Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka

How to cite: Jezierska, Maria Barbara and Siczek Joanna. Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka. Medical Review – Auschwitz. July 16, 2021. Originally published in Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. 1991: 161–165.


Maria Barbara Jezierska, 1915–1992, nurse, veteran of the Polish defensive war of 1939, after the defeat of Poland by Nazi Germany participated in the anti-Nazi underground activities and in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. A social activist and dedicated educator, she worked to establish a network of day nurseries in the after-war Poland. Starting in 1965, she was a Polish delegate to the WHO and helped develop nursing training programmes in Tunisia and Mauritania. M.B. Jezierska is an author of a number of academic publications in the fields of nursing and history of medicine. Not to be confused with Maria Jezierska (nom-de-guerre Elżbieta), a Second World War veteran and Auschwitz and Ravensbrück survivor.

Joanna Halina Siczek, 1915–2003, nurse, worked for the Polish Red Cross during the Polish defensive war of 1939. After the defeat of Poland by Nazi Germany engaged in the anti-Nazi underground activities and participated in the Warsaw Uprising. She helped to organized medical facilities for former POWs and other veterans after the war and was an is an author of a number of nursing textbooks.

Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka died on 29 June 1988. She was a wonderful and extraordinary nurse, with a wide range of experience acquired in diverse duties, university and further education programmes in Poland and abroad, all of which qualified her for the top administrative posts in nursing. Her personality augmented her professional qualifications: she had an exceptional mental and physical vitality; she was full of determination and perseverance whenever she undertook anything, and was never discouraged by adversity but true to the ideals of her profession. Iżycka’s hard-working life is a reflection of her remarkable personality. She was such a modest person that those who judged her by appearances could easily fail to spot her outstanding character and intellect, which let her do so much, as we will show in this paper. She did not succumb to the pressures of her times but kept to the traditional Polish model of training for nurses, developing it by introducing new content from the progress made in the medical and related sciences.

Her husband, Andrzej Iżycki, said of her, “I wanted a home bird for a wife. I married a woman who loved her profession no less than me; she did not spend a lot of time at home, but was very understanding, and I know that there was no other woman I could have been as happy as I was with Jadwiga.”

Jadwiga Iżycka, née Kaniewska, was born into an intelligentsia family in Warsaw on 29 September 1908. She was the eldest of the three children of Teodor Kaniewski and his wife Julia. Her parents’ house was modest, but sufficiently well-off to give the children a good education.

Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka. Source: Virtual Museum of Polish Nursing. Partial English translation of the website available under the link. Click the image to enlarge.

She obtained her school-leaving certificate from a private state-recognised grammar school in Warsaw run by Janina Kowalczykówna and Janina Jawurkówna.1 The school was known for its focus on social work, which must have left an influence on the personality of young Jadwiga. She spent her summer holidays in the country estate of the Wydzga family in Brodnica near Pińsk. Every stay there was a practical lesson of social work, as the Wydzgas were highly committed social workers.

On finishing school, she made the first independent decision in her life: the choice of a profession. She thought about becoming a teacher, a doctor, or a nurse, and decided to be a nurse, which was not very a popular profession at that time and in her environment. Her family accepted this decision, and soon her choice turned out to be right.

In 1927, she enrolled at the Kraków University School for Nurses and Health Carers (Hygienists),2 from which she graduated in 1929. As she was a hard-working and committed student, the school employed her as a vocational teacher in the Kraków Children’s Clinic.3 Her duty was to organize, direct, and assess students’ activities. She was a just and impartial assessor. Her colleagues recalled that she managed to create a friendly atmosphere full of concern for the sick children in her ward.

In 1930 she returned to Warsaw for personal reasons and was appointed junior instructor in the Second Internal Diseases, which had Professor Witold Orłowski4 as its head at the time. Later she worked in Professor Adam Czyżewicz’s5 Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinic.

