Write Again … Women of Courage

Published 1:23 pm Saturday, June 30, 2018

Violette Szabo.

You don’t recognize that name. Neither did I.

She was “immortalized in the film ‘Carve Her Name with Pride’ (1958)” and “described by fellow agent Odette Samson as ‘the bravest of us all.’”

She was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Paris on June 26, 1921. Her mother was French, and her father was English.

In 1940, she met and married Etienne Szabo. He was killed in the Battle of El Alamein early in the war. Their daughter was born in 1942, but her father never saw her.

Violette was left a war widow with a very young child.

How do I know this?

Her story is told in “Women Wartime Spies” by Ann Kramer. The stories — all true — of women wartime spies is a wonderful book. So little was known of almost all of these intrepid women, both during the war and after.

Over the years, due to the diligence of just a few people, the stories of some of the women have been told. Most who were involved in such dangerous endeavors are unknown but to a very, very few.

I would like to share her story, but space constraints won’t allow it. But what a story, short but powerful, was her life as a spy. And there are so many stories about those others who also served their countries in such courageous undertakings. Their lives were at risk, literally, and stress and fearfulness were constant companions.

She was finally captured, imprisoned, tortured, and on Jan. 27, 1945, she was executed, along with two other women, at Ravensbruck. Their bodies were cremated.

Leo Marks, Britain’s SOE’s (Special Operations Executive) chief cryptographer, helped train her, and presented her with a poem (each agent had a poem utilized in the coding process) he had written following the death of his fiancée, who had been killed in a plane crash not long before. This code poem became one of the best-known poems of the Second World War.

If you are like me, you may need a tissue or handkerchief now.

“The Life That I Have”

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the life that I have

Is yours


The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours


A sleep I shall have

A rest I shall have

Yet death will be but a pause


For the peace of my years

In the long green grass

Will be yours and yours and yours

— Leo Marks: Code poem given to Violette Szabo.