Emilia Gierczak (1925-1945) was a Polish commander who fought for the Soviet-aligned Polish army during World War 2.
Raised by a family of patriotic farmers, Gierczak graduated school in 1938 and became a teacher and scout leader. When World War 2 broke out in the following year, Gierczak’s family was one of the first to be deported to work on Russian farms following the Soviet Invasion of Eastern Poland.
In 1943 both Gierczak and her father were called up for military service and initially served in the Tadeusz Kosciuszko 1st Division. She then served as a platoon commander in the newly created all-female military unit in the Polish army, known as the Emilia Plater Independent Women’s Battalion (named after Emilia Plater, the leader of a Polish uprising, who Gierczak may herself have been named after). Gierczak later went on to provide her expertise as an officer commanding male platoons.
Gierczak fought with distinction on the Pomeranian Rampart near Kolobrzeg (formerly known as Kolberg). She was killed there on March 17th 1945, on a mission to assault a heavily defended enemy building. According to one witness Gierczak could have waited until night to gain an advantage, but chose not to as she didn’t want to be seen as cowardly by doing so. During the assault she was shot in the head. On seeing this her men reportedly flew into a vengeful rage, pushing forward and completing the mission in her name.
A street in Kolobrzeg is named after Gierczak, as well as a number of schools and scouting organisations.