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Stefan Baluk

Polish resistance fighter

Polish resistance fighter

Born: January 15, 1914; Died: January 30, 2014

Stefan Baluk, who has died aged 100, was a member of the Polish resistance during the Second World War and was one of the last surviving members of Britain's Special Operations Executive which launched missions in Poland against the occupiers. After escaping from France in 1940, much of his training was completed in Fife.

He was born in Warsaw and graduated in economics just before the outbreak of the war before going on to study law. In 1939, he was called up and served in a tank battalion. After the invasion of Poland, he escaped with many thousands of other soldiers into Hungary. From there, he moved to France where he joined the exiled Polish army which sought to continue the war from Paris. However, when France surrendered, Baluk and his comrades were forced to flee once more.

He was evacuated to England where he volunteered for the Special Operations Executive, the British organisation that conducted espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe. Baluk was sent to Fife for training in, among other subjects, forging German documents. He also took a course in parachuting.

In 1944, he was flown from Italy, which had been partially liberated, and dropped into Poland and began taking photographs of German military installations. He also began working with the Home Army, who led an uprising in August which was crushed by the Germans.

As the uprising crumbled, Baluk was taken prisoner and was sent to the Oflag prison camp in Pomerania. A few months later, he escaped and returned to Poland to join the Home Army.

When the Communists took over in Poland, Baluk was considered an enemy and was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison. He was eventually released in an amnesty in 1947 but was still persona non grata and struggled to find work. He was harassed by the secret police and regularly arrested and interrogated.

For a time, Baluk worked as a taxi driver before becoming a professional photographer. It was not until Poland became independent in 1989 that he was finally rehabilitated and his achievements recognised. He was awarded the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration, and in 2006 was promoted to the honorary rank of general.

He was married three times and is survived by his wife, a son and three daughters. Another son pre-deceased him.

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