Wanda Zahorski

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  • This was my great grannys best friend
    Born in the village of Montois la Montagne in Lorraine, Wanda was the second child of a Polish family. She was educated at the local convent when the German army re-occupied the region in June 1940. Wanda was 19 in October 1940 when Sister Helene of the convent of St Nicholas asked her to work for the escape line she had established. Sister Helene needed a dependable helper for escapies and hide them until the next leg of their journey.
    Wanda's only contacts in the organisation were Sister Helene. This was to prevent her arrest by the Gestapo. Sister Helene had approximately 80 people working for her ,70 were arrested and shot.
    Between October 1940 and August 1942 Wanda was responsible for the safe passage of 487 escaped prisoners of war. Sister Helene was the first to fall under suspicion. In March 1942 she was betrayed so she had to leave the district. Wanda helped her to reach Lyon in France using the route she had sent so many others. Much of the journey was by train which was dangerous because of the German check points. Sister Helene was disguised in a blonde wig,civilian clothes and makeup. Wanda lead the way through the woods to a local bus station from there they travelled to Montois la Montagne to spend the night with Wandas parents before Sister Helene took the train to Nancy. She reached St Josephs hospital in Lyon.
    Wanda often saw Sister Helene over the next six months until she died of disease in November 1944. In June 1946 the body of Sister Helene was bought with great fanfair in Metz where more than 100,000 people came for 2 days to honor her.
    In August 1942 when Wanda was betrayed she managed to escape from the back door of the family house while her mother detained the Gestapo at the front door. She used the same route that she had used to rescue Sister Helene. Wanda worked for a while with the Resistance in Lyon but after Germany occupied France in December 1942 she managed to escape to England and join the Free Poilsh Army in Scotland. Here she trained as a theatre nurse and met her husband a Polish surgeon ,Edward Zahorski.
    After the war they settled in Boston Lincolnshire and as Wanda had cut all ties with France she didn't find out until 1968 that she had been awarded the Croix de Guerre for her war time services.In 1975 she was also awarded the Medaille des Passeur and the Cross for exceptional services to humanity. As a result of a campaign by her friends Wanda was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 2005 ,when she was 84.
    My Great granny described as an absolute hoot and I can imagin why as she must have had so many stories to tell!.
    By Emily Highams

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