Maria Kardaszewicz (1901–1944) and Ewa Kardaszewicz (1928–1944)

Anna Żalińska

The Kardaszewicz family consisted of Maria and Jerzy (both chemists by profession) and their two children: Jerzy junior, born in 1926 and Ewa, two years younger than him. Parents came from around Lviv, they moved to Warsaw before the war, and after it began, they took refuge in Nowy Sącz.[1] During the occupation, the whole family was involved in the activities of the underground resistance, all four of them were arrested, the men survived, the women – mother and daughter – could not have been saved, they sacrificed their lives together.

Jerzy Kardaszewicz senior was a chemical engineer with a PhD academic degree. Before the war, he worked for the Polish arms industry. Maria, a graduate of the Faculty of Chemistry of the Lviv Polytechnic University, ran her own pharmaceutical and chemical laboratory in Pionki near Radom, where the family lived in the years 1928–1938. One year before the outbreak of the war, they settled in the capital, where Maria started working in the National Engineering Works. Maria Kardaszewicz was the daughter of Jan Leciejewski, a gymnasium teacher, and Amelia née Cieplik. The family raised her to be a patriot, which she expressed by participating in the Defense of Lwów at the turn of the years 1918 and 1919 as a member of the gymnasium platoon. Afterwards she was active in the Female Military Training, a paramilitary organization founded in 1923 with roots dating back to the period of World War I[2].

Ewa Kardaszewicz was born on 10 May 1928 in Lviv. She attended elementary schools in Pionki, and later in Warsaw and in Nowy Sącz. When the war broke out, the family was evacuated east, and after the Soviet troops entered Poland on September 17, they retreated back to Warsaw. In spring 1940 Ewa, her parents and her brother moved to Nowy Sącz[3]. She was a woman of average height, with bright blond hair and blue eyes, who easily gained friends with her endearing appearance and nice disposition. She loved reading books, which, as a matter of fact, became her main entertainment in the absence of other possibilities of spending free time, such as cinema or theater. She was very talented, full of joy of life and love for the Homeland[4]. She quickly adapted to the new environment, and in 1943 she became involved in underground scouting movement[5].

Maria Kardaszewicz ran a shop during the occupation[6]. It was one of the underground contact post box, and Maria acted as a runner of an intelligence cell of the Nowy Sącz District Inspectorate (“Niwa”) between the ZWZ-AK Main Headquarters  in Warsaw and the Command of the Nowy Sącz-City District (“Nurt-I”). In addition, Maria Kardaszewicz maintained contact with the partisan unit of Lt. Julian Zubek. Her husband, Jerzy Kardaszewicz “Doktor”, was involved in the production of explosives for the Sapper Department of the Operations Branch of the ZWZ-AK Main Headquarters in Warsaw[7]. In 1944, he cooperated with “Tatar’s” forest unit[8] and the Soviet guerrilla. His son remembered, that he trained them, among others, in field mining[9].

Jerzy Kardaszewicz junior was a member of the Polish Scouting Organization (the so-called “Grey Ranks”) commanded by Andrzej Otmianowski. He was in charge of distributing press, military training and obtaining information about German military units[10].

Ewa graduated from the elementary school in 1943 and officially continued her education at the Trade Vocational School (one of the few secondary schools legally operating in occupied Nowy Sącz), while also, within the secret teaching organized by the Immaculate Conception Sisters, she followed the curriculum of the pre-war gymnasium. Ewa studied in the group taught by Janina Jaworska (married name Zagórzycka), a recent graduate of the secret high school of Nowy Sącz Immaculate Conception Sisters[11].

The apartment of Ewa Kardaszewicz, located in a German tenement house at Grodzka 39 Str. was a place of frequent meetings. The proximity of German owners paradoxically created a sense of security. Ewa, like her brother, was a sworn scout of the Girl Guides Organization with alias “Promyk” (“Little Ray”)  [12]. During one of the meetings, Ewa Kardaszewicz presented the scouting ideals and ways of their implementation in the occupational reality to her teacher Janina, “drawing” her into a 5-person patrol (apart from Kardaszewiczówna and Jaworska, its members were three Rudnicki sisters: Ewa, Barbara and Hanna). Janina took an oath and became a scout, and at the same a member of the Gray Ranks. The girls not only learned together, but also had time for working on their character, for physical exercises and for reading underground press, which was delivered by the team leader Zofia Otmianowska ( “Zorza” or “Małgorzata” – before the war, a member of Scouting Association Wielkopolska Region; her family was displaced from the Poznań region after the outbreak of the war, and ended up in Nowy Sącz)[13].

Ewa took part in tourist trips organized by the scouts in the area of Przehyba, Rożnowskie Lake and Pienin Mounatins. At one of such expeditions she completed a first-aid training. The Polish underground state trained field nurses to help in partisan units, as well as in the future insurgent operations[14].

Ewa was often accompanied by a dog she got from her father before the war. It was a Scottish terrier and his name was “Jolly Donald”. The dog went missing in mid-March 1944 – It was the harbinger of disaster – Ewa’s anonymous biographer wrote about this event[15].