After two years of work at the Warsaw Nursing School,6 she returned to the Kraków University School of Nurses and Hygienists, where she was a junior instructor and achieved her first professional success, memories of which she cherished for the rest of her life. She and Teresa Kulczyńska7 taught the principles of nursing. She also conducted bandaging classes. In 1932-1934 she worked as a school instructor at the Jagiellonian University Surgery Clinic. At the same time she was a ward nurse and gave lectures on surgical nursing at the University School.

In 1934, she obtained a one-year Rockefeller scholarship and completed a course in public health and hospital administration at the Faculty of Nursing of the University of Toronto, Canada. She also had several nursing internships, for example in Toronto general and children’s hospitals, and later in New York University Hospital and at medical centres in Harlem, a district of New York City with a population of Afro-Americans, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants. During her stay in Canada and the USA, Kaniewska met and made friends with many people. Some of these friendships lasted until the end of her life. She returned to Poland full of energy and plans for the future, but above all, she decided to continue her education.

From 1936 to August 1939, she served as vice-principal for practical training at the Kraków University School of Nurses and Hygienists. Kaniewska had held several appointments at two nursing schools and had also studied abroad, yet she needed to round her university education off with a master’s degree. So she started Educational Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University.

Before the War there were no extramural or evening courses, so she had to fit in her classes at the nursing school to be able to attend obligatory lectures at the Jagiellonian University. She could not stop working due to her difficult financial situation. However, it was not until 1950 that she could graduate, because as soon as the Germans invaded Poland they closed down all the Polish universities and colleges.8

In 1937, the Polish Ministry of Religious Affairs and Public Education appointed her to a commission whose task was to draft curricula for a new type of nursing school—an upper secondary school which was to admit students who had passed the mała matura.9 Kaniewska’s task was to devise a framework programme and specific nursing programmes. Schools of this type were never established because of opposition from a group of experienced nurses who argued that there were not enough qualified vocational teachers, textbooks, or practical training institutions and boarding schools to do the job properly.

A little-known fact about Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka’s life is that she gave a series of broadcasts on Polish Radio on home nursing and first aid, which made her a pioneer of preventive medicine, or what is now known as health education.

On 24 August 1939, she was called up for national service as a nurse with the Polish Red Cross reserves. She was assigned as a surgical nurse to No. 51 Independent Surgical Team, which was part of the Śląsk Operational Group10 under the command of Dr Władysław Biernacikowski. The team was stationed in the hospital of the Katowice district of Bogucice. As soon as the War broke out, on 1 September 1939, its staff were treating casualties. The Surgical Team covered the entire combat route of Armia Kraków11 units on their retreat through Chrzanów, Kraków, Pacanów, Lublin, Biłgoraj, Zwierzyniec and Zielona. After the Battle of Zielona, the troops and the medical team were transported to Zamość. A military hospital was organized in the local courthouse and the Adam Mickiewicz grammar school.

On 2 November 1939, Kaniewska arrived in Kraków with a transport of the most serious casualties, including some with tetanus. Her task was to place the sick and wounded in the university clinics and hospitals. She was distinguished for her exemplary work and diligence in nursing the sick and wounded in the very difficult conditions of the Zamość hospital (Daily Order No. 57 of 30 October 1939, signed by Dr A. Scharbert, plenipotentiary for the Management Board of the Polish Red Cross for the Silesian and Dąbrowa District).

In late November she returned to her family in Warsaw. From 1 December 1939 till 3 February 1940, she worked as a ward nurse in the Infectious Diseases Hospital on Chocimska.

However, in February 1940 she lost this job when the Germans under the headship of Dr Strumpf reorganised the hospital. This situation forced her to return to Kraków, where she found a job with the RGO (the Main Council of Relief)12 as head of the medical assistance department for families evicted from the Voivodeship of Poznań.13 She held this position for a very short time, only two months, after which she returned to Warsaw to help her family, which had found themselves in financial straits.

In Warsaw she was re-employed by the RGO and worked as a social nurse for three months. Her tasks included care of sick Polish soldiers and their families in two military hospitals (Ujazdowski, and the hospital on 6 Sierpnia; this street had its name changed to Nowowiejska after the War). These services were carried out by Warsaw Municipal Board’s Department of Social Welfare and Public Health14 and the RGO.

