The Airmen's Stories - F/O Z Kustrzynski
Zbigniew Kustrzynski was born in Moscow to Polish parents on 18th September 1911, the family returned to Lodz in Poland after the Russian Revolution.
Kustrzynski joined the Polish Air Force in 1934. His prewar service is currently undocumented but by 1st September 1939 he was serving with a specially constituted 'Pursuit Brigade' to defend Warsaw.
When the unit was unable to remain operational he made his way to England via Romania and France and was commissioned in the RAFVR in January 1940 at RAF Eastchurch.
He moved to the Polish Wing at 3 School of Technical Training Blackpool on 1st June 1940 to await a posting.
Kustrzynski was at 15 EFTS Carlisle from 18th July to 1st August for testing and grading, after which he went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge.
After converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 111 Squadron at Debden on 1st September and moved to 607 Squadron at Tangmere on the 14th. He joined 303 Squadron at Leconfield on 12th November.
The squadron combined with 316 and 317 on 4th April 1942 to provide an escort for twelve Bostons detailed to attack St. Omer railway station.
Kustrynski was serving as Ops Room controller but took off with the squadron. Near Boulogne they were intercepted by Me109's and Fw190's and a combat ensued. Kustrzynski was shot down in Spitfire Vb AB824. He made a forced-landing in France and was captured. He had destroyed two Fw190's in the action. He was awarded the KW (gazetted 20th August 1942).
On 1st February 1945 Kustrzynski escaped from a PoW farm working party in company with W/Cdr. RSS Tuck. They were found by the Russians two weeks later and spent some time fighting alongside them.
They made their way into Poland, then into Russia and reached the British Embassy in Moscow. Kustrzynski and Tuck boarded a ship at Odessa for Southampton.
He married a Polish nurse that he met while recuperating in hospital. He was released from the Polish Air Force in January 1947 and went to live in Canada, initially in Cornwall, Ontario and later in Montreal. He was an executive with the Dominion Textile Company until retirement.
Kustrynski died on 9th September 1996 and was buried in Lodz, Poland.