Participated in the Home Army during WW2
She was born Wanda Gertz von Schliess on 13 April 1896 in Warsaw, to Florentyna and Jan Gertz von Schliess. Her family originally came from Saxony, but had settled in the Commonwealth of Two Nations during the eighteenth century. Gertz's father fought in the January Uprising of 1863–64, and Gertz grew up hearing the stories of her father and his comrades.
Wanda began her military career in the Polish Legion during World War I, dressed as a man, under the pseudonym of "Kazimierz 'Kazik' Żuchowicz". She subsequently served in the Ochotnicza Legia Kobiet (Women's Voluntary Legion) of the Polish Armed Forces during the Polish–Soviet War. In the interwar period she became a reserve officer but faced discrimination and was stripped of her officer rank. She worked closely with Marshal Piłsudski and remained an activist in the cause of women in the military.
With the outbreak of World War II her experience and skills in Special operations were ultimately recognized by military men and having joined the resistance in 1939 under code name, "Lena", she became an officer and commander of an all-female battalion in the Home Army. She was awarded the highest Polish military honours, a singular rarity for any woman of her generation to achieve.
In September 1939, Gertz was one of the first women to join the resistance movement, Service for Poland's Victory (Służba Zwycięstwu Polski - SZP), operating under the code name "Lena". She organized clandestine communications, acted as courier, and was assistant to the divisional commander, Stanisław Kozarski.
In April 1942 Gertz was ordered to create and command a new unit Dywersja i Sabotaż Kobiet - "oddział Dysk" (Women's Diversion and Sabotage unit). Its members carried out attacks on German military personnel, airfields, trains and bridges. Gertz seems to have been skeptical about the planned Warsaw Uprising, and prohibited members of her group from taking part, though many did so anyway. She was promoted to the rank of Major in September 1944.
Captured after the Uprising, still known as Major Kazik, Gertz was held as a prisoner-of-war and recognized by the Germans as commandant of 2,000 other female fighters who had survived. She passed through camps at Ożarów, Lamsdorf and Mühlberg, and finally in late 1944 arrived at Molsdorf, all the while retaining command and respect among her fellow POWs. On 5 April 1945 the POWs of Molsdorf were marched to nearby Blankenhain before finally being liberated on 13 May 1945 by troops of the U.S. 89th Infantry Division.
As part of allied Polish forces in Germany under British command, Gertz arrived with them in the United Kingdom, returning to Europe after the German surrender to serve as Inspector for Women Home Army Soldiers. She travelled throughout Germany and Italy in search of displaced Polish women. From May 1946 until February 1949 she was part of the Polish Resettlement Corps, serving as Inspector of Women Soldiers in the north of England. Her task was to prepare them for civilian life in Britain. After demobilization, Gertz worked in a canteen until her death from cancer on 10 November 1958. Her funeral was attended by many veterans, including Aleksandra Piłsudska, and Generals Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski and Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski. In 1959 her ashes were taken to Poland and interred at the Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.