From September to the end of November 1940, Kaniewska worked in the Third Social Welfare Health Centre, and in the Venereal Diseases Outpatient Clinic on Srebrna in Warsaw. On 1 December, she was permanently employed in Warsaw Municipal Council’s Hospital Department . She served as a nursing inspector, assigning jobs in accordance with applicants’ qualifications, visiting hospital facilities and assisting nurses in search of a job. She handled the problems both of her subordinates and the medical centres under her authority.

In the course of her duties she inspected the organization of the Warsaw School of Obstetrical Nursing and found that candidates were not required to present any particular educational qualifications, that the school had no theoretical or practical teaching programmes, nor any other training courses for future midwives. So she asked her immediate superior, Dr Konrad Orzechowski, director of the Hospital Department to reorganize the School of Obstetrical Nursing on the model of the pre-war schools and the two-year Warsaw School of Nursing, the only non-denominational medical college the Germans permitted to remain open during the War. After obtaining the consent of the Nazi German authorities, she set about implementing the project.

Unfortunately, already in 1943, the Germans gradually began to close the school down in line with their policy of limiting the extent of health service facilities available to the Polish population. At Kaniewska’s request, the Hospital Department set up a clandestine school of nursing and obstetrical nursing with a three-year curriculum. It was an experimental institution of vocational education. Formally, it was listed as a branch of the Transfiguration Hospital’s school run by the Daughters of Charity15 in the district of Praga. After the war this secret school served as the prototype for schools training midwives.

Her immediate superiors were Sanitary District Officer “Zofia” (Zofia Namitkiewicz21), “Barbara” (Janina Łęska22), WSK commander for Ochota, and “Zych” (Tadeusz Jasiński23), commanding officer of the Home Army in this district.

When the Warsaw Uprising broke out, Kaniewska were and her sanitary patrolling team were in the command post at 42, Grójecka. As there were Germans nearby, in the students’ hall of residence on plac Narutowicza, the operations the patrol could undertake were difficult and very limited. However, the sanitary group managed to help insurgents and civilians. For the entire time under German occupation, Kaniewska supported many families and individuals, helping them to organise their lives and protecting them against deportation or imprisonment.24

The insurgent battalion in Ochota withdrew to Śródmieście already on 2 August.25 But its commander ordered the sanitary division to stay in Ochota. The next day, Kaniewska and her group transported the wounded to a field hospital26 in the tobacco factory. On 5 August, RONA troops27 began to operate in this part of Ochota, evicting civilians and sending them to a temporary camp in the Zieleniak market.28 Kaniewska’s first-aid team followed in this direction and on the way its members gradually separated from the group.

Kaniewska and another member of the team joined the staff of the field hospital located in the Second Health and Social Care Centre on Opaczewska, where she worked with other nurses, Helena Jarzębowska,29 Magdalena Machcewicz-Ordon and Krystyna Rychterówna,30 as well as Dr Józef Bogusz31 and other medical staff. The hospital team had to leave the Centre and cross the notorious Zieleniak to evacuate from Warsaw.

After leaving Warsaw, Jadwiga and Helena Jarzębowska stayed in Michałowice, from where they managed to get to the camp in Pruszków32 and started treating evicted and sick civilians. With the help of some nurses from Pruszków, they succeeded in getting several nurses out of the camp, thus saving them from deportation to Germany. In the camp she had the opportunity to meet some nurses from Kraków, who provided the camp with dressing materials and medications, underwear, and clothes for evicted civilians. They helped her return to Kraków, where she started work for the RGO. She procured and arranged the transportation of illicit batches of dressing materials, medicaments and clothes for the Pruszków camp.

During one of these trips, she was caught in a round-up on the train when she showed her Warsaw Kennkarte (the identity document the Germans issued to the local people of the occupied territories). She was detained and due to be deported to a camp in Germany. However, luckily one of her colleagues helped her get out of trouble. Naturally, she could no longer work in the team helping Varsovians detained in Pruszków.

On her return to Kraków, Kaniewska worked in the Hospital Aid Section which the Polish Red Cross had taken over from the RGO. The Section provided aid to displaced residents of Warsaw.