Ewa’s main task in the Gray Ranks, apart from regular scout’s commitments, was to distributing underground press. Team leader Otmianowska brought, among other things the “Information Bulletin” and scouting periodical “Wzlot” from the command of the Kraków Region[16]. And so one day, after a finished lesson, Eve bragged before Janina Jaworska that her shoes (and they were heavy winter shoes probably very long) are completely stuffed with “tissue paper” (i.e. underground prints). Janina remembered the day well – 27 March 1944 – the day, when Ewa was taken away by the German police. Soon after the girls parted, one or two hours after Ewa went home, Andrzej Otmianowski, the brother of “Zorza” appeared in Janina’s apartment[17]. He gave her the terrible news about Kardaszewiczówna being arrested, ordered Janina to burn any underground press she had. After the arrest of Ewa Kardaszewicz and her tragic death, Janina ceased all activity in scouting and the underground movement[18].

On 27 March 1944, the German police arrested the entire Kardaszewicz family. First, Maria was taken from her shop, and then a trap was set up for the remaining family members in their apartment in the tenement house at Grodzka 39 Str. Ewa, her brother Jerzy, her parents and her mother’s sister, all were taken to prison. The aunt was released on the next day. The father was bailed out by his family (perhaps with underground movement’s money, as an important agent of the resistance[19]). The son, Jerzy, was beaten and interrogated and then sentenced to death. He escaped from the Tarnów prison one month before the execution, using a momentary confusion of the German services caused by the attempted assassination of Hitler, carried out on July 20 by Claus von Stauffenberg. Jerzy was helped by a bribed Polish guard, Jan Kroczek (who released him and two other prisoners from Nowy Sącz, Władysław Stender and Mieczysław Tumidajewicz, together with other inmates going out of the prison walls for work; Jerzy and his friends used the first opportunity to run for the forest. The guard also escaped[20]). Władysława Lubasiowa deatils the next part of their escape and hiding in her memories printed in “Almanach Sądecki”. Jerzy Kardaszewicz was among those who secured her escape from the city when she was wanted by the German police and she had to hide in the forest[21]. Andrzej Otmianowski, who was meant to die together with the three above mentioned, did not survive – he died on 28 August 1944 in the execution in Zbylitowska Góra near Tarnów along with other victims from Nowy Sącz[22].

Maria and Eve were subjected to a brutal investigation in which they did not give anyone away. They died on 27 April 1944, shot in Rdziostów[23]. In the same execution two other heroic women were killed: Maria Stobiecka and her daughter Alina, and also four men. According to an eyewitness account, Ewa Kardaszewicz was to die shouting  “Long live Poland!”. She died less than twenty days before her 16th birthday[24].

Jerzy Kardaszewicz was deeply affected by this personal tragedy – he did not recognized any people met on the street, he moved around as if he was in a trance – Janina Jaworska-Zagórzycka, Ewa’s teacher, recalled. She herself, after the death of her friend, wrote down the following poem in her diary:

          When the Little Ray has gone out

When I look at these mountains woven with spring mists
At these clouds hanging over, in running flying fits
When I feel the breeze of winds, caressing my face
I do not believe that Ewuniwa no longer is among us.

When the apple tree blooming on a quiet night in May
My whispered requests will rouse the powers ad a spell
The music of its leaves will bring back the hatred
The victims, the pain and the whip
And Ewunia’s effort with it.

When under the blue of the sky I hear the angles sing
And a slender charming poplar extends its arms for me
Like a faithful companion and brother, in my earthly years
I know I won’t see you again
You – the little ray of sacrifice.

Teutonic iron pride is waiting for its victims,
And Poland stained with blood provides them beyond measure
You were such a victim, because you kept the love for Poland,
You lived for her, suffered, and gave your life for her.

 You gave example to us, the young, example, a thousands hearts you gained
You walked in the footsteps of the great Polish women, that more than the whole heart’s treasure
Loved Poland

 To us, the Polish scouts, this precious gift belongs,
And after the war we will report to the homeland with dignity,
The candle of the young hearts will light, the Germanic barbarity will turn to dust,
And the girl scouts songs will bring back the heroic name: of Kardaszewicz Ewa[25].

 After the war, with the efforts of the family, the bodies of mother and daughter were exhumed and laid at the municipal cemetery in Nowy Sącz. The graves of Maria and Ewa Kardaszewicz are located close to the graves of those who died together with them – Maria and Alina Stobiecki.


[1] Kardaszewiczowa Maria [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość Polski 1939–1945. Poległe i zmarłe w okresie okupacji niemieckiej, Warszawa, 1988, p. 177.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie Oddział w Nowym Sączu (dalej ANKr O/NS), Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa w nowosądeckim, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz – unknown author’s typescript, p. 77; see also: Kardaszewiczówna Ewa [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk o niepodległość, p. 177.

[4] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz, p. 77.

