Jadwiga Piłsudska (NC 1940)

Pilot, architect and entrepreneur, Jadwiga Piłsudska contributed hugely to her adopted country of Britain. 

She was born in Poland in 1920, the younger daughter of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, Poland’s Chief of State and then dictator.

As a teenager, she trained as a glider pilot, and decided to study aeronautical engineering. When Poland was invaded by Germany, Jadwiga fled to the UK, and began to study architecture at Newnham.

With the Second World War at its height, she left Newnham to join the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ‘ATA-girls’ flew the RAF’s aircraft from factories and workshops to front-line squadrons. 168 women flew for the ATA in total, 17 of them Polish. They flew without radio, at the mercy of the weather conditions, and were frequently expected to fly plane-types they’d never seen before, without instruction. Nonetheless, Jadwiga loved flying, and Spitfires were apparently her favourite.

Following her war work, she completed her studies at the Polish University Abroad, and worked as an architect for London City Council, rebuilding the devastated city. She married, and with her husband, set up their own furniture design business.

In 1990, after the fall of the Communist government, she returned to Warsaw, to live out the rest of her days.

Jadwiga Piłsudska was one of three remarkable women featured on the 2020 Freshers’ T-shirts