From 1945,33 she was busy with the reactivation of the Kraków University School of Nurses and Hygienists, and from May 1945 the School was her sole employer. She was appointed its deputy principal, responsible for the organization of practical teaching and training centres for students of nursing.

In late 1946, she moved to Warsaw and married Andrzej Iżycki. In 1947, she gave birth to a son, Krzysztof. These facts did not have a bad effect on her professional involvement. She had to and was able to reconcile both these duties, and if either of them were a bit neglected, it must have been her family.

After the War, she continued her social work, for example she looked after an orphan from a children’s home, giving the child a chance to learn a profession and stand up on her own two feet; she covered all the costs of the orphan’s education.

In 1946, she started working for the Ministry of Health, in the Programme Department, initially as a senior advisor, and later as head of the Department. In October 1956, she was appointed deputy director of the Department of Medical Secondary Schools, which she held until 1969. In her first job in the Programme Department, she tried to ensure that programmes were prepared by the best specialists and that both the teaching objectives and the scope of knowledge and skills prescribed for future nurses were precisely defined. Iżycka’s aim was to make and keep the quality of Polish nursing education at the highest world standard, to implement the best values of the country’s pre-war nursing schools, and to raise the social rank of this profession. She was now a member of a team reviewing textbooks submitted for publication in the state medical publishing house.34 She worked on the design of several programmes of study, including a) courses for nurses taking state qualifying examinations, b) six-month courses for junior nurses run by the Polish Red Cross, and c) nursing schools of various types, such as general, paediatric, psychiatric, as well as for four- and five-year upper secondary schools.

In the same period, she co-founded and co-organized a training and further education centre for teachers of nursing. In 1947 in Łódź, she organized the first two-month course for the heads of nursing schools. Next she helped to launch a training centre for instructors which ran 6-month teachers’ training courses. Later she was one of the initiators of a scheme to convert this centre into a two-year college for teachers of medical secondary schools, and contributed to the design of curricula for these institutions. For many years she lectured at the Warsaw post-secondary college,35 offering full-time and extramural programmes. She supervised students’ graduation dissertations, suggesting topics on the history of nursing.

In 1969, Iżycka left the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and set up a methodology centre. She was head of this institution until 31 December. She continued to be a member of the Scientific Council of PZWL, so she had a say on the publication of textbooks for nursing schools and the selection of the best authors.

She was one of a group from all over Poland who founded of the Polish Nurses’ Association (Polskie Towarzystwo Pielęgniarskie).36 For many years she was a member of its executive committee, and chairwoman of its historical commission; she held the latter office for the rest of her life. She supervised the compilation of numerous biographies of distinguished nurses, the history of the top nursing schools, and special publications on Warsaw health centres, on the work of Polish nurses for the World Health Organization, on the organization of nursing management and supervision in 1918-1939, and many others.37

The first National Nursing Olympiad38 was held in 1962 on her initiative, and the competition continues to be held annually. The competition has had a revitalising effect on various types of nursing schools, raising standards of students’ knowledge and strengthening student–teacher relations and their relations with the Polish Nurses’Association.

At about the same time she launched a holiday camp project combined with foreign language courses for nurses, and ran it for 20 years, i.e. almost until her death. Initially, they had a choice of three languages, English, French, or Russian, currently it’s English only. The aim of these camps was to encourage young nurses to take up further education, to help the Polish Nurses’ Association recruit new members, and to encourage nurses to work for the Association. For the entire time of her work in the Association, she introduced and organized various forms of involvement and made a creative contribution to all the work to regulate the difficult matters in the profession, both in Poland and abroad.

She contributed to the publication of a Polish nursing encyclopaedia, which was edited by Prof. Józef Bogusz. She wrote a series of biographical entries for outstanding Polish and foreign nurses. Later she helped upgrade subsequent editions of the encyclopaedia. Furthermore, she published articles in Pielęgniarka i Położna39 (a nurses’ monthly) and in a bulletin published by the Board of the Polish Nurses’Association. Her most important book is a 3-volume textbook on the development of nursing in Poland to 1950,40 with supplementary materials for the history of the nursing profession.

