THE niece of Second World War hero Andrew Mynarski has heaped praise on The Northern Echo's Forgotten Hero appeal - days before a statue of her uncle is unveiled in the North-East.

Andrea Zajac said her late mother Carole - the sister of Pilot Officer Mynarski - would have been very touched by the campaign to raise £40,000 for an 8ft bronze sculpture.

The statue will be unveiled on Saturday at the St George Hotel, at Durham Tees Valley Airport, near Darlington - the former Royal Canadian Air Force base from which Mynarski set out on his final, fateful flight.

His Lancaster bomber was hit by Germans over France and he died trying to save the life of his friend Pat Brophy, who was trapped at the back of the plane.

Miss Zajac, who lives in Mynarski's home city of Winnipeg, Canada, said: "I would like to express my family's deep appreciation for the efforts that your newspaper has made to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of Andy Mynarski.

"I know my mother, Carole Mynarski Zajac, would have been very touched.

"As well, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the community of Darlington for its support for this initiative. Here in Winnipeg, his story is remembered with quiet pride by all of us."

She said her father, Peter Zajac, now in his eighties, wished he could travel to England for the ceremony.

"However, I know that he will be there in spirit, if not in body," she said.

"I think that it is especially fitting that the unveiling will occur so close to the 60th anniversary of VE Day, a day we are able to celebrate only because of the sacrifices of brave and selfless women and men, like my Uncle Andrew."

Her father got to know Mynarski when he was courting Carole in Winnipeg and was himself stationed at Piercebridge, near Darlington, during the war.

"Darlington and its residents have a special place in my dad's memories," said Miss Zajac. "It is one of the few memories of the war that he shared with us."

The unveiling, to be performed by Pat Brophy's daughter, Colleen Bacon, will take place at 11am.