The Engineer features the Diaspora of Polish people which had taken place since the Polish Revolutions of the 1830’s. This Diaspora is called Polonia and a young Canadian represents the experience and feelings of immigrant communities of any nationality. His eventual involvement in the Secret Service of Britain gives him insights into the betrayals that politicians make. The Sikorski affair and the failure of Allied support to the Polish underground takes this novel onward to Stolen Lives.
Teddy Labden is the adopted name of Tadeusz Labycz, Tadek for short. His parents have some mysterious past which is never told as he grows from boy to young man in the idyllic but tough countryside near Calgary in Canada. He is the ‘favourite son’ of those adults around him and surrounded by affection. He is mad on airplanes and in love with nature.
As he grows he realises that as an outsider a low class even amongst the pecking order of nationality immigrant groups that life is tough. His bitterness born of a need for acceptance leads him to yearn to be ‘English’ and his scholarship to Cambridge enables him to taste the good life of the thirties. His new friends introduce him to a decadent world and a class structure. He now finds himself to be a Colonial. In but on the fringe of Society and accepted by his growing wealth due to his parents success he meets the shady characters of the Right and Left providing the illicit to the wealthy, whether drugs, guns or information.
Studying aircraft engineering and as a war looms he joins the Air Force and is soon seconded into the Secret Service due as he discovers to his surprise his father’s past involvement with the British espionage services. As a Polish speaker he is sent to Warsaw before the outbreak of war to keep tabs on the Polish Air Force and to obtain plans of their new aircraft.
In Warsaw Teddy has to question his identity and eventual loyalties. He has been naïve about politics and soon finds that his new circle of friends also naively believes in French and British guarantees. The September campaign starts and Teddy is infuriated by the Press who do not report the heroic fight of the Polish army and Air Force who rather report the German propaganda of a walkover and ‘blitzkrieg’. Rather the Poles fall back, counter attack and wait for the Allies attack on the Western front agreed for the 15th day. Instead on the specified the Soviets invade in the Polish rear under a secret agreement with The Germans. Teddy has to run with his new friends through Romania and then to England.
In England Teddy rethinks his loyalties and origins. He under orders from The British assists but also spies upon the reborn Polish Air Force and the story describes its travails in Britain. Poles become heroes as they turn the tide in the Battle of Britain and achieve fame as their squadrons become the Aces and highest scoring squadrons. Poland is now not only the First to Fight but Britain’s greatest ally.
As the war progresses the Polish forces grow and the Exile Government led by General Sikorski establish a vast underground army and state back in Poland ready to make a move as soon as the tide turns against the Germans.
With a Polish intelligence officer Teddy enters occupied Poland on a secret mission. He is caught and tortured the mission successful and Teddy rescued by the Polish Underground. He witnesses first hand the brutality of the Germans in Poland.
Germany invades Russia and a second Polish army is formed in Russia from those POW’s captured in 1939. This army is destined to join the British in the Middle East but no officers can be found. The Germans discover their mass graves in Katyn an atrocity of the Soviets. Sikorski wants the Red Cross to investigate. Stalin balks; Churchill needs Stalin more than Sikorski. Sikorski is assassinated and Teddy feels his advice was the method used by the killers. He is confused and betrayed and is realise he is betraying those around him. His friends are dying in various ways, time circumstance and war. His parents are murdered he inherits money. He becomes more confused about whom he is but determines to find the killers of Sikorski and in so doing he discovers a web of infiltration by the Soviets into British intelligence and the Foreign Office.
He and his colleagues are in danger now from those in the Security Services who realise they are a threat to the Soviet moles. At the same time the Warsaw uprising is crushed and the hope of a free Poland begins to fade and Teddy realise the duplicity of the Allies and the terrible consequences and terrible personalities of the Big Three.
Poland is handed to the Soviets. Teddy still continues to ‘investigate’ the Sikorski death but his enquiries are most unwelcome. The Polish forces are excluded from the victory parades in London at the personal request of Stalin and this is the last straw for Teddy. On the same day he is caught in a honey trap but warned by an old friend in the now defunct but still active Exile Polish Security Services he escapes being caught for murder.
He at last accepts who or what he is and is proud to be Polish vowing now to fight for his country which he at last accepts.