Wira of Warsaw – Memoirs of a Child Soldier
Old Vaughanian, George Szlachetko, has published a book called ‘Wira of Warsaw – Memoirs of a Child Soldier’. The book is about his mother’s true–life story starting in Nazi–occupied Warsaw during WWII. Danuta Szlachetko was only 10 years old when the first bombs fell on her city. Aged 14 she joined an all–female resistance unit and assumed the pseudonym ‘Wira’. One year later Wira played her part in the tragic Warsaw uprising which is described vividly in the book. After liberation from Stalag VI–C Wira met a Polish officer and they began a new life in England as political exiles. The book offers an insight into how and why the first generation of Poles came to England after the war and how they built new lives for themselves.
George, who attended the Vaughan in 1975–82 before studying at the University of Birmingham, spent over three years writing the book during which he interviewed his mother for hundreds of hours. He said, “I was intrigued by this image of a young girl growing up in such a hostile environment and coming to her personal realization that something had to be done and that she must play her part. I wanted to know more about how she was recruited, what she was thinking and what it was like in the resistance.”
Danuta, who Monsignor Pellegrini once described as ‘a formidable lady’, still lives in Ealing. She has been honoured by Poland with one of the country’s highest Orders, the Order of Polonia Restituta, for extraordinary and distinguished service.
The book, which contains 64 images, including many from the uprising, is available from the website www.wiraofwarsaw.com as well as through other online retailers including Amazon and Waterstones.
L/R: Author George Szlachetko, Danuta Szlachetko (Wira) and Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton
Photo source: GetWest London