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The Zura Park Dedication in Barry's Bay

The Zurakowski
Park Dedication


 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 man.

    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.
Dress Reheasal.
Arrow Monument.
Garthering Crowds.
The Crowd Waits.

O.P.P. Leading The Motorcade.

© By Scott McArthur and RL Whitcomb 2006




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