[Wojtulanis-Karpinska Picture]

Barbara Wojtulanis-Karpinska

Polish military airplane pilot, also active in Polonia organizations

by Gene Stanwyck-Stankiewicz

Stefania Barbara Wojtulanis-Karpinska was born in Warsaw in 1912. She enrolled in the Warsaw Polytechnic in 1935, majored in Mechanical Engineering, and became a licensed glider, balloon and airplane pilot.

The outbreak of World War II in September of 1939, interrupted her studies. She was conscripted as liaison pilot in the Polish Staff Squadron and was thrust into the dangerous role of flying to various aviation bases carrying urgent messages for the Polish Base Commanders in the field. On one such mission she looked down at Deblin airport, and saw rubble and smoking ruins everywhere and not a sign of lite. The airport had just experienced a German Luftwaffe bombardment.

On September 18th, 1939 she and another pilot flew her RWD-13 across the Rumanian border as ordered by the Polish Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, after the Soviets attacked Poland from the East. In Rumania, Karpinska acted as the liaison between the Polish Embassy in Bucharest and the various camps where Polish Air Force personnel were interned.

Upon completion of her assigned tasks in Rumania, she managed to reach France where she worked at the Polish Air Force Headquarters in Paris. Here she was promoted by General Sikorski to the war rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Polish Air Forces.

When France was defeated by the Germans, Barbara and other Polish Air Force personnel boarded the Polish Liner Batory in St. Jean de Luz near Bordeaux to be evacuated to Great Britain. They disembarked in Plymouth, England.

Karpinska was then assigned to the Polish Air Force Headquarters in London until the latter part of 1940. Having received her security clearance in January of 1941, she became a member of a special unit of the service called AIR TRANSPORT AUXILIARY (ATA).

For the next four and a half years she ferried single and twin engine fighters and twin engine bombers where needed throughout Great Britain. Ferrying the military airplanes was not a simple matter. The ATA pilots were ordered to maintain radio silence during flight. They were forced to resort to instrument flying. Also, the hazardous weather conditions over the British Isles en route to their ferrying destination added to their hardships. In 1945 she was honorably discharged from ATA and rejoined the Polish Air Force headquarters to work in the demobilization department.

Barbara Karpinska received the Silver Medal of Merit with glaive for the September Campaign, the Silver Medal of Merit for flying in Great Britain, the Polish Air Force Cross with four bars, the English Defense Medal and War Medal.

In 1946 she married General of the Polish Air Forces, Stanislaw Karpinski. In March 1958, Barbara and Stanislaw Karpinski sailed to the United States where they settled in Los Angeles, California. Here, Barbara studied computer programming and was engaged in many organizations supporting Polish causes such as: Polish Air Force Veterans Association (P.A.V.A.); Polish Historical Association (P.A.H.A.), and the Silver Wings Fraternity. She worked as Correspondent for the Polish Radio and was very active in the Polish Parish in Los Angeles.

Seventeen years ago trees were planted in "Memory Lane" in the International Forest of Friendship, Atchison, Kansas honoring outstanding pilots worldwide. Alongside these trees, each pilot has his/her name inscribed on a granite plate imbedded in the walkway. On June 19, 1993 a tree was planted honoring Barbara Wojtulanis-Karpinska. In front of her tree is a marker depicting Poland and her name is inscribed in the walkway.

She was widowed in January 1982.

From: Polish Americans in California, vol. II. National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs & Polish American Historical Association. California 1995.