Irena Elzbieta Wos
Born: February 18, 1923
Irena was the second of four children born to religious Roman Catholic parents in Poland's capital of Warsaw. Irena's father owned a successful textile business. When Irena was 10, her family moved to a comfortable apartment near the Royal Castle and the Vistula River. In 1930 Irena entered a private grade school.
1933-39: At 14 Irena began secondary school. She was a good student and wanted to be a doctor. On September 1, 1939, the day she was supposed to begin the new school year, the Germans attacked Poland. A week later, Warsaw was surrounded . Irena and her brother manned lookouts to spot fires and German spies. On September 25 the six-story building next to Irena's was destroyed by German bombs. Three days later, their city surrendered to the Germans.
1940-44: Irena attended an illegal secondary school run at night by the underground. Then in 1943 she joined the resistance [Armia Krajowa] and became a courier. Her job was to deliver informational fliers before and during their August 1, 1944, uprising in Warsaw. The battle went badly. As their fighters retreated from her neighborhood, Irena hid in a basement with her family. On September 2 the Germans found them. They destroyed their home and arrested them. Irena was deported to Spandau to be a slave laborer in a munitions factory.
On May 2, 1945, the third day of a forced march out of Spandau, Irena was liberated by Soviet troops. She immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1970.