Kathleen Hanser describes Franciszek Jarecki’s bid for freedom from communism in a MiG-15... a story of espionage, luck and willpower

Lt Franciszek Jarecki (in the dark flight suit) with Danish officials at Bornholm shortly after his abrupt arrival on March 5, 1953.

Tasked with leading a flight of four on a routine patrol along Poland’s Baltic coast on March 5, 1953, 21-year-old Polish Air Force pilot Lt Franciszek Jarecki had other ideas. They involved defection. His hands trembled before pushing open the throttle. Glancing towards the four armed MiG-15s sat on alert nearby, he knew it was now or never.

When it became apparent what he was doing, Jarecki knew those very aircraft would be scrambled to chase after him with two options – force him back to Poland or shoot him down, a death sentence either way. Knowing what he wanted to do, he had surreptitiously checked the frequency they were using by befriending one of their Soviet pilots. With his new-found knowledge, he walked across to his assigned jet for the day, ‘346’, a brand-new MiG-15bis.

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