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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Biography of Polish war-time hero wins major UK prize

07.01.2020 11:19
Former war reporter Jack Fairweather’s book “The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz” has won the Costa Biography Award.
Audio
Witold Pilecki (1901-1948). Photo: [Public domain]
Witold Pilecki (1901-1948). Photo: [Public domain]via Wikimedia Commons

Awards were also given out in the ‘first novel’, ‘novel’, ‘poetry’ and ‘children’s book’ categories.

The five winning authors are now eligible for the big prize, the 2019 Costa Book of the Year, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the UK. A jury will announce its decision on January 28.

The five winners were selected from among 701 entries.

Fairweather’s book, which was published in the UK, the United States and Poland last year, won rave reviews as a landmark account of one of the greatest unsung heroes of World War II and his attempt to change the course of history.

It traces the story of Polish army officer Witold Pilecki, who volunteered for a secret undercover mission: getting himself arrested by the Germans and sent to the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz in order to smuggle out intelligence to the Allies. He barely survived almost three years of  brutality, disease, and starvation before escaping.

Witold Pilecki is known as the victim of two totalitarian systems.

Having escaped from Auschwitz in 1943, he reached Warsaw and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Rising. After the war he went to Italy and joined the Second Corps. Sent by the Polish intelligence to Poland, he was captured by the communist security services and executed in 1948.

His burial place has never been found. In 2008 he was posthumously granted the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state distinction. In 2013 he was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel. 

(mk/pk)

Listen to an audio report by Michał Owczarek by clicking on the ‘play’ button