Alongside her professional and social work in Poland, Iżycka also worked as an advisor for the World Health Organization. The grounds for her appointment was an agreement between the director general of WHO and the Polish Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Her duties involved advising WHO on the Polish position on topics, projects and publications concerning nursing issues.

She reviewed the following publications: H. A. Goddard: Principles of Administration Applied to Nursing Service41 and Basic Health Care42 (published by UNICEF/WHO). These books have proved extremely helpful for many nurses. She also wrote opinions on projects, completed surveys and questionnaires for research, such as guidelines for planning nursing education programmes, a questionnaire on the training of auxiliary staff and teachers for nursing schools, a questionnaire on training auxiliary staff for paediatric institutions, study materials, and defining the role of nurses in a mental health project, materials on the training and employment of auxiliary nursing staff, a questionnaire on postgraduate education for Polish nurses, a questionnaire on training midwives and their role in healthcare for mothers and babies, a questionnaire on issues relating to the work of nursing staff and the potential to meet their qualitative and quantitative needs, and a questionnaire on long-term postgraduate training courses for nursing school teachers.

Iżycka carried out these assignments in Poland and submitted her results in writing to the World Health Organization. Apart from reviewing publications and documents, she took part in conferences, seminars and panel meetings abroad. She attended the following events: a) a conference in Copenhagen on the organization of an international postgraduate education centre in Poland with Russian as the language of instruction; the centre was intended for nurses from East European countries and organized like the centres run by WHO in Lyon with classes in French, and in Edinburgh with classes in English; b) a seminar in Moscow on the training and role of midwives in the protection of the mother and child; (c) a meeting of the Nursing Expert Committee in Geneva, in which she was the vice-chairwoman of the committee; d) a travelling scientific seminar in the USSR on primary health care (the itinerary was Moscow–Kiev–Vinnitsia–Tulchinsk–the village of Kalinino–Tbilisi–Sukhumi); (e) a conference on “Trends in European Nursing Services” in Bern (Switzerland).

Iżycka gave a year-long cycle of lectures on behalf of WHO for English-speaking male and female nurses at the Royal College of Nursing, Edinburgh.

In late 1966, WHO appointed Iżycka as a consultant for nursing education in Mongolia. After a three-month stay in that country, Iżycka was well-versed enough with the organization of the local health service, the qualifications of its personnel, and the health issues of the population, to propose a training scheme for Mongolian nurses based on the Polish model. The project was approved and implemented in a bilateral scheme, with Mongolian women students coming to Poland for a training course, and nursing education being organised in Mongolia under the supervision of a Polish expert. In addition, Iżycka recommended three Polish textbooks on nursing, which were translated into Russian and proved very helpful for Mongolian students.

On behalf of WHO and with its support, Iżycka arranged three seminars for groups of 10-12 Polish nurses to familiarize them with the organization of nursing in England, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

The third sector of Iżycka’s activity was her work for the International Council of Nurses. She was a member of its Board in 1966-1977. On behalf of the Council, she visited Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary to establish contact with the nursing communities in those countries and determine whether there were any nursing associations there, the standard of training for nurses, and whether those countries could be admitted as members of the Council. As a result, Czechoslovakia joined the ICN in 1977 and Hungary joined in 1981.

Jadwiga Iżycka’s personal commitment to work in international organizations had a good effect on the international reputation of the nursing profession in Poland and helped Polish nurses to find employment in the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nurses.

During her long career, Jadwiga Kaniewska–Iżycka received many awards and distinctions, the most important of them being the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta,43 the Medal of the National Education Commission,44 the Silver Cross of Merit,45 the Badge for Exemplary Work in Healthcare,46 the Honorary Badge of the Polish Nurses’ Association47 and the Honorary Badge of the Polish Red Cross.48

In 1982, she became a member of the British Nursing Association. Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka will remain in the thankful memory of many people and communities.


