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Jerzy Kazimierz Pajączkowski-Dydyński (Lwów, Austro-Hungary, (now Ukraine), July 19, 1894 - Boarbank Hall, Grange-over-Sands, England, December 6, 2005) was Polish veteran of World War I and UK's oldest man at the time of his death at the age of 111 years, 140 days, and one of the last surviving veterans of the First World War living in the UK. The army veteran died at a nursing home in Cumbria. In 1915, Jerzy was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army. He later fought for Poland. Pajaczkowski-Dydynski, a former colonel, escaped from the German invasion in 1940, and worked as a gardener in Scotland before moving to Cumbria.
Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was born in what was at the time known as Lwów (and now known as Lviv in Ukraine), the capital of what became the Austrian province of Galicia. Although technically part of Austria-Hungary, the Galician Polish enjoyed a "degree of autonomy in local government". Pajaczkowski-Dydynski began studies in law at Lemberg University in 1912, transferring to the University of Vienna two years later.
World War I
On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Galicians were subject to conscription, and Pajaczkowski was called up. His training took place chiefly in Hungary and Bosnia. In 1916, he was sent as a sergeant to the Italian front in Montenegro and Albania.
Although allied by treaty with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy had instead joined the war on the side of the Allied Powers in May 1915, in hopes of annexing parts of Austrian territory.
In November 1918, Pajaczkowski was taken prisoner in northern Italy during the last hours of the war. When he was freed at the following Christmas, he was sent to France. Like many Galicians taken prisoner after being conscripted into the German Army, Jerzy volunteered to join the Polish Army Corps in France. This unit, which also contained Polish-American volunteers, had seen action in 1918 in the allied campaign in Alsace-Lorraine, fostering an acute sense of Polish identity among the troops.
The Army of the Republic of Poland
When peace came, Pajaczkowski elected to serve in the army of the newly proclaimed Republic of Poland guaranteed by the signatories to the Treaty of Versailles. He became a lieutenant and staff officer under General Jozef Haller in an infantry division, and took part in the 1920-1921 Polish War against Soviet Russia. This was fought between the Red Army and Poland over Poland's eastern border. Following the Armistice in October, he was moved to the Polish 2nd Army, and two years later he became a captain.
World War II
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was a lieutenant-colonel. He was at the headquarters of the Polish Army in Warsaw when, on September 1, 1939 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland. His wife and son fled to Romania by means of an evacuation train. When surrender seemed inevitable, Jerzy escaped to Bucharest to collect his family. Along with 30,000 other Polish, he was able to make his way to France through then still-neutral Italy.
When France fell to the Germans, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski left for Britain, arriving in Plymouth on June 28, 1940. He stayed at military camps in Lanarkshire and Peebles before being sent to Perth, where he took command of a Polish garrison. In 1943, he moved to Edinburgh, translating and adapting British military regulations and manuals for the use of Polish units.
When the war ended in May 1945, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski made Edinburgh his home, since his birthplace had been annexed by the Soviet Union and most of the Poles expelled. Following the death of his wife Maria that year, he married Dorothy Caterall, and had a daughter.
Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was never able to continue his legal studies in his new residence. Instead he worked as a gardener. He was, however, fluent in Polish, French, German and English. He also had a passion for music and was a skilled viola player.
In 1964, he was promoted to a full colonel.
Pajaczkowski-Dydynski did not return to Poland until 1989, when he was 95.
When he died, he was survived by ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Decorations and medals
- Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2001; previously awarded the Knight's Cross)
- Cross of Valour (1920)
- Silver Cross of Merit (1925)
- A Romanian decoration of distinction (1931)[clarification needed]
These are in addition to three Austrian decorations he received in World War I for active service.
- Post (2012-05-01). "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-07.