Wonder Woman may be saving the world on the big screen right now, but Krystyna Skarbek was busy saving the world decades ago in World War II. This Polish/British spy was the definition of badass, and her actions in Poland and France make her totally worthy of the title of “superhero.”
She needs her own movie ASAP. Here’s why…
Krystyna Skarbek was born in Warsaw in 1908 to a count and a wealthy banker’s daughter. She grew up a tomboy with a strong sense of self and confidence. But most importantly, she was good at keeping secrets.
After her father died, she took to nature to find herself and soon found herself on the path of becoming something awesome: a spy.
Krystyna didn’t have the best of luck in her love life growing up. She got a divorce from her husband due to incompatibility. She had another lover, but his mother didn’t like the fact that she was a divorcee, so they never married.
However, her luck changed (strangely enough) when she had a horrifying ski accident. Aristocrat Jerzy Gizycki saved her from her terrible fate and instead literally swept her off of her feet.
But there was still one more adventure for Krystyna.
Skarbek became a member of the Secret Intelligence Service after offering her services to the government in order to fight a common enemy in World War II. Although they originally didn’t want her, she eventually convinced them to take her. She is infamous for being Winston Churchill’s “favorite spy” and inspired many fictional spies, including epic heroines from James Bond.
She saw a LOT of action, as you’ll see in the coming slides.
Her first mission brought Skarbek to Poland and Hungary where she was arrested by the Gestapo. In order to escape, she feigned symptoms of tuberculosis by biting her tongue until she bled. This allowed her to escape and later steal intelligence that allowed the Allies to sabotage the communications on the River Daunbe.
However, that was just the start of her spy career.
In Hungary, Skarbek met her childhood friend, Andrzej Kowerski, who was also collecting intelligence from the Germans. As they worked together in Hungary and Cairo (and were arrested together and later escaped), they fell in love.
Skarkbek told her husband, Jerzy, of her feelings and the couple ended up divorcing. This divorce drove her to her next mission: France.
Krystyna is most well-known for her time in France. After literally parachuting into the country, Krystyna replaced a British spy that had been killed by the Germans. In France, she gathered secret allies to help fight the Germans and made secret agreements in hard-to-reach locations, actually hiking up full mountains to do so.
She also helped others climb more figurative mountains.
Krystyna helped pave the way for women to gain respect and honor in the secret service and military. Skarbek was awarded several medals and titles, including the George Medal. Influenced by Krystyna’s actions, all female members of the Special Operations Executive were given military rank. Not only did Krystyna gather intelligence from enemies, but she also helped the military gain intelligence on gender equality.
Even after her work as a spy was finished, she was constantly in danger, as you’ll discover next.
After her work as a spy, Krystyna still longed for adventure. Although she hated domestic work, she became a stewardess on a cruise line. There, a deranged man whose wife had divorced him due to his cruel nature became obsessed with Krystyna.
She repeatedly rejected him, which the man did not take kindly to. One night, he cornered her in a stairwell. After arguing, he whipped out a knife and stabbed her. She died moments later.
But she didn’t end up dying alone.
Throughout his entire life, Andrzej Kowerski never married, and was always in love with Krystyna Skarbek. After his death, his ashes were buried at the foot of her tomb at St. Mary’s Cemetery. It was his dying wish. There is a small plaque with his name resting under her tombstone. Poland still celebrates her today.
Other women spies from World War II were lucky enough to get their stories to the public such as Nancy Wake, Violette Szabo and Odette Sansom.
Nancy Wake was the definition of badass and killed an SS officer with her bare hands.
Violette was in Special Ops of Great Britain, but was captured and tortured by the Germans. She was transferred to a concentration camp where she was executed.
Odette Sansom became a legend when she became one of the only people ever to survive and withstand Nazi interrogation and imprisonment.
Needless to say, there needs to be real-life superhero movies based off of the stories of these badass babes.