About Krystyna Skarbek

Her impact was felt by every team she joined.

Countess Krystyna Skarbek (aka Christine Granville) arguably influenced the Second World War in Britain’s favour more than any other woman – as such she was later regarded as Churchill’s Favourite Spy.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 instead of fleeing Krystyna found an MI6 agent and joined the Secret Intelligence Service. Described as “a flaming Polish patriot…. expert skier and great adventuress” she submitted a bold plan to ski into Nazi occupied Poland across the Carpathian Mountains in winter. The report went on to say “she is absolutely fearless” and “says the matter is urgent.” Though shot at, chased, captured and escaped she succeeded in creating an escape line across the mountains through which she aided the passage of several hundred Polish pilots who would later go on to play a decisive role in the Battle of Britain.

Her Initiative, quick wit, determination and high courage….

…..were matched by her charisma and passion for life.

With a price on her head in Europe she joined the SOE in Cairo becoming an expert in the dark arts of the SOE agent. In July 1944, she parachuted into France to join the resistance in the Vercors region as lieutenant to Francis Cammaerts – one of Britain’s top agents and the key leader in that area. Once again she made a considerable impact to a team. Amongst her many adventures she took the surrender of a German garrison persuading the polish conscripts there to join her; she tamed a man-hunting German soldier’s Alsatian dog which also switched sides under her spell and wouldn’t leave her side; perhaps most famously she marched into the Gestapo headquarters alone, despite the enormous bounty on her head and demanded the release of Francis Cammaerts and Xan Fielding who had been captured and were due to be executed that afternoon. With a mix of charm, money, threats and the story she was the niece of General Montgomery, she successfully persuaded the Gestapo chief to release them – whatever the odds she got the job done.

Tragically her life ended in 1952 when she was murdered in London by an obsessed ex-lover. Her few possessions including her medals (the George Medal, OBE and Croix de Guerre with bronze star) and her commando knife are now held in the Sikorski Museum in Princes Gate, London.

Krystyna Skarbek showed that, with courage, determination and creativity one person can have a disproportionate impact on events. She delivered the seemingly impossible through leadership, focus and optimism. These are the values which inspire Skarbek Associates.

Listen to Skarbek’s General Sir Graeme Lamb talk about Krystyna on BBC R4’s Great Lives.

About Krystyna Skarbek