockets falling on London. One of the participants in the operation was Winston Churchill's trusted man, Józef Retinger.

It is worth knowing that during the planned operation Most V, 33 Allied airmen shot down in flights over Poland and hidden by the Polish resistance were to be taken from the airfield near Tymbark. The mission did not take place because of the Soviet offensive.


  • Near the village of Wał - Ruda, 18 km from Tarnów on the Kisielina River (location: N50°08′ E20°47′), the landing site of the action Most III.
  • Wał - Ruda, by the road from Wał-Ruda to Zabawa. A monument to the Most III action, made of a large granite boulder with a plaque inscribed with the words "They saved London" and a cast iron symbol of Fighting Poland. Next to it is a plaque and a platform from which one can observe the landing site

Chesterton discovers the Tatras and Zakopane for England

One of the most famous English publicists and writers, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the author of, among others, "The Man Who Was Thursday", was fascinated by Poland to such an extent that he decided to visit our country. A trip in 1927 led him to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains, which became a great discovery for the writer. His guide was the painter Mary Winifred Cooper, who lived in Zakopane for some time. As Rafał Malczewski recalls, those were the times when "Krupówki were buzzing with life, Zakopane was filled with peyote vapour, geysers of alcohol, nights were short, days were long". In a word, these were the times of the most extraordinary cultural ferment in the capital of the Tatra Mountains, and Cooper knew the artistic milieu like no one else, being a part of it herself. Among other things, Chesterton visited the Tatra Museum, where the perverse director Zborowski told him about robbers so exemplarily honest that before an attack they prayed in the church to God for moral help. Zborowski was probably counting on the confusion of his guest, considered a moralist. "And who were they to pray to..." replied the English writer, also known for his brilliant language. Moreover, Chesterton was said to have taken a liking to the legendary meteorologist from Zakopane, Józef Fedorowicz, but that is another story.

Let us return to Miss Cooper for a moment. The prominent English painter came to Zakopane in the early 1920s to follow her fiancé, who was supposed to be treated for tuberculosis here but died. Cooper bought a beautiful wooden villa which she later sold to a prominent Polish poet, Jan Kasprowicz. He bought it with the royalties he received for translating Shakespeare's works into Polish.

Cooper and Chesterton's adventures caused a lot of English people to come to Zakopane, and they also climbed the Tatra peaks. One of them was Ruth Hale, a British Ladies Alpine Club member. She came to the Tatra Mountains for the first time in the winter of 1934, experiencing such an aesthetic fascination that she came here every year after that. Her most frequent partner was the young mountaineer Witold Paryski, later the author of the "Great Tatra Encyclopaedia". Hale was so greedy for the Tatra Mountains that it eventually caused her death. On 6 September 1937, with awful weather and falling night, she wanted to climb one more peak, worried that she might not have a chance to go to the Tatra Mountains the following day. Even though her companions advised against the trip, the woman was stubborn. If they did not go, they would lose a day. One more day to devote to her beloved Tatra Mountains, which she had to leave in a few days and return to her native England. "Heads or tails?" she asked suddenly, taking a coin out of her pocket. This toss was a life and death decision. A moment later, she fell into the abyss, torn away from the wall along with a wet boulder. She rests in Zakopane to this day.

Here is one more British surprise. During World War II, the Tatra Mountains were an illegal way for the Polish resistance to transport people with secret tasks and intelligence reports. The so-called Tatra couriers (most often highlanders from Zakopane) would get through the Tatra Mountains closed by the Germans. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) also used this route, and one of the couriers was Krystyna Skarbek, Winston Churchill's favourite agent and ace of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) operating throughout Europe. She provided the British with information about the timing of the German attack on the Soviet Union. Skarbek was probably Ian Flemming's close friend and served him as the prototype for Vesper - James Bond's mistress.


Conrad, the great sailor of literature, sails from Kraków

Joseph Conrad - one of the world's greatest writers, a citizen of Great Britain, was of Polish descent and grew up in Kraków. The author of "Lord Jim", "Heart of Darkness", "Nostromo", and "The Shadow Line" lived with his dying father - a well-known writer - in Kraków from 1869. Here his father died, and young Józef Korzeniowski decided to become a sailor at the age of only 13, and four years later embarked on his ship. From 1884, he was a citizen of Great Britain. Interestingly, despite being considered a master of English, he never mastered it sufficiently in speech.