[5] Kardaszewiczówna Ewa [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk o niepodległość, p. 177.

[6] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość lists Piotra Skargi Street as the location of M. Kardaszewicz’s shop. Since the spring of 1941, this street has become a part of the closed Jewish ghetto. When the two ghettos were created, the non-Jewish residents and shopkeepers were forced to move. Janina Zagórzycka in the mentioned memories wrote that the address of the stop was Krakowska Street, which was then the name of the street near the castle, which became the northern border of the ghetto. Maria’s son, Jerzy Kardaszewicz, in his memoirs from 1966, wrote down the location of the store as Lwowska Street – over it in pencil it is written “Piotra Skargi 5 Str”. This second address is indicated in an anonymous note about Maria Kardaszewicz kept in ANKR O/NS under the same signature as Jerzy’s letter. Perhaps M. Kardaszewicz really did change the location of her store? There also arises a question about possible changes in street names. Cf. ANKr O/NS) Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa w nowosądeckim, ref. 31/559/33, Anonimowa notatka o Marii Kardaszewiczowej oraz List Jerzego Kardaszewicza z 27 marca 1966 r.

[7] Kardaszewiczowa Maria [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość, p. 177.

[8] See: Władysława Lubasiowa, Światła obrazu i cienie, “Almanach Sądecki” 2000, № 1, p. 54 and others.

[9] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/33, List Jerzego Kardaszewicza z 27 marca 1966 r.

[10] Ibidem.

[11] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/34, Janina Zagórzycka, „Promyk” na ziemi sądeckiej, p. 2–3; cf. also: Kardaszewiczówna Ewa [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk o niepodległość, p. 177.

[12] Parallelly to the male-only Polish Scouting Organization, there existed the female Girl Guides Organization. The “Grey Ranks” code name originally referred only to the male organization, female teams used the code name “Związek Koniczyn” (“Clover Union”) or “Bądź gotów” (“Be Ready”). From 1943 it was customary to use the name Gray Ranks for both of the organizations. The Polish Scouting Organization and the Girl Guides Organization were established before the war as autonomous organizational units of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association. In September 1938 the Girl Guides Organization isolated a separate service, the Girl Scout Emergency Service, which only accepted girls over 15 years of age, who would be trained in one of four services: Samaritan, communications, house economy, childcare. In March 1939 the Girl Guides Organization and the Girl Scout Emergency Service were both incorporated into the Female Military Training Organization. When the war broke out, the Girl Guides Main Headquarters operation was suspended, and the command of the Emergency Service took over. Cf.  Zofia Florczak, Organizacja Harcerek (OH) [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość Polski 1939–1945, Warszawa 1988, pp. 508–509.

[13] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/34, Janina Zagórzycka, “Promyk” na ziemi sądeckiej, pp. 3–4; also: ref. 31/559/33, List Jerzego Kardaszewicza z 27 marca 1966 r.; See also: Otmianowska Zofia [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość, p. 304.

[14] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz, pp. 77 & 79; Cf. also: Kardaszewiczówna Ewa [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk o niepodległość, p. 177.

[15] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz, p. 77.

[16] Ibidem, pp. 77, 79.

[17] Both, Andrzej and Zofia, died at the hands of the Germans in 1944. Zofia was killed in a guerrilla battle close to Działoszyce near Krakow in August 1944. She was 20 years old at the time. Her brother Andrzej was arrested in Nowy Sącz and shot for undeground activity in Zbylitowska Góra on 28 June 1944. It was the same execution in which Jerzy Kardaszewicz is said to have died, cf.: Otmianowska Zofia [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość, p. 304; Józef Bieniek, Droga wiodła przez mękę, “Almanach Sądecki” 1994, № 2 (7), p. 79.

[18] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/34, Janina Zagórzycka, “Promyk” na ziemi sądeckiej, pp. 3–4.

[19] This is a hypothesis of the author of the text.

[20] Cf. ANKR O/NS) Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa w nowosądeckim, ref. 31/559/33, Anonimowa notatka o Marii Kardaszewiczowej oraz List Jerzego Kardaszewicza z 27 marca 1966 r.

[21] W. Lubasiowa, op. cit., p. 44 and consecutive.

[22] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz, p. 79; Kardaszewiczówna Ewa [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walki o niepodległość, p.177; Józef Bieniek, op. cit. p. 79.

[23] Archival and online sources provide two dates: 27 and 28 April The exhumation protocols of 1945 indicate 27 April as the exact date, cf. ANKr O/NS, Sandecjana, 31/190/54, Protokoły ekshumacyjne Marii Stobieckiej i Aliny Stobieckiej, pp. 63, 65.

[24]ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/38, Ewa Kardaszewicz, pp. 79, 81, Ibidem, Związek Kombatantów Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej, 31/558/713, Kilka sylwetek Kobiet bardziej zaangażowanych w Ruch Oporu na terenie województwa.

[25] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa, 31/559/34, Janina Zagórzycka, „Promyk” na ziemi sądeckiej, p. 5.