Elżbieta Zawacka

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Elżbieta Zawacka
Elżbieta Zawacka.jpg
Zawacka, 1984
Nickname(s)Zo, Zelma
Born(1909-03-19)19 March 1909
Thorn, German Empire (today Toruń, Poland)
Died10 January 2009(2009-01-10) (aged 99)
Toruń, Poland
Service/branchPolish Land Forces
Związek Walki Zbrojnej
Years of service1939-1945
RankGenerał brygady (Brigadier General)
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsOrder of the White Eagle, Virtuti Militari, Krzyż Walecznych
Other workProfessor, scouting instructor, freedom fighter

Elżbieta Zawacka (Polish pronunciation: [ɛlˈʐbjɛta zaˈvat͡ska]; 19 March 1909 – 10 January 2009), known also by her war-time nom de guerre Zo, was a Polish university professor, scouting instructor, SOE agent and a freedom fighter during World War II. She was also a Brigadier General of the Polish Army (the second and last woman in the history of the Polish Army to hold this rank), promoted by President Lech Kaczyński on 3 May 2006. Sometimes called "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 route ran from Warsaw through Berlin and Sweden to London. She was also responsible for organizing routes for other couriers of the Home Army.


Elżbieta Zawacka was born in Toruń (in German, Thorn), part of the Prussian Partition of Poland, and graduated from Poznań University in mathematics. In the late 1930s she taught at several secondary schools, simultaneously working as an instructor for Przysposobienie Wojskowe Kobiet (Women's Military Training). During the 1939 invasion of Poland, she was commandant of the Silesian-district Women's Military Training, participating in the defense of Lwów.

In October 1939 she joined the Silesian branch of Armed Resistance under the nom de guerre "Zelma", which she later changed to "Zo". In late 1940 she was transferred to Warsaw and began performing courier journeys. She was also deputy head of Zagroda, the Home Army's Foreign Communication Department. In February 1943 she traveled across Germany, France, and Spain to Gibraltar, whence she was transported by air to London. In Britain she underwent parachute training, and on 10 September 1943 she dropped into Poland, "the only woman in the history of the Silent Unseen (a moniker which has, however, been disputed, as she had not completed the full training course).[1]

In 1944 Zawacka fought in the Warsaw Uprising and 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 a teaching job.

In 1951 she was arrested and tortured by Urząd 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 she was released in 1955. After her release from prison, she earned a doctorate degree from Gdańsk University. She was a tenured professor at the Institute of Pedagogy at Mikołaj Kopernik University in Toruń where she established the department of Andragogy. She retired from teaching in 1978 after Służba Bezpieczeństwa closed the department. She was an active member of the World Union of Home Army Soldiers and cooperated with Solidarność in the 1980s.


Decorations awarded to Elżbieta Zawacka include:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Półturzycki, Józef (2014). "Spór o Elżbietę Zawacką – żołnierza i pedagoga". Rocznik Andragogiczny (in Polish). 21: 317–332. doi:10.12775/RA.2014.023. ISSN 2391-7571.

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