Joseph Conrad returned to Kraków in August 1914 with his son, to whom he showed its nooks and crannies, and remembered the city with great fondness:

"It was in this old royal university town I ceased to be a child, grew into a boy, tasted the friendships, delights, thoughts, and holy indignations proper to this age. Within these history-shrouded walls, I began to understand things, feel attachments, and accumulate a store of memories and a stock of impressions..."

His stay was abruptly interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. The writer and his son left for Zakopane and later returned to England in a breakneck escapade.


  • Kraków 2 Wiślna Street, Książęca tenement house where Korzeniowski lived after his father's death.
  • Kraków. 12 Świętej Anny Street, where the school the boy attended was located.
  • Kraków. Collegium Maius. Jagiellonian University Museum Here his father's manuscripts were kept, and here Józef looked at them with emotion in 1914.
  • Kraków. Grand Hotel He lived here during his stay in 1914, and here his meeting with the Kraków intelligentsia took place.
  • Kraków. Rakowicki Cemetery (lane Ad). Apollo Korzeniowski, Józef's father, is buried here, a writer and hero of the Polish uprisings against Russia. His funeral in Kraków was a tremendous national event.
  • Zakopane 18 Jagiellońska Street, Villa Konstantynówka and 19 Kościuszki Street, Hotel Stamary For several months in 1914, Conrad lived here, unable to get out of war-stricken Europe.

Pieskowa Skała. A trip to old England

Polish Romanticism, developing at the turn of the 19th century, also drew on English cultural heritage, introducing the fashion for English literature and its imitations, clothes, furniture and even garden arrangements. However, the first extensive collection of English paintings did not come until the beginning of the 20th century, when several dozen paintings were gathered by the collector, patron of the arts and politician Leon Piniński. In time he transferred his collection (as many as 332 objects!) to the collection of the Wawel Royal Castle. In 2008, the collection of paintings became the basis for a permanent exhibition at the Castle in Piaskowa Skała. It is one of the most famous buildings of this type in Poland. Since the 14th century, the building has been rebuilt several times, and situated within the Ojców National Park in an exceptionally picturesque landscape, is a favourite location for Polish filmmakers. The Gallery of English Painting presents works attributed to such artists as G. Kneller, P. Mercier, J. Reynolds and G. Romney, and two signed landscapes by G. Morland. The paintings were displayed in such a way as to evoke the atmosphere of English palace galleries. For that reason, English furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries appeared in the rooms, a seemingly archaic lighting system was used, and curtains were drawn in the windows. The colour scheme of the walls, inspired by English interiors of the late 18th and 19th centuries, also plays an important role.


Masterton wants to take over the world from a Kraków church

Graham Masterton, the English master of sex guides and horror novels, a man who produced books with the speed of a machine gun, translated into all the world's languages, is also connected with Kraków. He used to visit our city, and this is also where the action of his books takes place. In one of them, resurrected mystical creatures that begin to attack people to take over the world come from St Catherine's Church in Kazimierz. In the Planty, a garden arranged on the site of medieval fortress walls, we even have a bench dedicated to the writer, where you can download fragments of his novel via QR. The bench is part of the Kraków: City of Literature project. And this is how Masterton describes one of his characters:

"He lived for another year or two in Kraków. I know as I used to see him almost every week in the Nostalgia restaurant at Karmelicka Street, where he ate lunch. It was always the same: dumplings with mushrooms, with which he drank white wine. I saw an article by him in Dziennik Polski. He claimed to have abandoned medieval mythology for medieval archaeology. He was researching the cultural history of Kraków and conducting excavations. That must have been over eight years ago. After that, I never saw him again or read about his excavations. Until your call today, my friend, I had not once thought of Christian Zauber.

- Rafal, I can't tell you why, but I must find him."


  • Kraków The Planty, a park bench dedicated to Graham Masterton
  • Kraków – KazimierzThe Church and Monastery of Augustinians (7-9 Augustiańska Street). The church, dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret, is one of the best-preserved examples of Gothic architecture in Poland. 


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