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Eugeniusz ZALESKI

Eugeniusz Zaleski was born on 28 August 1917 in Riga, Latvia to Ignace and Anna Zaleski, and his siblings were Victor and Zozislaw (all lost during the war).

He was educated in Poland, trained as an armament engineer, and entered the Polish Air Force in 1937.

At the outbreak of the war, while on a mission to Rumania set up by Winston Churchill and the Polish Government, Eugeniusz and a group of young men were captured but managed to escape. They followed a roundabout route through Europe and the Middle East, reached France and then evacuated to England where they joined the Polish Air force.

Eugeniusz was part of the Polish 300 Bomber Squadron - his service number was: 780370, and he held the rank of Sergeant. The Swinton aerodrome where they were stationed was near the city of Lincoln, Lincolnshire and it was there that Eugeniusz met his wife of 68 years, Lilian Hugman.

Eugeniusz became a navigator but was recruited and trained in the Special Services Branch. At the end of his assignments, he was called to London to the British Intelligence Offices for a personal thank you for his work.

He was awarded the following medals:

  • the Bronze Cross of Merit,

  • the Polish Air Force Medal x 3

In 1952, with wife Lilian and daughter Anna, Eugeniusz emigrated to Canada. In 1955 he was offered a job in Churchill, Manitoba, working with a small, recently purchased northern airline called Arctic Wings, which was previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church to take supplies to their missions. Charles Webber was the only pilot.  Eugeniusz and Charlie both loved the challenges of building up the small airline and the friendship that grew between them was to last a lifetime. Arctic Wings evolved into Trans Air and all supplies to the northern communities were flown in by them. More planes, more pilots, more workers, more contracts, Eugeniusz loved every minute of this job.

In 1954 the DEW Line was being set up and, along with his job at Arctic Wings/Trans Air, Eugeniusz also became the co-ordinator, organizing the flights and delivery of supplies and equipment needed at the DEW Line sites. This job lasted 25 years. During this period Trans Air grew and become Pacific Western, where numerous chartered flights into the north and other destinations were organized by Eugeniusz.

The letters of thanks and commendations he received are numerous, from: the governments of Canada, the U.S., and the N.W.T., Dept of Indian Affairs, Dept. of Transport, Arctic Co-Ops, northern businesses, Boeing Aircraft Co., Walt Disney Studios, Universities, professors, councils of northern communities and many individuals.

Eugeniusz left Churchill in 1973. Before he left the Dept. of Transport organized a social attended by many guests, and the town of Churchill honoured him with a dinner party. Eugeniusz then worked in the Winnipeg office of P.W.A. until his retirement in 1984. Eugeniusz received many gifts on his retirement including a trip around the world from Pan Am Airlines.

When he retired, Eugeniusz and Lilian bought a small acreage near St. Francis Xavier which they turned into a hobby farm. In 1998 they bought a home and moved to Winnipegosis.

Eugeniusz belonged to the Canadian Legion, the Assiniboine Senior Centre, and the ANAF Hall of St. James. He was also a member of the Western Canada Aviation Museum, that honoured him with a letter stating that his diligent and innovative pursuit of aeronautical professions, have contributed significantly, to the development of aviation in Canada. “You are considered a pioneer of Canadian aviation”.

Eugeniusz died in Winnipegosis on 18 December 2010.


Copyright: Zaleski family

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