Military: Gnyś First Kills
Bindon Illustration presents a unique portfolio of art that captures the life of Władysław Gnyś as seen through the eyes of his son, Stefan. This photo-biography offers a personal and intimate look into the life of a military veteran, brought to life through breathtaking illustrations that tell the story of a man who lived through history.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - During the evacuations of Polish towns in the onset of WWI in 1914 -1915, a four year old Władysław Gnyś sees a German aircraft shot down over a nearby forest. Memories of this event stayed with him throughout his early years and led him to pursue active duty in the military air force.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - Sept 17-18, 1939 saw a mass exodus of Polish refugees and military personnel cross a bridge out of the small town of Kuty into then neutral Romania. The military was ordered to flee Poland to escape both the Germans and now Russian armies. Not wanting to surrender their weapons to the neutral nation, all were discarded into the River Czeremossz and ultimately plugging the river.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - Upon waiting for passage to France, as all military personnel were instructed to do, Gnyś met a young Romania artist. One afternoon during a picnic, they were approached by a local policeman and a Gestapo agent. In knowing the policeman, she successfully passed Wladek off as her cousin saying ~ 'Do not speak' and likely saved him from becoming a POW and probable execution.
May 10, 1940. Many of the Polish airmen that had been ordered to flee from their homeland ended up in France. By early spring they were organized into their own squadrons within the French Air Force. Gnyś hits the deck as his Morane Saulnier MS406C fighter plane is destroyed in a German bombing run. Another bomb hits the ground near the pilot but was a dud... fortunately.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - Aug 27,1944. His Spitfire Mk IX is hit by shrapnel from flak bursts possibly damaging the canopy sliding rail and jamming the cockpit canopy shut trapping Gnyś inside. He was forced to crash land the aircraft in a farmer 's field. The plane hit the ground and somersaulted a couple of times dislodging the canopy. Remarkably unharmed but disoriented Gnyś tumbled out from the wreckage and tried to make his way into a nearby wooded area, Gnyś is hit by a German bullet just below his heart.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - Aug 27,1944. Gnyś was then led back to their tank and was placed outside just behind the turret. Earlier in the day, he had radioed this armored column's position and now it was under attack. The young crewmen fled into trees leaving Wladek exposed. Remarkably the tank was not destroyed and Gnyś not hit either.
Gnyś 'First Kills' - Aug 27,1944 - The wounded POW, is lying on a stretcher in an cramped ambulance. Weak and unable to move, blood dripping from the man in another stretcher suspended above him hits Gnyś over his nose and mouth. 'After completing this image, the author suggested adding a blood colour to this black and white illustration...and how about some of the others from this sequence depicting his wounding and capture. With all the images black and white, a single spot colour would have been tremendous accent...Alas, the book manufacturer did not offer this option for us upon its printing. Too bad.
Gnyś: “FIRST KILLS”
by Stefan Gnyś
A selected portfolio of art for the photo-biography from the son of Wladek Gnyś
All images ~ pencil, digital black & white
I was a student in high school in the late 1970’s. Stefan was a teacher of geography and as a favourite instructor, I attended a few classes with him. In those early years I was pursuing my art interests, naturally, and in my last year of high school, Stefan commissioned me to do a painting of his father shooting down a Stuka dive bomber… unaware at that time that his dad was a WWII fighter pilot in the Polish Airforce. Stefan’s mother was in the process of writing a biography of her husband’s life story.and this is when I became fully aware of the momentous event of Sept 1, 1939. Władysław Gnyś witnessed the first fatal casualty of the war [his squadron commander Capt Wedwecky] just minutes into the invasion and then minutes later he himself became credited with the first kills of the German military shooting down two Dornier bombers. We kept in touch a little bit after my high school graduation in 1978. Some years later in late November 2012 a chance phone call from a ‘former geography’ teacher and a meeting in December led to this project.
Stefan was writing a sequal to ‘First Kill’ by Barbara Simmons Gnyś. As this book ‘First Kills’ was to be a photo-biography, I was asked to create some choice images, maybe just 5 or 6 for it. Well, the image count quickly grew to 10, then to 20… 30… ending at 48!
For more information on the history of Władysław Gnyś and the book ‘First Kills’, please visit’