Airport Wilno - Porubanek.
The airport Porubanek.
Porubanek airport is currently Vilnius International Airport. It is located 6 km from the center of Vilnius. However, there is no exact information when the airport was exactly established. The date August 17, 1932 appears on the official website of the airport and on portals of airline companies. It is true that the first Warsaw-Vilnius connection was launched at that time. However, we know from numerous accounts of worlds and combatants from the times of the Great World War. Porubanek Airport already existed. The crux of the matter is that the Vilnius Region had a very turbulent history. For a considerable period of history, these areas belonged to Lithuanians, and state-owned to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Vilnius was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a bishopric and an academy. After the third partition of the Polish Republic, Vilnius was annexed by Moscow and incorporated into the Russian Empire. This was the case until the outbreak of the Great World War.
In 1918, Poles, Lithuanians, Muscovites, and even Germanists asked for Vilnius. Vilnius was inhabited by Poles (60%), Belarusians (23%) and Jews, Lithuanians, Russians and other nations. 62% are followers of the Roman Catholic religion. In 1939, Vilnius had a population of nearly 200,000. Vilnius was the fifth largest city in Poland.
I wrote about it in order to signal the reader the background for further historical events. In 1918, with the collapse of the partitioning powers, the independence aspirations of Poles and Lithuanians revived, which sparked a sharp dispute over Vilnius. On 1 January 1919, part of the city was taken over by the Polish Self-Defense units of the Vilnius Region, later transformed into the Polish Military Organization. On January 5, 1919, after heavy fights, the city was seized by the Muscovites-Bolsheviks. In January 1919, the Lithuanians were supported by the Belarusian Socialist Soviet Republics. The Bolshevik terror began against the landowners, intelligentsia and the clergy. The Bolsheviks and Lithuanians were supported by the Germanists, politically and with arms. The offensive of the Polish Army began on April 16, 1919. On April 19, 1919, Vilnius was liberated with the help of its inhabitants. There were plans to restore the First Republic of Poland. However, Lithuanians wanted their own state with the capital in Vilnius, although they knew that only 2% of Lithuanians lived here. Ultimately, they chose Kaunas as their capital city. In July 1919, in Paris, it was approved to leave Vilnius, Grodno, Lida within the borders of Poland (according to the Foch line).
On January 30, 1919, with the support of the Germanic forces, the Lithuanian air force called Formacja Lotnicza (Aviacijas Dalis) was established. In the absence of a sufficient number of their own soldiers, the Lithuanians hired 6 pilots, 4 observers and 5 mechanics from the Germanic Flieger Abteilung 425, stationed in Kaunas. Mixed Germanic-Lithuanian crews took part in the battles against the Bolsheviks. In February 1919, the Lithuanians bought the planes from the Germans and the first plane with Lithuanian trademarks took off on March 1, 1919. The first Lithuanian pilot took part in the fighting on June 19, 1919. The first purely Lithuanian aviation unit was established on April 1, 1920. Their main base was the airport in Kaunas.
In July 1920, the fighting flared up again and a great offensive of the Muscovite state began, stopped only before Warsaw. The Battle of the Nemunas led to the liberation of the Vilnius Region. The Bolsheviks managed to provoke another conflict by handing over power in Vilnius to the Lithuanians.
On July 12, 1920, Lithuania signed a peace treaty with the CCCP, granting Lithuania Vilnius, Smarhon, Lida and Grodno, where the Lithuanian population hardly lived. On August 26, 1920, the Bolsheviks handed over Vilnius, and on August 29, 1920, 6 Lithuanian planes landed at the Porubanek airport.
Soon things turned around. The Polish Army went on the offensive. Lithuanian airplanes bombing and reconnaissance of Polish positions returned to the airport with numerous shots on the wings and fuselage. Throughout September 1920, the Lithuanian air force bombed Polish rolling stock, military columns and fortifications. The bombs fell on Suwałki and Augustów. In mid-September 1920, the Battle of the Niemen took place in which the Polish Army took one third of the Lithuanian army captive. In October 1920, the take-offs of the Lithuanian air force were increasing. The airmen died or were captured. Vilnius was conquered on October 9, 1920, and the Lithuanians left Porubanek Airport.
Polish planes arrived at Porubanek Airport. Their presence provoked Lithuanians to bomb the airport with four planes on October 20, 1920. From October 27, 1920, the 16th intelligence squadron from Lida was based at Porubanek Airport. It had four Breguet XIV A2 planes. Officially, the squadron went under the command of the puppet Central Lithuania (General Lucjan Żeligowski). The white and red chessboards have been painted over with the hallmarks of Central Lithuania. On October 31, 1920, the planes entered the battle and attacks on Lithuanian troops near Kaunas and the airport in Kaunas began. On November 6, 1920, the first Polish-Lithuanian air fight took place. The targets were the airports in Kaunas in Poniemoń, railway stations and bridges, and columns of Lithuanian soldiers. The fighting stopped in December 1920.