The paper was based on the materials collected by

1) M. B. Jezierska: a CV written by Kaniewska-Iżycka, information obtained from personal contacts with her while working in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Commission on History of the Main Board of the Polish Nurses’ Association, and data from M. B. Jezierska and M. Wiśniewska’s publication Praca pielęgniarek polskich w Światowej Organizacji Zdrowia;

2) and J. Siczek: information from the members of Iżycka’s family, including her mother and husband, from Iżycka’s colleagues from the Kraków School of Nurses and Hygienists in during the wartime German occupation of Poland, and Teresa Kulczyńska’s recollections of the clandestine Warsaw School of Nursing and Obstetrical Nursing.


Translated from original article: Jezierska, M. B., Siczek, J. “Jadwiga Kaniewska-Iżycka.” Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1991.

  1. A girls’ finishing school at 5, Wiejska in Warsaw founded in 1903 by Janina Kowalczykówna and Janina Jawurkówna. The founders of the school were killed during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szkoła_na_Wiejskiej.a
  2. Uniwersytecka Szkoła Pielęgniarek i Higienistek w Krakowie was run by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The School was the first Polish nursing school run from the very beginning by Polish nurses only. The teachers’ team was led by Maria Epstein. See www.wmpp.org.pl.a
  3. Klinika Chorób Dziecięcych w Krakowie.b
  4. Witold Eugeniusz Orłowski (1874–1966), physician specialising in internal medicine. Professor and head of the Second Internal Medicine Clinic of the University of Warsaw, and creator of its pathophysiology and biochemistry units. Read more on Wikipedia.a
  5. Adam Czyżewicz (1877-1962), Polish gynaecologist and obstetrician and lieutenant colonel in the Polish Army. Head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Clinic (1920). Under German occupation during the Second World War, when the Germans closed down all the Polish universities, colleges, and secondary schools, he taught medicine in clandestine courses. Read more on Wikipedia.a
  6. Warszawska Szkoła Pielęgniarska was established in 1921 on the initiative of Ignacy Paderewski and his wife Helena, Henryk Sienkiewicz and the American Red Cross. It was sponsored by Dorothea Hughes, an American nurse of Polish origin, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Polish Red Cross, the Polish Ministry of Health and the University of Warsaw Faculty of Medicine. Initially, it was located in the buildings of the Polish Red Cross at 6 Smolna and then in the newly-erected facilities at 78 Koszykowa. Its first director was Helen Bridge. www.wmpp.org.pl.a
  7. Teresa Kulczyńska (1894-1992) served as a nurse on the eastern front during World War I. In 1919, she enrolled at the University School for Nurses and Health Carers (Hygienists) run by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Kraków. On 1921-1923 she held a grant from the American Red Cross for study in the USA, graduated from a nursing school in Boston and attended a postgraduate course in New York. After returning to Poland, in 1923-1925 she worked as manager, teacher, and vice-principal of the Warsaw Nursing School. In 1926–1939 she worked in the Kraków University School for Nurses and Hygienists, first as a community nursing teacher, later as a teacher of nursing theory and as vice-principal. See www.wmpp.org.pl.a
  8. One of the first anti-Polish repressive measures the Germans took on invading Poland in 1939 was to close down all the universities, colleges, and secondary schools, in line with Hitler’s plan that Poles should be uneducated labourers working for Germany. On 6 November 1939, the Germans rounded up the academics of the Jagiellonian University and other Kraków institutions of higher education on the pretext of an official lecture and sent them to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where many died. Polish teachers and university and college tutors counteracted by setting up a secret system of tertiary and secondary education. Classes were held clandestinely in private homes. See the article by Jan Miodoński on this website.b
  9. At the end of lower secondary schools, pupils sat an examination known as the mała matura, more or less equivalent to British O-levels.c
