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5 True Polish Heroes of World War II and Their Extraordinary Stories

Polish people made of bones and blood whose bravery became legendary.

Photo: wikimedia

The times of war give thousands or even millions of stories about the heroic acts, fight for life and bravery stronger than fear. Every year at the beginning of September we can read more stories about everyday heroes who were brave, impressive, troubled and who suffered. These are only a few of many interesting stories about the extraordinary people:

Stanisław Marusarz

He was a PolishNordic skiing competitor in the 1930s, who became the war heroes. In 1938 he won a silver medal in ski jumping during the World Ski Championships in Lahti as the first Polish who earned a medal in such a competition. Less than a year later, after Germans attacked Poland, he didn’t escape to the safer area of Europe, but joined AK (Armia Krajowa) and fought until he was captured in 1940. When he heard the death sentence, he decided to escape. His spectacular escape from German prison to Hungary. Marusarz survived the war and in 1966 the organizers of the famous Four Hills Tournament invited him as a guest to make a show jump.

Marek Edelman

Marek Edelman in 2009 by Mateusz Kubik

The man whose books are full of the naked truth. He tells the stories of his life in such a drastic way, that it is difficult to read them. However, he lived them in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a polish-jew, one of the leaders of the Ghetto Uprising and later he took a part in the Warsaw Uprising. When from July 1942 Jews from the Ghetto were herded to an umschlagplatz (or departure point), a square at its southern end, and on to trains 6,000 at a time, Edelman was under no illusion about the real fate of those people. He couldn’t save them all, but he saved many lives who, according to him, would be useful in the rebel cause to save more people and whose lives he was able to protect. After the war, he became a cardiologist, but the bitterness of the nightmare he faced stayed with him forever. He took a part of the fight with the socialistic system in Poland and in the Polish Round Table Talks of 1989.He died in 2009 as the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Irena Sendler

She was a nurse, a social worker, a young woman who in her twenties smuggled approximately 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She provided them shelter and false documents to save them from the nightmare of the Holocaust. After the war, some of her „Jewish children” decided to thank her, but she stayed humble until the end of her life. She died in 2008 at age 98.

Jan Bytnar „Rudy”

This is more than a story of one man. Jan Bytnar and friends who tried to save his life became the heroes of the legend about the timeless friendship, stronger than the bullets. Bytnar, known as „Rudy” (ginger), was a scoutmaster and a member of Polish anti-Nazi resistance and Szare Szeregi (Grey Ranks). In 1493 he was 22 years old and after several impressive actions accomplished, he was arrested by Germans and tortured with the other prisoners. However, his friends, including famous in Poland Aleksy Dawidowski (Alek) and Tadeusz Zawadzki(Zośka) decided to risk their lives to save their friend. They were all at the same age, their friendship started at school.During the action known as The Operation Arsenal, Alek lost his life. Jan died in the hospital due to the massive injuries caused by the German torture.

Zofia Rapp-Kochańska

She was born in Berlin as Zofia Konieczka, her parents were Polish. During the World War II, she was one of the most successful spies, whose actions allowed to find the famous battleship „Tirpitz”, hidden in Norwegian fiords by Germans. It was sunk after her reports. Moreover, she fought in the Warsaw Uprising and discovered the plans of the factory producing elements to the Nazi submarines in Hamburg. This woman with the face of an angel was so fluent in German, that nobody suspected her. She worked during the World War II on the route Warsaw – Berlin – Hamburg – Heidelberg – Hanower – Ludwigshafen – Saarbrucken. She was arrested in 1943 with her husband, she was just a month before delivering a baby. Sadly, Kochański was killed, but she escaped. After the war, she became a wife of Zbigniew Ścibór -Rylski, Aviator, the soldier of the Warsaw Uprising and the former Polish Air Force officer. In 2017 he celebrated his 100 birthday and once again made a speech during the anniversary of the Uprising.

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