„Zo” – The only woman member of Poland’s “Silent Unseen”

The Cichociemni (Silent Unseen) was a group from the Polish Army in Exile (or the Polish Home Army) that was trained in Britain and parachuted into Poland during WWII. Someday I will, perhaps, get to a posting on their exploits, but today we remember Elżbieta Zawacka, better known by her nom de guerre, „Zo.”

Born 19 March 1909 in what is today, Toruń, Poland. She was promoted to Brigadier General of the Polish Army in 2006 by President Lech Kaczyński, in honor of the work she did during the war.

After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, „Zo” joined Związek Walki Zbrojnej, an underground army formed as a result of that invasion.

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 1943 she traveled across Germany, France and Spain to Gibraltar, where she was transported by air to London.

In the UK, Elżbieta Zawacka joined the Home Army being trained by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was parachuted into Poland and took part in the Warsaw uprising.

After the war she briefly was a member of an anti-communist organization, but quit and started teaching. In 1951 she was arrested by the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), and served about 5 years of a 10 year sentence.

She then got a Ph.D. from Gdańsk University, and taught at another university. She supported Solidarność in the 1980s. She passed away 10 January 2009.

If you aren’t old enough to remember Solidarność (Solidarity), and the 1980 strikes at the Gdańsk Shipyard (then the Lenin Shipyard) you should brush up on some history. While I’m sure that professional historians may disagree with me, I think it marks the beginning of the end for The Warsaw Pact, and The Soviet Union. August of 1980 was Gdańsk, and in November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, and Germany was reunified. (Though reunification was in 1990, since these things take time.) But the Cold War is a story for another day.