Alfreda W. Jamrosz, a World War II Polish Resistance courier who served in the Home Army and later survived a Nazi work camp, died May 8 of a lung disease at her Inner Harbor home. She was 90.
She was born Alfreda Wienckowska in Lodz, Poland. Her father was a fabric manufacturer and her mother worked for him.
She moved with her parents to Warsaw, where she completed high school and studied for a year in an underground college because the German occupiers forbade Polish schooling. She joined the resistance movement when she was 17.
"I was trained in the military service," Mrs. Jamrosz wrote in a memoir. "My assignment was to distribute news and information as it arrived from London or was broadcast on the radio from Britain. The penalty for working in the underground was death. The Germans killed people on the street without provocation."
She was a survivor of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, when the Germans retaliated for the Home Army's attempt to take the city beginning in August 1944. Warsaw was all but destroyed by October.
In her memoir, she recalled being in Warsaw's outskirts: "My responsibilities included being a courier, a telephone operator, a barricade builder, and a rescuer of bombed-out soldiers.
"After three days of ferocious fighting, we suffered a terrible defeat," she wrote. "All around there was an ocean of fire and ruins in the streets. ... Girls attended the wounded, carried the stretchers, produced grenades and mines, relayed information and documents and built barricades. ... I retreated with the remainder of the fighters through the sewers and many ruins back to the center of the city where I continued my assigned tasks until the final surrender on October 4. "
She recalled the aftermath in Warsaw. "There was nothing but ruins and flames. I never thought this city would ever exist again," she wrote of the time, a period in which 250,000 Polish citizens died and 20,000 combatants were killed.
"At first I was taken in a cattle car to Auschwitz, where I stayed a few days," she wrote. "I was lucky to be shipped to a labor camp in a small town in Hartz Mountains in Germany. I spent eight months there, which were full of horror, suffering, humiliation, hunger and slave labor."
Her father was killed at the Buchenwald camp.
As the war was ending she traveled to Italy and rejoined the Polish army in Rome.
She studied at the University of Rome and met her future husband, Stanislaw Jamrosz, who was later an official in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Trade and an agent for the CIA.
She and her husband and children lived in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1958 to 1962. As part of her husband's Cold War arrangement with the CIA, he and his family were repatriated to safe houses in Georgetown and St. Michaels.
They moved to Baltimore in 1962 and settled near Herring Run Park.
Mrs. Jamrosz learned English and became a key punch operator for the old First National Bank and Bethlehem Steel. She later became a cosmetologist at a beauty salon in Hutzler's Towson store. She worked there until the store closed in 1991.
"With her European accent and beautiful skin, she came to be known by friends as Baltimore's Zsa Zsa," said her son, Ivo Jamrosz, who lives in Baltimore.
She and her husband were founders of the Polish Heritage Society of Maryland and the National Katyn Memorial in Harbor East.
"Wearing the medals she earned fighting in the Polish Underground during World War II, Alfreda Jamrosz struggled to keep warm yesterday as she waited to read a poem," reported The Baltimore Sun in a 2005 article. "She was among about 100 or so who had gathered at the National Katyn Memorial in Inner Harbor East to mark the 65th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish military officers by Soviet troops.
"'We have to remember these people who were killed not for any other reason but they were Polish,'" she said. "'We cannot just forget the innocent people.'"
In 2000, she was named an honorary second lieutenant in the Polish army by order of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Mrs. Jamrosz returned to Poland in the 1990s and again in 2014 — the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. She was feted with medals and awards. She was a member of the Pope John Paul II Foundation and met the pontiff on several occasions.
"In her 80s, she was a busy person who traveled to Rome, which was her favorite city," her son said. "She never sat still."
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, 400 S. Chester Street.
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Anna Maria Jamrosz Davis of Santa Fe, N.M.; and a grandson. Her husband of 55 years died in 2002.