Jan Nowak-Jeziorański (actual name: Zdzisław Antoni Jeziorański; 1914-2005), the legendary Courier from Warsaw, smuggled among other things microfilms documenting the Warsaw Uprising out of German-occupied Warsaw. A wartime hero honored with the Cross of Virtuti Militari, he fought for the truth and free Poland as director of Radio Free Europe, he was among the directors of the Polish-American Congress actively supporting Poland’s road to NATO. A cavalier of Poland’s Order of the White Eagle, he received from the US President the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian decoration.
Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was born in Berlin on the night of October 2nd-3rd, 1914. At his Warsaw middle school he met his peer Jan Kwiatkowski, the son of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. It was Minister Kwiatkowski that persuaded Jeziorański to study economics in Poznań under Professor Edward Taylor. After completing his studies and doing military service, he began doctoral studies which were interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two. He took part in the September Campaign as a soldier of the 2nd Horse Artillery Division. During fighting in Wołyń, he was captured by the Germans but luckily managed to escape.
After returning to Warsaw, for the first few months he worked as salesman but soon became involved in the structures of the Polish Underground State. He joined the Armed Combat Union which soon became known as the Home Army. His first assignment was to organize an Operation “N” network both in occupied Poland and in areas annexed by the Third Reich. Its purpose was to distribute German-language publications (leaflets and newspaper) to sow disinformation among the Germans.
Jeziorański’s numerous clandestine trips required him to make use of two fictitious identities: that of a Polish and German railwayman on the Ostbahn (Nazi Germany’s East European railway system). After making contact with Polish underground activists in Gdańsk and Gdynia, he found a way to smuggle materials to the London-based Polish government in exile by sea.
After finding a way to leave the country by sea in 1943, he was entrusted with another mission: as a courier of the Home Army High Command, he was to make his way to Sweden to provide the Polish government resident there with materials pertaining to the situation in occupied Poland. Pretending to be a port worker he embarked on a ship and went on an exhausting several day voyage in the ship’s coal hold. He succeeded to convey to the Polish embassy in Stockholm secret materials concealed in a special key, pencil and figure of St Anthony. When he was returning, he found wanted posters with his picture displayed at railway stations in Poland but managed to remain under cover.
His next assignment was to go to London (by sea via Sweden). This time he was to present information directly to the authorities of the Polish government in exile and hold talks with representatives of the British authorities to persuade them to extend assistance to Poland. For the benefit of that mission he adopted the “Jan Nowak” pseudonym with which he would go down in history.
In London he met President Władysław Raczkiewicz, Commander in Chief Kazimierz Sosnkowski and Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk, and on the British side – Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
He returned to Poland by plane via Italy in July 1944 and reported on his mission to Home Army Commander Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski. A week later, the Warsaw Uprising broke out. Jeziorański manned the Błyskawica Radio station and broadcast daily news reports from Warsaw to London. In September he married liaison girl Jadwiga Wolska, pseudonym Greta.
Jan Nowak-Jeziorański had met his future wife Jadwiga Wolska, nom de guerre „Greta”, in 1943 in Warsaw. They got married during the Warsaw Uprising on September 7th, 1944 in the chapel at No. 9 Wilcza Street. They were married for 55 years. Jadwiga passed away in 1999.
Following the collapse of the Uprising, he set out with Greta on his third courier mission to London. This time he was to inform the Allies of the situation in Poland and provide them with documentation on the Warsaw Uprising. Jan Nowak and Greta concealed rolls of film under plaster fractured-limb casts, photos in three pocket-torch batteries and other materials in a cigarette lighter, keys and Greta’s handbag. Their route led via Germany to Switzerland, whence they made their way to France and finally arrived in London. They survived the hazardous voyage and at the risk of their lives conveyed the smuggled documents to the Polish government in exile.
After the war ended, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański and his wife remained abroad.