A FAMILY from Poland gathered at the north Lancashire grave of a British pilot – 70 years after their relatives saved his life.
Thomas Storey’s Halifax aircraft crashed in the remote village of Tarnogora, Poland, while he was dropping supplies to partisan fighters during World War Two.
The pilot, from Slyne-with-Hest, evaded capture by the Germans thanks only to the kindness and loyalty of the partisans who sheltered him.
Thomas spent three months living in an underground bunker in the forest before he managed to make it to Russia where, on the direct orders of both Khrushchev and Stalin, a rescue plane was sent.
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Unfortunately he was unable to talk to anybody about what happened because of the Official Secrets Act, and he passed away on April 23, 1964, aged 44 - 20 years to the day after the crash.
His wife Rita and daughters Pat, Susan and Jennifer, traced the relatives of the partisans who saved his life and discovered that they hold an annual momorial at the site of the crash.
Earlier this month, five members of the Kak family from Poland gathered at Thomas’s grave at Slyne-with-Hest for a touching memorial ceremony.
Pat said: “We have definitely got a connection with them that will carry on in the future. This is about meeting the people that were so good to these airmen. They saved his life and helped him get back home.”
Zofia Kak said: “It’s a very important event for us. It has become a local tradition to remember the partisans and events during the war. We teach our children about them to keep the history alive.”
Thomas’s daughter Jennifer has published a book about the events called ‘A Special Duty’.
She writes: “Many families had their lives unravelled by the trauma that war leaves in its wake; it’s a story as relevant today as it was 70 years ago.”