Amazing set of papers used to escape France
WW2 passports, ID’s & laissez-passer for a Polish soldier.
The Second World War is full of fascinating stories, mixed with tales of heroism and of terror. Today these stories are kept in the form of witnessed verbal accounts and also in the form of documentation. Various archives, public and private, have stored for future generations a large collection of memorabilia, among them travel documents and passports that were used to escape tyranny and darkness, and find refuge in neutral and allied countries.
In previous past articles I wrote about the special emergency travel documents that were prepared for civilians, refugees and soldiers who managed to escape western and eastern Poland to neighboring Romania & Hungary, where they found temporary refuge.
With papers that were obtained from the consulates at Bucharest, Cernăuț (Czerniowce in Polish) or Budapest, many managed to arrive to southern France and join the Polish army that was being formed there. Others even opted to continue with their travels and find haven in the United Kingdom.
The set of papers here is an amazing account of one such individual, who fled Poland to France (most likely passing through Romania). By 1940 he was already in the city of Marseilles. There he was able to obtain identification papers attesting to his origin and belonging to the Polish army. The documents seem to date from after the fall of France; still, they are all marked as being issued by the Polish army in that country.
The clock was ticking and time was running out for finding a way to reaching a neutral or allied country. Aleksander Olechowski, born in 1903, was an infantry soldier. Among his papers is the extremely rare Vichy Government issued safe-conduct travel document beautifully mixed with visas from various legations in southern France, such as Spain, Portugal and even the US consulate where a visa was issued to him by vice-consul Leonard G.Bradford, who by then already had a rich diplomatic career, being posted to several locations, such as: La-Havre, Gothenburg, Rome, Budapest, Izmir and Genoa during the 1920’s and up to the war.
Among his set of papers, we can find an additional war-time emergency Polish passport issued at Marseilles, together with an internal safe-conduct document that enabled him to travel safely to the Portuguese border.
He eventually reached London after leaving Lisbon. After the war he returned back home to Poland, or was “repatriated” back in 1947.
I have added some images of this unique set of WW2 travel documents. I believe much more research is needed in order to appreciate fully the amazing story that is behind these papers.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.