  10. Grupa Operacyjna „Śląsk” was a Polish military operational unit in Armia Kraków whose task during the defence campaign against Germany in September 1939 was to defend Upper Silesia (see the comment below). Read more on Wikipedia and at http://www.muzeum-slask1939.pl/content/44#.b
  11. Armia Kraków was a large Polish operational unit which took part in the Polish Defensive War of 1939. It was officially created on 23 March 1939 as the main pivot of Polish defence. Its main task was to delay advancing German troops and withdraw eastwards along the northern line of the Carpathians and defend the heavily industrialized Upper Silesia region, together with western counties of Lesser Poland and the Carpathian foothills. Read more on Wikipedia.a
  12. Rada Główna Opiekuńcza, the Main Council of Relief, the only Polish charity organisation recognised by the Germans in occupied Poland.a
  13. When Germany invaded and occupied Poland in 1939, it annexed the western part of the country (i.e., the Voivodeship of Poznań), calling it Warthegau and incorporating it in Germany, and created a pseudo-state under German administration called the Generalgouvernement in the rest of the Polish territories it occupied. Most of the Polish and Jewish population of the Warthegau were evicted and “resettled” in the Generalgouvernement.b
  14. Wydział Opieki Społecznej i Zdrowia Publicznego Zarządu Miejskiego Warszawy. On occupying the city of Warsaw, the Germans arrested and murdered its mayor, but for practical reasons they were obliged to keep the city running, so they kept some of the Polish pre-war municipal administrative institutions. Source: www.sprawynauki.edu.pl.b
  15. The School of Nursing started with nursing courses for nuns, run in 1920–1926 at Saint Roch’s Hospital and from 1936 at the Transfiguration Hospital in Warsaw. The School’s head was Sr. Wanda Żurawska of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Lay applicants were admitted from 1941. See www.wmpp.org.pl.a
  16. Związek Walki Zbrojnej (ZWZ), a Polish underground resistance group operating in the early period of the war, the predecessor of the AK (Armia Krajowa) Home Army, the largest combat resistance movement in occupied Europe. b.
  17. The Warsaw Uprising of the summer of 1944, not to be confused with the Ghetto Uprising of April 1943.b
  18. One of the non-combat duties carried out by some members of the Home Army was to produce counterfeit documents for Jews, persons on the German wanted list, secret agents etc. The job was known as “legalisation.” See www.kedyw.info.b
  19. Wojskowa Służba Kobiet.b
  20. Terenowa Obrona Przeciwlotnicza.b
  21. Zofia Namitkiewicz (1908-1977), sanitary officer in the district of Ochota. Ran the field hospital at 60, Wawelska which operated until 11 August 1944.a
  22. Janina Łęska (1912-1961), member of the Grzymała Battalion in Ochota. Sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising. Returned to Poland in 1946. See www.1944.pl.c
  23. Tadeusz Jasiński (1908-1972), cadet instructor. From March 1944 commander of the Home Army Fifth (“Grzymała”) Region in District I (Ochota). See www.1944.pl.a
  24. The German authorities occupying Poland imposed a strict punitive regime for Polish people, with imprisonment for minor misdemeanours. About 1.4 million Poles were rounded up in the streets and deported to Germany for slave labour. See the article “Forced labour under German rule” on Wikipedia.b
  25. The Warsaw Uprising broke out on 1 August 1944 and lasted until 3 October of that year.b
  26. The field hospital was probably located in the administrative building of the tobacco factory at 1, Kaliska (the factory’s headquarters were on Dzielna). The field hospital was in the combat area and hardly accessible for casualties arriving from outside.a
  27. RONA troops (The Russian National Liberation Army fighting for the Germans under the command of Brigadeführer SS Bronislav Kaminski), notorious for their exceptional cruelty. See www.sppw1944.org.c
  28. Zieleniak was a street market. On 5 August 1944 the Germans set up a temporary camp there for the inhabitants evicted from Ochota. Over 60 thousand people were sent there. A group of nurses and doctors tried to help them and organized a Red Cross station in a small, dirty shed, despite a German prohibition on congesting the sick and injured in a small area. Zieleniak was notorious for the crimes committed there, and those who survived were sent to Dulag (Temporary Camp) 121 in Pruszków. The camp was closed down on 19 August 1944. See www.sppw1944.org.a
