We usually think and expect that those who worked and dedicated their lives for the glory of the nation are treated with a high level of respect and gratitude. After all, risking your life and enduring all the challenges to serve and help the country achieve its goals was something worth recognizing and awarding, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case, even if you were once the Prime Minister’s favorite. Krystyna Skarbek’s story proved just that.

Flaming Polish Patriot

Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek was born in Warsaw in 1908. Her father married her mother from a wealthy Jewish family, so he could use the dowry to pay for his debts and continue his luxurious lifestyle. Krystyna loved riding horses and skiing, which she honed during their visits to Zakopane in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland. In all these things, she took after her father.

She met her husband on that same mountain. She was skiing on a slope when she lost control but was fortunately saved by a man who stepped into her path to stop her momentum. It was Jerzy Giżycki, a brilliant, eccentric, short-tempered, wealthy guy who ran away from home at an early age and eventually became an author.

Krystyna Skarbek. (Wikipedia)

The two fell in love and married on November 2, 1938, in Warsaw. her husband found himself consul general of Poland by the time that Germany invaded the country. When World War II broke out, the two went to London in exile as their country was dismembered Nazi Germany and the USSR who began WWII as allies. 

Skarbek, furious about the invasion, asked the British Secret Service to hire her. At first, they paid her little to no interest until she got help from her acquaintances, who introduced her to the Secret Intelligence Service. They soon described her as “a flaming Polish patriot…. expert skier and great adventuress” and “absolutely fearless.” She was given the nom de plume, Christine Granville.

Christine’s Quests

Skarbek (or Granville) had many achievements and commendable actions throughout her six years of service to Britain. One of them was when she acquired the first evidence of Germany’s plan to invade Russia, called Operation Barbarossa. 

The evidence was in microfilm footage that she hid in the finger of her gloves as she skied out of Poland to the Allied lines. This intelligence report reached Winston Churchill, who was more than pleased and immediately became an admirer of the spy, saying Granville was his favorite.

In July 1944, she parachuted into France to join the resistance in the Vercors region as Francis Cammaerts’ lieutenant. Cammaerts was one of Britain’s top agents and leaders in France. They were preparing for the liberation of Europe. Granville made first contact with the French Resistance and the Italian Partisans. She even convinced an entire German garrison protecting a strategic alpine pass to surrender.