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Elzbieta ZAWACKA

Elżbieta Zawacka - a female elite soldier of unprecedented courage, a member of the "Cichociemni" ("Silent Unseen).


WW2 special operations paratroopers were an elite group. Out of all Polish troops in the West:

  • Less than 3,000 selected servicemen and servicewomen got the offer to join the “Silent Unseen”.

  • 2,413 agreed and were accepted for training,

  • 605 completed it,

  • 579 were qualified for missions in occupied Poland,

  • 316 actually went there,

  • and only 1 of them was a woman. A very special one named Elżbieta Zawacka.


Zawacka, a teacher by profession, before the war was active in Female Military Training, in September 1939 fought against the German invaders, and immediately after that joined the underground Union of Armed Struggle, later renamed Home Army. She served mostly in the capacity of a courier – carrying letters, orders and reports. By April 1942, she crossed several European borders over a hundred times.


She was an attractive woman speaking flawless German and showing a perfectly forged ID.


In early 1943, she travelled to Great Britain, where she trained the Silent Unseen candidates in the intricacies of underground work in occupied Poland – and then became a paratrooper herself. Having been dropped in the country in September, she got back to undercover work, and then fought in the Warsaw Uprising.


That wasn’t the last ordeal she had to go through.


When the new, Soviet-controlled regime took over Poland, she was a member of anti-communist "WiN" ["Freedom and Independence"] for a while, but soon quit and tried to return to the teaching profession. However, her record, particularly the work for the London government, made her a natural suspect. In 1951, she was arrested, tried, and handed out a 10-year sentence, just like that. She served 4 years.


But they never left her alone.


Released from prison, she got back to teaching. The communist security services kept Zawacka under surveillance and harassed her, ultimately forcing her into early retirement in late 1970s. Still, retired or not, a few years later she helped the underground "Solidarity" Trade Union, and then dedicated her life to keeping the memory of WW2 Home Army soldiers and their deeds alive. In 2002, she was the first person to be awarded the prestigious IPN "Custodian of National Memory" prize.


Elżbieta Zawacka died on 10 January 2009, two months before her 100th birthday. Posthumously, she was awarded The Cross of Freedom and Solidarity, and other IPN honors.

Source: IPN facebook page

Elzbieta in 1942

Elzbieta 1909 - 2009

Copyright: Zawacka family

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