Ancient history

The spy who used the Hilary Swank method to outwit the Gestapo

Christine Granville , nom de guerre of the Polish Countess Krystyna Skarbek , she has been considered by many to be the best agent of the British secret services during World War II, and it is even said that she was Winston Churchill's favorite spy.

Born in 1908 in Warsaw, she was the second daughter of a wealthy Jewish banker, Count Jerzy Skarbek , and she had a childhood typical of her social class... until the death of her father in 1930, after squandering her fortune, forced him to take charge of her life. She started working in the offices of a Fiat dealership, but soon after she fell ill… she was diagnosed with lung scarring (caused by car fumes or cystic fibrosis inherited from her father) and the doctors advised her to move to the mountains to breathe fresh air. That change of scenery suited her very well:she recovered her health and went from ugly duckling to slender swan (in 1931, Ella Krystyna was crowned Miss Ski ). In addition to being one of the most requested single women -to change her marital status- she became an expert skier and mountain expert. She there she met Jerzy Gizycki whom she married in 1938 and a year later they moved to Africa when Jerzy accepted a diplomatic post in Ethiopia.

Christine Granville

When Poland was invaded in 1939, they moved to London and Krystyna volunteered to fight the invaders. When Churchill created the Special Operations Executive in 1940 (SOE ) to organize sabotage actions against the Nazis, she was recruited. Already Christine Granville, she has parachuted numerous times, skied across mountains to infiltrate Poland, organized resistance groups all over France; She did not hesitate to bribe German soldiers, led sabotage and escape teams, and several times outwitted the feared Gestapo by rescuing some prisoners from death. Among the multiple actions of hers that highlight her courage, determination and her personal charm…

In 1941 she was captured by the Gestapo. After an interrogation to obtain information, and shortly before moving on to the most brutal methods of torture, she Christine used the Hilary Swank method -for the movie Million Dollar Baby -. She bit her tongue and started spitting up blood as if it was a symptom of tuberculosis. When she was taken to the prison hospital she had a chest X-ray... with her history of lung scarring, reflected in her X-ray, and with blood sputum, the doctor confirmed her severity and the released.

Christine Granville Awards

In 1944 the Germans had captured three Allied agents:Colonel Cammaerts of Scotland Yard; Captain Sorensen of the US secret service and Major Zane Fielding, detained at a checkpoint while traveling in camouflage in a Red Cross vehicle. They were going to be shot the next day and the resistance did not have time to mount a rescue operation. Christine, neither short nor lazy, introduced herself to the commanding officer, Commander Fritz Harlan , demanding the release of her companions. Harlan laughed and asked her who she was:

I'm a spy and I'm Marshal Montgomey's niece.

When the German commander was about to give the order to stop her, he continued:

If you accept, your life and that of your troops will be respected when the allies arrive. If the three prisoners or I suffer the slightest harm, all the Germans in this prison, with you at the head, will be hanged as soon as this country is occupied."

To convince him that she was not lying, he gave her details about the state of the war on the various fronts and that Montgomery was already very close to where they were. Germany was not in an easy situation at that time and Hitler no longer spoke of triumph, but simply of resisting. Harlan began to look worried... Finally, after eleven hours together, he decided to accompany the girl to the cell where the three prisoners were held and they were all released.

On one occasion, Christine was discovered by a German patrol and they put a dog on her to track her down. It seems that her personal charms also have an effect on the dogs... under her spell, the dog became completely tame and refused to go back to the Germans.

Legend has it that Ian Fleming was inspired by her for the character of Vesper Lynd in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale .

Vesper Lind in Casino Royale