Krystyna Skarbek, also known by the alias Christine Granville, was a Polish woman-turned-British spy who had a remarkable espionage career. Not only do some say that Winston Churchill dubbed her his favorite spy, but it’s also believed that Ian Fleming based Casino Royale‘s Bond Girl, millionaire spy, Vesper Lynd, on Skarbek.
Skarbek, born in Poland in 1908 – but later taking advantage of one of her many name changes to knock five years off her age – was awarded the George Medal, the OBE and the Croix de Guerre for her wartime exploits.
Skarbek left Poland with her second husband in 1938; she got involved with the war effort in London after her home country was invaded. Her confidence and good looks helped land her first mission, to Hungary, in 1939. And her plan read like something out of a spy novel:
Posing as a journalist based in Budapest, she would cross Slovakia and ski over the Polish border to Zakopane, where she could rely on help from her friends there. Once she’d opened a courier channel, she could begin to deliver propaganda material for the Polish networks to distribute, and bring out whatever intelligence they had for London.Her scheme worked, though one unexpected drawback was that the Polish agent who’d been assigned to assist her fell in love with her. She wasn’t into him—though she was still married, she’d soon meet the man who’d become her most significant life companion, fellow operative Andrzej Kowerski—but the mission launched her career in espionage.
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