Zofia Korbonska was underground resister, VOA journalist
– The Washington Times – Wednesday, September 1, 2010
To those who knew her personally, Zofia Korbonska was a loyal and generous friend. But Mrs. Korbonska, who passed away last week in Washington at the age of 95, was also a heroic figure of the anti-Nazi and anti-Communist resistance movement in Poland between 1939 and 1947. In later years, driven from her native country by the socialist regime, she worked tirelessly in the United States as a Voice of America (VOA) journalist to bring uncensored news to her native country.
As a member of the Polish Undergroud Army, Armia Krajowa (AK), during the Nazi occupation, Mrs. Korbonska daily risked her life writing and coding secret shortwave radio transmissions sent from Poland to the Polish government in exile in London. Her dispatches kept the outside world informed about Nazi atrocities and anti-German resistance. Thanks to her, some of the first news about the killings by the Gestapo of members of the Polish intelligentsia, the Nazi extermination of the Polish Jews and the medical experiments on women prisoners at the Ravensbruck concentration camp reached the Free World and were broadcast back to occupied Europe by the BBC.
Mrs. Korbonska’s dispatches also sent critical information for Swit, a radio station providing Poles living under German occupation with local news. Although Swit was based in Britain, its up-to-date and accurate reporting convinced many that Swit was operating inside their country – a last bastion of free Poland.
If caught by the German Gestapo, who constantly searched for radio transmitters, she would have been tortured and executed – the fate of many of her colleagues in the Polish underground. Her courage was legendary.
In addition to her radio work, Zofia also served as an assistant to her husband, Stefan Korbonski, the leader of the anti-Nazi civil resistance and the last chief of the Polish underground state.
The Korbonskis were arrested in Krakow by the Soviet secret police in June 1945. Later released from a secret police prison following an amnesty, Stefan became briefly an anti-Communist member of the Polish Parliament. But soon, faced with a prospect of another arrest, Stefan and Zofia escaped to Sweden, hiding in a ship transporting coal. Stefan later served as chairman of the Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN) but he was never able to return to his homeland and, sadly, died in 1989, just months before Poland regained independence.