A TEENAGE freedom fighter who stole across occupied Europe to continue the struggle against Nazi tyranny was among those honoured by north Bucks freemasons on Sunday.
Local resident Jan Sokolowski, now 90, was one of 145 veterans and their families treated to a slap-up Remembrance Sunday lunch by members of Verney, Grenville, Claydon, Wineslai and Saxon Lodges, and Roman Way Chapter, at Winslow Public Hall.
Freemasons throughout the county helped raise more than £1,000 for the annual lunch.
Jan escaped from his native Poland when the Nazis invaded in September 1939, sparking the Second World War. He evaded capture by the secret police, the Gestapo, and crack Waffen SS divisions, to make his way to Hungary, where he met up with Allied troops, and went on to join a Polish regiment.
He then served in north Africa, particularly in Tobruk, which many historians believe was the turning point of the six-year conflict.
Jan also took part in the bloody fighting around Monte Casino in Italy, which wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill had described as the “soft underbelly of Europe”, and where the theatre proved to be equally savage as the Western Front in 1944/45.
He won Poland’s second highest award for bravery after he rushed a deadly German machine gun nest single handed, capturing five enemy soldiers who had earlier destroyed three Sherman tanks.
Jan is due to fly to Poland later this month as a guest of his home country’s president.
The deputy head of Bucks Freemasons, Clifford Drake, said: “Freemasons prize friendship, decency, and charity, so all of the 3,800 freemasons in Bucks were delighted to honour the gritty determination and courage of a man and his colleagues who typify self-sacrifice and quiet valour.
“All of the old soldiers in north Bucks deserve our respect. They put on a uniform to fight for freedom and their country. They faced danger and hardship. They are, all of them, heroes in their own way.”
One of the lunch organisers, window cleaner and part-time fireman Paul French, who is a member of Wineslai Lodge, said: “All the lodges in Bucks are requested to organise an event to help the local area, as part of the Freemasonry In The Community project. So we decided to honour these heroes.
“This is the fourth year running that we have run the event, and more guests come every year, so we must be doing something right. Some come just to sample the local delicacy of chef Gavin Lannen’s bread and butter pudding!”
The veterans were entertained by Geoff Ewers with his band, and Paul French performed songs from the 1940s.