‘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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