White Eagles


Leopold Tomiak teases his twin sister when she receives confirmation of a place in the ‘White Eagles‘, Poland’s Air Force Reserve, ahead of him. The pair are inseparable, both inspired to help Poland prepare for an inevitable German invasion.

After September 1939, Poland’s poor preparations are evident; the country is overwhelmed by German troops and artillery. When Kristina and Leopold’s little airfield in Birky is attacked ruthlessly, only Kristina can escape. Her RWD-8 aircraft is disguised on the airfield’s outskirts. Can Kristina get away safely? Where might she go? Furthermore, what if her escape is derailed by a stowaway, desperate for his own survival?

Elizabeth Wein’s story is inspired by Anna Leska, one of three Polish women who flew with Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary. Ultimately, Anna led an international group of female pilots. ‘White Eagles’ sheds light upon an unknown group, but also a nation that contributed to Britain’s and the international war effort monumentally. Despite the appalling suffering of their own nation during WWII by Germany, and thereafter, Russia, Poland contributed troops and expertise to efforts to defeat Hitler’s onslaught. ‘White Eagles’ is an essential, informative and brave story.


White Eagles

Elizabeth Wein

(Barrington Stoke)

‘White Eagles‘ were the Polish Air Force, proud, capable flyers who stood little chance against the might of the Luftwaffe. Kristina Tomiak receives confirmation of her call up to this elite group ahead of her twin brother, Leopold. ‘In the air, Kristina [is] all right’. She conducts conversations with Leopold, imagining his taunts and encouragements. This strength of mind is essential when Kristina flees invasion. It is clear that the German invasion of Poland is a machine against which the nation cannot stand. Where can a young female pilot with a small plane hope to travel? Kristina has no idea of where to go other than to find ‘a safe place to think and rest, or until she [runs] out of fuel.’ 
How might her plans be changed by a stowaway? Furthermore, how has German invasion of Europe changed the landscape and the welcome that Kristina might receive? Elizabeth Wein uses the inspiration of Polish pilot Anna Leska, who flew with Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII. The Polish influence, skills, experience and suffering resultant from WWII are not as well known as they might. ‘White Eagles‘ is a superb start to rectifying this. Historical narratives like this, or The Children of Willesden Lane create an accessible reality for readers.

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