running up that hill
- Jan 3, 2007
- in Wonderland, with my Alice
Elżbieta Zawacka, known also by her war-time nom de guerre Zo, (March 19, 1909 – January 10, 2009) was a Polish university professor, Scouting instructor and previously a freedom fighter during World War II. She was also a Brigadier General of the Polish Army (the second and last in the history), promoted by President Lech Kaczyński on May 3, 2006. The only woman among the Cichociemni, she served as a courier for the Home Army, carrying letters and other documents from Nazi-occupied Poland to the Polish government in exile and back. Her regular trail ran from Warsaw through Berlin and Sweden to London. She was also responsible for organizing trails for other couriers of the Home Army.
Awards for Zawacka include: Virtuti Militari(our highest award for valor-she earned it TWICE), Order of the White Eagle and Krzyż Walecznych.
Zawacka was born in Thorn (Toruń), West Prussia and graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań with a major in mathematics. In the late 1930s she worked as a teacher in several high schools, simultaneously working as an instructor at the paramilitary organization Przysposobienie Wojskowe Kobiet (Female Military Training). During the Polish September Campaign, she was the commandant of the Silesian District of Przysposobienie Wojskowe Kobiet, participating in the defence of Lwów.
In October 1939 she joined the Silesian branch of Związek Walki Zbrojnej under the nom de guerre "Zelma", which later was changed to "Zo". In late 1940 she was moved to Warsaw and began her courier trips. She was also a deputy of Zagroda—the Department of Foreign Communication of the Home Army. In February of 1943 she traveled across Germany, France and Spain to Gibraltar, where she was transported by air to London. In Great Britain she went through parachute training and on September 10, 1943, she was dropped over Poland, as the only woman in the history of the Cichociemni.
In 1944 Zawacka fought in the Warsaw Uprising, after its collapse moved to Kraków, where she continued her underground activities. In 1945 she joined the anti-Communist organization Freedom and Independence (WiN), but quit soon afterwards and took up the job of a teacher.
In 1951 she was arrested and tortured by Służba Bezpieczeństwa (Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason and espionage, but her sentence was shortened and Zawacka was released in 1955. After release from prison, she got her doctorate degree from Gdańsk University then as a professor tenured in the Institute of Pedagogy at Mikołaj Kopernik University in Toruń where she established department of Andragogy. She retired from teaching in 1978 after Służba Bezpieczeństwa repressively closed that department. She was active member of the World Union of Home Army Soldiers and cooperated with Solidarnosc in the 1980s.
Cichociemni (Polish for Silent dark ones) were a secret unit of the Polish Army in exile created to maintain contact with occupied Poland during World War II. It was our first commando-type unit.
In August 1996, Polands elite Special Operations Unit GROM was granted the prestige name of "Cichociemni", and to this day continue their legasy.
To find out more about this unit, go HERE