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Interview with Rysiek Sieczka (former pilot of the Polish Air Force)

I interviewed my uncle Rysiek Sieczka who was a pilot in the Polish Air Force from 1955 to 1982 - in the end in the rank of a lieutenant colonel. He mainly flew with the MiG-21.

Date of the interview: 23rd of september 2005

Rysiek Sieczka = RS, Lukas Czarnecki = LC

LC: "Hello uncle!"
RS: "Hello!"
LC: "In which year did you start your officer career?"
RS: "In 1955 I began to attend the officer school Radom."
LC: "When did you finish the school and be began to fly?"
RS: "I flew during the school, but I finished the school in 1959. First I was in a unit in Gdansk and later until the end of my career I was in Gdynia."
LC: "With which rank did you finish the school?"
RS: "As a second lieutenant."
LC: "How long did you fly?"
RS: "Until 1982."
LC: "With which airplanes did you fly?"
RS: "During school I flew with trainer airplanes and later with jets with the MiG-15 and MiG-15bis and also with Polish models of the airplanes: LiM-1, LiM-2, LiM-5, LiM-5P. Later I flew with different models of the MiG-21, in the end with the MiG-21bis."
LC: "Now I have got a few questions which effects had the Cold War on the military in Poland. Poland belonged to the Warsaw Pact and my first question is with which countries did you make exercises."
RS: "With all countries of the Warsaw Pact, with the Soviet Union, with East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary. With had also exercises with Lithuania, but in the Cold War it belonged to the Soviet Union."
LC: "In which other countries, except Poland, did you make exercises?"
RS: "I was for example in Neubrandenburg and in Peenemuende, I flew often to Kaliningrad and also to Astrakhan for exercises with armed missiles."
LC: "What was the difference between the exercises in Astrakhan and in Poland, in Gdynia?"
RS: "In the exercises in Astrakhan we shot with armed missiles on unmanned flying targets. We destroyed the targets and the exercise was finished."
LC: "Was Astrakhan chosen for these exercises, because the area is not much populated?"
RS: "Yes that is right, Astrakhan is situated at the Volga River, but the area around Astrakhan is a steppe and only little people live there. When you look from the air then you can see occasional houses which are a few kilometers away from each other. Now it is better, because now there are wind force wheels which produce current, but in the past there was not even current. From time to time I saw there some cars. The people there live in a very simple way."
LC: "Was Astrakhan the farest place that you have visited during your service?"
RS: "Yes Astrakhan was the farest place where I had been."
LC: "Which kind of exercises did you do in Peenemuende and in Neubrandenburg?"
RS: "Here we did not shoot with armed missiles. Here we trained the coordination between the East German and the Polish pilots for the case of emergency. The exercises of the Air Force have got the aim to shoot down the enemy airplane. Of course we did not shoot with armed missiles, but we did such exercises."
LC: "So these meetings of the different Air Forces of the Eastern Bloc were made for the coordination."
RS: "Coordination was very important, but we should also meet other pilots to see how they fly and how do they complete their exercises. In the Western countries it was the same, they trained together. Over the Baltic Sea, on neutral territory, we also saw Swedish, German and sometimes even American military jets."
LC: "Were these meetings accidental or were they provocations?"
RS: "They did there exercises and we did our exercises and so these meetings were accidental. Sometimes we came closer, we waved with our wings and we flew home. There were not any attacks and these meetings were funny. Everybody wanted to show how his airplane looks like."
LC: "So one can say that the relationship of the pilots from East and West was not hostile, apart from the political situation in that time."
RS: "Yes that is right. In this moment we knew both that nothing from the other side threatens us. In the case of war the situation would be different, but normally we met each other during exercises in the air and nothing bad happened. Sometimes also Frenchmen visited us and we talked to each other and everything was normal."
LC: "Was there any real dangerous situation during your officer career where you had to start immediatly?"
RS: "When we had readiness we had to be on the airport and two airplanes were full armed and ready to fly. But we were never threatened or attacked."
LC: "I did not think about a real attack, but sometimes during the Cold War there was false alarm. Did you have also such a situation?"
RS: "We had not such a situation, but sometimes we had to help airplanes which got off the course to bring them back on their course. So we also helped other airplanes, but of course during readiness we had to care that nobody violates our air space."
LC: "What is the difference between the readiness of the Air Forces now and in the Cold War?"
RS: "Today we cannot say that there is any readiness in the Polish Air Force, because the Polish Air Force has got to little airplanes. The Polish Air Force has got some MiG-29 and they are good, but they are to little. Besides an own Air Force is not so urgent, because the NATO is armed and protects us. Soon we will get some F-16 and then we have got more airplanes, but in the moment nobody threatens us and we must not protect ourselves against anybody, neither from East nor West."
LC: "When you were off duty did you had to stay near the airport or how did the readiness then look like?"
RS: "We had to live in an area where we could hear the siren. When there was alarm then we had to go immediatly to the airport. It was the same during my whole service."
LC: "Was there once such an alarm so that you had to go fast to the airport?"
RS: "A few times in the year there were training alarms to test the readiness. Sometimes we had an exercise after the alarm."
LC: "As you said before during your service there was not any real threat."
RS: "That is correct, but sometimes we had increased readiness for example during the Cuban Missile Crisis and a few times during the Vietnam War."
LC: "At the end I wanted to ask which personal memories and feelings do you have concerning the Cold War and your job during the Cold War."
RS: "I was always of the same opinion that the Cold War was unnecessary, but it happened because of the mutual provocations. We belonged to the Warsaw Pact and we had to do what the comrades in the East demanded us to do. In this time our Air Force was strong, but this whole thing was unnecessary and cost too much. Then the Soviet Union dissolved and now everything is normal and there is not any threat."
LC: "Thank you for the interview and it was very interesting!"

Author and Webmaster: Lukas Czarnecki

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Last Update: 21.01.2006