  29. Helena Jarzębowska (1905-1961) graduated from the Warsaw Nursing School in 1926. In the Warsaw Uprising she and Krystyna Rychter ran the first-aid station on Opaczewska in Ochota. See www.wmpp.org.pl.c
  30. Krystyna Rychter (1921 - unknown date of death). In the Warsaw Uprising she and Helena Jarzębowska ran the first-aid station on Opaczewska in Ochota. She left the district with civilians on 10 August 1944. See www.1944.pl.c
  31. Józef Bogusz (1904-1993), Polish surgeon, ethicist, historian of medicine, professor of medicine at the Jagiellonian University, co-founder of Przegląd Lekarski - Oświęcim. Worked in the neurosurgery department of the Warsaw Infant Jesus Hospital and ran a surgical clinic during the War. Awarded the Warsaw Uprising Cross. See his biography on Wikipedia.c
  32. After the fall of the Uprising, the Germans forced all the inhabitants of Warsaw to leave the city, sending civilians to temporary camps such as the one at Pruszków or to conentration camps, and deporting combatants to Germany. Thereafter they razed the city to the ground. Read more on Wikipedia.b
  33. After the end of hostilities, which for Kraków was on the night of 17/18 January 1945, when the Germans fled the city before the imminent arrival of Soviet forces.b
  34. PZWL, Państwowy Zakład Wydawnictw Lekarskich, is the largest and oldest medical publisher in Poland. It was founded in 1949 as a state enterprise and has recently been privatized. It is now part of the PWN publishing group. Source: www.pzwl.pl.a
  35. Studium Stacjonarne i Zaoczne w Warszawie; a no longer extant educational institution.a
  36. Polskie Towarzystwo Pielęgniarskie was created in 1957, continuing the activities of the Polish Association of Professional Nurses (1925-1957). Its aim is to implement the recommendations of the International Council of Nurses on the education and legal regulations of the nursing professions and ethical matters. See www.wmpp.org.pl.a
  37. The Polish text gives the following original titles: Praca polskich pielęgniarek na rzecz Światowej Organizacji Zdrowia and Organizacja kierownictwa i nadzoru pielęgniarskiego w latach 1918-1939.c
  38. The Polish educational system has a long-standing tradition of inter-school and inter-college competitions known as “Olympiads,” and the Nursing Olympiad is one of them. Contestants are university and college students of nursing. See https://www.pwste.edu.pl/2021/02/04/xi-miedzyuczelniana-olimpiada-pielegniarska/.b
  39. Pielęgniarka i Położna is a periodical published by the Health Workers’ Trade Union, created in 1958.a
  40. Original title Rozwój pielęgniarstwa w Polsce do roku 1950, Vols. 1-3, Warsaw: Centrum Metodyczne Doskonalenia Nauczycieli Średniego Szkolnictwa Medycznego, 1987-1989.c
  41. Published by WHO in 1958. The Polish text gives a Polish title, Zasady administracji w zastosowaniu do pracy pielęgniarskiej, but we have not been able to trace a Polish edition. However, Kaniewska-Iżycka’s biography on the website of the Virtual Museum of Polish Nursing says that the review was done jointly with Rachela Hutner, another WHO advisor who spent many years studying in Britain and the United States, so presumably there were no language problems during the compilation of the review, since we learn that Kaniewska-Iżycka’s English must have been proficient enough for her to give lectures in Edinburgh for a whole year. See www.wmpp.org.pl, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachela_Hutner, and https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Administration-Applied-Nursing-Service/dp/9241400412.c
  42. Published in 1979. See previous comment. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/2122.c
  43. Krzyż Kawalerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski.b
  44. Medal Komisji Edukacji Narodowej.b
  45. Srebrny Krzyż Zasługi.b
  46. Odznaka za Wzorową Pracę w Służbie Zdrowia.b
  47. Honorowa Odznaka Polskiego Towarzystwa Pielęgniarskiego. b
  48. Honorowa Odznaka Polskiego Czerwonego Krzyża.b

a—notes by Anna Marek, Expert Consultant for the Medical Review Auschwitz project; b—notes by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa, Head Translator for the Medical Review Auschwitz project; c—notes by Maria Kantor, the translator of the article.


A publication funded in 2020–2021 within the DIALOG Program of the Ministry of Education and Science in Poland.

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