After a local newspaper published a series of photos inviting readers to share their memories of ‘Polish Anna’, no one expected it would set in motion a train of online sleuthing which revealed her shocking wartime ordeal as a slave labourer in Nazi Germany and the destruction of her village in Poland as part of Hitler’s Lebensraum plan to exterminate Poles from the Zamość region.
The yellowing paper found in the carpenter’s workshop in Łańcut was handed over to a local historian who, through meticulous research, uncovered a trail of human bravery leading from a Nazi-German labour camp in Będzin, through to a frail old lady in modern-day Gdańsk.
Officially known as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, August 23rd was chosen as it coincides with the date of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a 1939 non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany which would see a German-Soviet carve-up of Poland.
The rare photos provide fascinating snapshots on the life of a front-line pilot who took the fight to the Nazis.
With Poland already struggling to keep the full weight of Hitler’s Wehrmacht at bay, the pre-dawn hours of September 17th saw Stalin’s Red Army forces invade from the East, thereby fulfilling a secret annex in August’s Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. For two-and-a-half weeks Poland held out against both foes, but the writing was on the wall.