ADA-Zura Park Dedication in Barry's Bay
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The Zura Park Dedication in Barry's Bay
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On March 25th 1958
a short unassuming man climbed aboard Avro Arrow RL-201 and
became an icon in Canadian aviation history. However, this
man was already almost a household name in Great Britain
for his service in Spitfires in
the Battle of Britain and post-war aerobatic displays at
Farnborough. Furthermore, he was, at age 43, already a legend
and hero in Poland for having damaged a Dornier 17 over Poland
after the Nazis attacked on September 1st, 1939. What is
especially amazing about that feat was that he had been flying
a trainer plane with WW I type armament and ammunition that
was probably of about that vintage, while his plane was significantly
slower than the Dornier he hit!
This was truly a mark of cunning and courage.
On July 26th, 2003, the town of Barry's Bay
honoured their most famous citizen and dedicated a park and future museum
to this man, now 88 years old and in frail health. His name is Janusz
Zurakowski (pronounced Yanoosh Zurakovski). Scott McArthur (of Arrow
Recovery Canada), Brian Cuthbertson (of the Avro Advocacy Group), author
Bill Zuk, myself, and more people than residents of Barry's Bay acknowledged
had EVER congregated in their small town were there to honour this great
The day's activities included the formal park
dedication, a reception at organizer Hildebrandt's residence, displays
and memorabilia sales at the local arena, and a dinner and dance.
During the dedication organizers had a difficult time
handling the unexpectedly large crowd but once this was achieved the
dedications began. Personnel were on hand from the Canadian Armed Forces
(including Capt. John O'Neill who is a CF-18 pilot and native of Barrys
Bay and a key organizer for the event.), members of the armed forces
of the Republic of Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and elsewhere.
The Ambassador to Poland was there as well.
Following a parade by local air cadets, some
motorcycle and horse mounted OPP officers, a local band and honour guard
from Poland, Janusz and his wife Anna arrived to overwhelming applause
and were escorted to the dedication site. There were several speeches
and tributes to Janusz who, despite some severe health challenges recently,
attended along with his wife Anna and two sons Mark and George. During
the speeches it was interesting to watch Zura's reactions to some of
what was said. Knowing him personally it was no surpise to see his look
of discomfort when the word "hero" was used to describe him.
The Polish Ambassador to Canada said a few words and was obviously very
moved by what Janusz meant to his country's history. Perhaps the best
tribute, however, was from Jim (J.C.) Floyd, who was the Vice President
of Engineering at Avro Aircraft and directed all of the design and engineering
of the Avro Arrow. Unfortunately health problems could not allow him
to attend - which is sad because there were enough Avroites and fans
there to ensure he too would have received a hero's welcome. Jim's letter
was read and Zura perked up noticeably when he heard the name of his
good friend and he listened intently to Jim's eloquent and moving words.
Jim also wrote "Ode to a Test Pilot" for Zura and this was
later read by Mr. Hildebrandt as well.
An account of his history up to WW II was given
in Polish and English and his later history was given in English only.
Considering his fame in three nations, it was fitting that the national
anthems of Poland, England and Canada were played. The Polish Canadians
seemed to out-do the Canadians in singing, despite the fact that they
also sang 'Oh Canada'!
Barry's Bay Ontario.
Beauty in Northern Ontario.
The Zurakowsi Sons.
The Crowd Waits.
O.P.P. Leading The Motorcade.
© By Scott McArthur and RL Whitcomb 2006
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ADA-Zura Park Dedication in Barry's Bay