During World War II, some 3,000 Polish refugees migrated to Karachi, at the time a part of the British Raj.
Most of the current migrants came to the country after its independence in 1947. The Pakistan Air Force employed some 30 Polish pilots to help develop it in the initial years.
Polish Pakistanis included:
Air Commodore (Equivalent to Brigadier General) of the Pakistan Air Force Władysław Turowicz – he was one of many Polish pilots who relocated to Pakistan after World War Two to develop the then Royal Pakistan Air Force.
What is now Pakistan (then British India) – Polish refugees were welcomed – along with Iran. Below are some pictures of the refugees:
Polish refugees on a ship docking in an Iranian port
Grandmother takes care of her grandchildren.
Red Cross Refugee tent
More refugee tents
Many of this generation of Polish people never forgot the kindness shown and the the way they were welcomed with open arms my many of the peoples in non-European nations.
Air Commodore Władysław Józef Marian Turowicz (23 April 1908 – 8 January 1980), referred to as W. J. M. Turowicz, was a Polish-Pakistani pilot, scientist and engineer. Although not a refugee but a Polish pilot who fought for Poland and Britain in World War Two and later the new nation of Pakistan.
Turowicz with other officers (Chaklala, 1954) -Photos by Tahir Jamal/White Star. Courtesy Pakistan Air Force Museum.
Born in 1908, Turowicz was fascinated by aviation and had collected different models of aircraft. After moving to Warsaw he attended the Warsaw University of Technology (WTU) majoring in aeronautical engineering; upon graduation, he received his PhD with honours. While at Warsaw University of Technology, Turowicz joined and became a pioneering member of The Polish Aero Club where he studied and worked with noted Polish engineers to the field of aerospace engineering.
Zofia Turowicz, wife of Air Commodore Turowicz
It was at the Aero Club that Turowicz met his future wife, Zofia Turowicz with whom he would have 4 children.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Turowicz as a Polish Air Force Lieutenant was stationed in south-western Poland. He received the order to retreat to Romania and was soon locked up in an internment camp. Zofia found him there in 1940, and they both married. In autumn 1940, they both began their journey to Great Britain where Turowicz joined the Royal Air Force as a flying instructor and a test pilot.
Zofia, Turowicz’s wife also contributed to the Royal Pakistan Air Force having taught gliding to Shaheen Air Cadets in Karachi and Rawalpindi, and applied mathematics and particle physics at Karachi University. She was honoured by Pakistan’s government for her achievements and was awarded the Pride of Performance and Sitara-i-Imtiaz.
Left picture: Turowicz receiving Pakistans Prime Minister and Right picture: being decorated by President Ayub Khan in 1966 for meritorious service to the Pakistan Air Force Photos by Tahir Jamal/White Star. Courtesy Pakistan Air Force Museum.
Turowicz was one of forty five Polish officers and airmen who joined Royal Pakistan Air Force in the early fifties. Turowicz opted to stay on in Pakistan and continued to serve in PAF and later, SUPARCO – Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission from 1967 to 1970.
Air Commodore Wladyslaw Turowicz (Second from right), Mrs Zofia Turowicz (Third from left) with other officers and cadets (1954, Royal Pakistan Air Force Base Chaklala)
Turowicz made significant contributions to Pakistan’s missile/rocket program as its chief aeronautical engineer. In Pakistan, Turowicz remains highly respected as a scientist and aeronautical engineer.
Turowicz set up technical institutes in Karachi. He taught at The Pakistan Air Force Academy as a chief scientist and led the technical training in the airbase in Karachi.
In 1952, Turowicz was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander (equiv to Lieut Colonel).
In 1959, Turowicz was promoted in the rank of Group Captain (equiv to Colonel).
In 1960, he became an Air Commodore (equiv to Brigadier General) and an Assistant Chief of Air Staff, in charge of PAF’s Maintenance Branch.
Pakistans Space Programme
In 1966, the Government of Pakistan under President Ayub Khan transferred him to SUPARCO, Pakistan’s national space agency, where Turowicz worked there as a chief scientist along with the great theoretical physicist, Dr. Abdus Salam, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Having met President Ayub, Turowicz was convinced of the importance of a space program for Pakistan after Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik.
Dr. Salam and Air Commodore Turowicz travelled through to the United States where they convinced the United States Government to invest and train Pakistan’s scientists in the field of rocket technology.
Documentary in Polish and English on Air Cdre Turowicz
There is a documentary film on Air Cdre Turowicz was completed in 2008 and directed by Anna T. Pietraszek, a Polish journalist and film-maker.
Statue of Turowicz at PAF Museum Karachi
Air. Cdre. Turowicz was involved in a car accident on the 8 January 1980 along with his driver. He was taken to the military hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was buried in Karachi with full military honours. Both Polish, including the Consul-General of Poland in Karachi Mr. Kazimierz Maurer, and Pakistani military and civilian personnel attended his funeral in Karachi.
The Government of Pakistan issued a condolence letter to his family, stating that Turowicz was not only an outstanding Air Force officer, but also a scientist, and had served in the country’s space program.
Turowicz is buried at the Karachi Christian Cemetery -Photos by Tahir Jamal/White Star. Courtesy Pakistan Air Force Museum.
Honours and Awards:
In 2005, The PAF Museum at Karachi, placed a memorial plaque in the honour of Air. Cdre. Władysław Turowicz where both senior military and civilian Polish and Pakistani leaders attended – The Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Karachi Ireneusz Makles thanked the PAF and especially Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and other officers for their efforts to make this memorial a reality.
Sitara-e-Imtiaz, (Mil) (1972)
Abdus Salam Award in Aeronautical Engineering (1978)
ICTP Award in Space Physics (1979)
A monument in honour of Turowicz at the Pakistan Air Force Museum -Photos by Tahir Jamal/White Star. Courtesy Pakistan Air Force Museum.
Life sketch at PAF Museum Karachi
Turowicz loved Poland, but believed that the Poland he loved was already gone. There is a story of him of meeting a foreign agent who came to him as a student and another of a Polish diplomat (when Poland was a Communist nation) who had befriended Turowicz’s family in Karachi and invited him and his sister for a dinner in Warsaw.
Discussion focused on a rumour that the Polish Communist Party’s secretary’s translator was a spy and had escaped to Germany. After a long silence, Turowicz confessed he had met many spies, especially during the Indo-Pakistani war. He said they were slimy, worthless people, men without qualities, whom he would never let close.
He then raised his voice: “I will never become one of them.” This was a man who was loyal to his nation Pakistan and willing to pay the price for defending his adopted nation. I hope more people especially those of Pakistani and Polish backgrounds read the story and remember this great man: Air Commodore Władysław Turowicz of the Pakistan Air Force.