The official recovery of Vilnius by the Poles was impossible due to the obligations of the Polish government. General Lucjan Żeligowski's "revolt" led to the recovery of Vilnius. Eventually, Vilnius returned to Poland on February 20, 1922. The Vilnius Region was the last area of the Second Republic of Poland to receive the status of a voivodeship. It happened only on January 20, 1926, when, in accordance with the Act of December 22, 1925, it was transformed into the Vilnius Province. Vilnius was the fifth largest city in Poland and a cultural and scientific center with the third oldest university.
The Porubanek airport was built during the war (before 1917) and was built by the Germanists. The area near Porubanek was selected for the airport. Its advantage was the short distance from the city. Only 6 km south. There was a railway line nearby and the former Porubanek train station. Currently, the town is within the limits of Vilnius in the Kirtimai district. The name of the region also often appears - Nowy Świat.
In the Second Republic of Poland, Porubanek Airport was from 1922 treated as a very valuable field airport, and a bit later a backup for the Polish Army. At that time, the field for ups was very large. It had dimensions of 1000 m x 800 m. Its surface was badly damaged. In 1919, there was one steel hangar at the airport, which was built by Germanists. There was also one small brick building and several wooden barracks.
The air force units of the Polish Army did not arrive in Vilnius for good until around 1925, when the 11th Fighter Regiment began stationing at the Lida Airport. In 1928, the unit developed into the 5th Aviation Regiment. In the fall of 1932, an aviation branch reporting to the 5th Aviation Regiment was established at Porubanek Airport. In Porubank, the 51st line squadron and 53rd companion squadron were developed. In the following years, the squadrons developed, and in 1937 they received new aviation equipment. In 1939, as a result of preparations for German aggression, the units from Vilnius were moved into the interior of the country, strengthening the Modlin Army and the Carpathian Army.
In 1931, the authorities of PLL LOT decided to launch a regular connection on the Warsaw-Vilnius route and further to Riga and Tallinn. The first small air station was built for its needs, but it was destroyed during World War II. Presumably, the station was built with the funds of PLL LOT and the city of Lviv, as the Polish Army did not participate in its expansion. The army was focused on the expansion of the airport in nearby Lida, where the 5th Air Regiment was stationed. On August 17, 1932, LOT Polish Airlines made its first flight. The inauguration was very solemn. The President of the Republic, Ignacy Mościcki, and other representatives of the government, military authorities and representatives of Latvia and Estonia took part in it. Two 10-seater Fokker F.VII / 3m planes flew to Vilnius. The flight from Warsaw to Vilnius lasted about two hours. At that time, Porubanek Airport was decorated with Polish, Latvian and Estonian flags. After the greeting, one plane flew on to Riga and Tallinn, and the other remained on sightseeing flights over the city. The flight to Riga and Tallinn was propaganda. On board was the director of PLL LOT, who carried with him two letters-invitations for the authorities of Estonia and Latvia. The route from Warsaw to Tallinn in Estonia was completed in seven hours, plus two stops of thirty minutes each. The same route took an express train with sleeping cars within 18 hours. A plane ticket cost respectively: Warsaw-Vilnius PLN 50, Warsaw-Riga PLN 95, Warsaw-Tallin PLN 137, Vilnius-Riga PLN 40, Vilnius-Tallinn PLN 82. The planes flew three times a week. From 1933, flights on the Warsaw-Vilnius route were made every day.
Porubanek airport. Launching the Warsaw-Vilnius connection and further to Riga and Tallinn. The PLL LOT Fokker F.VII / 3m plane. August 17, 1932 Photo of LAC
In the second half of the 30-year period, Polish-Lithuanian relations improved to such an extent that flights to Kaunas became realistic. It was then decided that Kaunas was included in the Warsaw-Vilnius-Kaunas-Riga-Tallinn route and, occasionally, further to Helsinki in Finland. The first such flight to Kaunas took place on July 15, 1938. The LOT Polish Airlines plans included flights on the Warsaw-Kaunas-Riga route bypassing Vilnius, which were not carried out due to the war.
The transport of passengers, mail and goods was carried out by Fokker F-VIIA / 1m and F-VII / 3m airplanes. In 1939, LOT Polish Airlines had the longest north-south route in Europe; Tallinn (Estonia) -Athens (Greece). In 30 years, PLL LOT was one of the best managed aviation companies in the world. This was supported by state subsidies and the far-sighted policy of the company's management. Fast Lockheed L-10 Electra, Lockheed L-14 Super Electra and Douglas DC-2 aircraft were introduced on the route.
In 1936, Porubanek Airport witnessed the Challenge aviation competition. It was on the penultimate stage of the rally almost all over Europe. The last stage was the flight to Warsaw. The victories of this rally were the pilot Jerzy Bajan.
Until 1939, Porubanek Airport was developing dynamically, both civil and military. It obtained the A category. The authorities of Vilnius and PLL LOT supported the development of the airport. In the second half of the 1930s, the construction of a new railway station, which was to be called the Summer Palace, began. The building was destroyed in July 1944 by the retreating German army.
Written by a Karol Placha Hetman