THE raising of the Polish flag over Exeter’s Guildhall on Friday was just too much for Bozena Tucker.
For Mrs Tucker the sight of the proud standard fluttering in the wind brought back too many sad and poignant memories.
The flag was hoisted 71 years to the day that the fliers of a Polish nightfighter squadron handed their original flag to the city.
The flying heroes, based at Exeter Airport, had won the hearts of the city for their brave actions in defending the city from bombers during the Second World War
Mrs Tucker, who lives in Whipton and whose Polish grandfather was killed in the notorious Katyn Massacre in Poland in 1941, said: “It is of great significance for people in Exeter and I think it is important we remember.”
“It was all too much for me really, too emotional. I just couldn’t watch the flag being raised . I just went to spend five minutes after the ceremony at the Guildhall.
“It brought back a lot of sad memories.
“My grandfather, Wasalw Turkowski, was a senior police officer in Poland and he was one of the thousands of officers who were rounded up by the Russians and murdered in the Katyn Forest in the spring of 1941.
“My mother. Halena, was only 19 when her father was shot and she joined the Polish underground but was caught and sent to a concentration camp.
“She was released in 1942 on condition that she leave Poland.
“I have a book, Lista Katynska, which lists the thousand who were murdered at Katyn.
“To see the Polish flag raised over Exeter makes me so proud - but also brings back sad memories.”
During the Blitz of Exeter the outnumbered Polish crews fought bravely against their enemy and had it not been for their presence the city would have suffered even more devastation and almost certainly more people would have been killed.
Four Luftwaffe Junkers bombers were shot down on the main night of the Blitz. During the two years at Exeter, 21 of the squadron paid the ultimate sacrifice and 19 are buried at Higher Cemetery.
During their stay Exeter became the first British city to be presented with the Polish National Flag as a result of the close links that the squadron and the city had formed.
The Polish flag was blessed by the Bishop of Exeter and then the squadron leader presented the flag to the mayor of Exeter.
A new Polish flag was blessed by the Lord Mayor’s chaplain last year, and then in the presence of the Lord Mayor, the chief executive and the leader of the city council, four relatives of squadron personnel and special guests, the Polish flag was raised over the Guildhall for the day, which in Exeter was named ‘307 Polish Squadron Day’.
November 15 will be 307 Polish Squadron Day in Exeter.