Jozef Palimaka was born May 9, 1926, in Czaple Male, a village not too far from Krakow, Poland. His parents had a small farm there, though they made the decision to relocate to Czarne Konce, near Lviv, a few years later, when they purchased a larger farm with an orchard. As Jozef was the oldest he worked on the farm to help support the family. Jozef was 13 when the war began, and his family lived in what would become the Soviet zone of occupation; many of the Poles in Lviv were arrested and sent to Siberia, and that included Jozef’s family too. They lived in terrible conditions in Siberia for about two years, and Jozef’s little sister died there, while his parents worked as forced labourers in the forests of Siberia. Stalin eventually made a deal to let the Poles leave Siberia, and Jozef and his family began their fateful trek south to Persia, with Jozef as part of Anders’ Army. The journey was difficult, and Jozef’s father died in Persia. They continued on, arriving in Palestine via Iraq. Jozef was training and going to school at different points along the way, and he opted to join the Polish Air Force during this time. From Palestine he boarded a convoy and went to England, where he learned engine repair, and that led him to Squadron 303, where he would spend the rest of the war servicing the Polish Kościuszko Squadron’s Mustang fighter aircraft. The men of the 303 played a critical role during the war from the Battle of Britain all the way to 1945, escorting bombers and defending Britain from the V-1 flying bombs, and Jozef kept those planes in the air. The end of the war saw great disappointment for the Poles in Britain; it became clear that they weren’t going home, and they felt betrayed by Churchill’s actions at Yalta. Still, Jozef stayed in England for about ten years, working and going to night school – and getting married. In 1955 they decided to emigrate to Canada. With his technical skills Jozef built up a successful business, and he and his wife raised their family, new immigrants who found their place in postwar Canada. Jozef Palimaka was interviewed by Steven Sidebotham at his home in Port Lambton, Ontario, in July 2023. We thank Jozef and Steven for sharing this with the Crestwood Oral History Project.
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