History and People
The first successful airplane was invented and flown by the Wright Brothers in 1903. But many nations and cultures dreamed of and experimented with human flight long before that. One of those was Poland. An Italian who became a Polish citizen named Burattini experimented with a muscle powered winged craft in the mid-seventeenth century and apparently was able to become airborne.
The first manned balloon flight occurred in 1783. In 1789 Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard made the first balloon flight in Poland, a 45 minute flight over Warsaw and across the Wisła. A year later Jan Potocki became the first Pole to fly in a balloon, over Warsaw, with his Turkish servant and Blanchard. Three years after that Blanchard made the first balloon flight in America in the presence of President George Washington.
NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO, CANADA. Casimir Gzowski followed the all-to-well-worn path of so many Poles who departed Poland for one oppressive or dire reason of the sort. Most emigrated for reasons of economic necessity and/or seeking personal and political freedoms. Gzowski, a Polish patriot, was forced to flee from Russian-Partitioned Poland and he finally settled in the safe haven of the Dominion of Canada. These circumstances were a direct result of the Czar's Imperial Russian Army crushing the Polish Uprising of 1830, thereby forcing 10,000 of its patriotic leaders into foreign exile away from their Polish homeland.
Ralph Modjeski was originally born as Rudolf Modrzejewski in 1861 in Bochnia near Krakow. Bochnia and Krakowe were in that time a part of the Austrian empire. He was a son of Helena Modrzejewska, later known as Modjeska, a famous Polish actress. His mother decided to immigrate to the US in 1976 with a group of friends, they hoped to start communal farm in California, but this was not a successful enterprise. On the way to America, they visited a great Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It probably had a big impact on 15th year old Ralph, who already demonstrated talents in many areas, among them music.
On the first of September of 1939, the sky above Warsaw was unexpectedly filled with hostile military aircraft. Without declaring war, Germany crossed the border into Poland. Units of the German Air force, fighters and light bombers were prowling about Poland, nearing the capital.
I was returning by bus that day from Swider, a summer vacation spot. Going by Anin, I saw by the road a bombed out house and a dead white horse. That horse was the first casualty of the war that I was to see.
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