Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jerzy Iwanow Szajnowicz(Γεώργιος Ιβάνοφ)

Jerzy Iwanow



Jerzy Iwanow was born in the 14th of  December of 1911 in Warsow.His father Vladimir was an officer at the Czar's army and his mother a Polish.

In 1925 Iwanow settled with his mother in Thessalonica as she married for second time a Greek man called Ioannis Labrianidis(his father had died somewhere in Caucasus). In 1928 he  registered as an athlete in the athletic club Iraklis. Initially he was part of the football team of the club but later he joined the swimming team. In 1934 he won the first position at the panhellenic 100m free swimming race .

In 1935 he took a Polish identity and in 1938  he acquired his degree in agriculture from the university of Louvain in Belgium.He was able to speak perfectly many languages including English Greek and Polish.

When he heard about the German invasion in Poland he attempted to come into contact with the exiled Polish army in France in order to assist the Polish as a soldier. However he only achieved to become an intermediary for the transportation of Polish refugees in Palestine. Ironically he would take the same route two years later when the Germans invaded Greece.

In Palestine he was hired by the Polish intelligence which was based in Jerusalem. Seeing his potential abilities the Polish trained him for Sabotage and spying missions. Paradoxically Jerzy ended up working under the commands of the British intelligence in Egypt.

In Greece

Iwanow arrived in Marathon from Egypt with the submarine thunderbolt at the begining of 1941. He disembarked along with some other spies and a radio transmitter that they would have to hide somewhere nearby. He had orders to get in touch with some Greeks who were part of the resistance and would help him in his missions.

In Athens he created a fake identity under the name Nikolaos Tsenoglou. His code name was Athos. He achieved to bring  the radio trasmitter in the house where he was hosted without notice. He started gathering important information related to the presence of the German army in Athens.

In November of 1941 he met an old childhood friend called Giannis Pantos. The same night Gestapo entered his house and confiscated his radio transmitter. Iwanow suspected his friend as a traitor and arranged a new meeting with him in order to confirm it. However this meeting turned out to be a trap.

In 18th December Gestapo arrested Iwanow and put him into a prison in Athens. One day his jail-mate was about to be transferred but he was asleep and Iwanow took the chance and assumed his jail-mate's identity.
While he was transported by car Iwanow managed to exterminate his guard an jumped out running into the small streets of Athens in order to get lost.

After these incidents Iwanow stopped having a permanent residence.With the help of a Greek girl who was a chemistry student they decoded German messages sent to the Middle East. By this way they aided the allies to sink many German supply ships weakening Rommel's army in N. Africa. However after sometime the Germans spotted their trasmitter and they abandoned it.

After that Iwanov turned on more active methods of resistance. His first sabotage success was the destruction of a Greek factory that was repairing German air plane engines. He achieved this with the help of a greek resistance organisation called Panhellenic union of fighting youth.

Sabotage of the U133


A U-class German submarine
In January of 1942 after many victories of the allied navy against the Italians , the Germans sent a fleet to start patrolling in the Mediterranean  in order to protect the supply ships. Iwanow acquired a fake Greek sailor's identity in order to have access in the shipyard. His aim was to damage a German U133 which had achieved many victories against the British including sinking a British frigate. 

In order to familiarize with the area Iwanow worked as a shipyard worker. He had let his beard grow in order  to make his face unrecognisable. In this mission Iwanow used his swimming skills. One night under the cover of darkness he swam a big distance with a clock bomb attached in his back. He put the bomb on the side of the submarine some minutes before it was going to sail. After two hours in the middle of the sea the bomb exploded and the submarine along with 145 members of the crew went to the bottom of the Aegean.

Other activities and second arrest

Iwanow's great success with the u133 made him follow the same tactic on sabotaging vehicles. He was responsible for sinking the steamboat San Isidoro in the port of Piraeus. Later he continued sinking ships in the port of Patras with the assistance of the aforementioned chemistry student.

In Athens he achieved to destroy many German airfighters by putting explosives in the main airport of Athens. This is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Greek resistance.

Eventually Iwanow was arrested by Italian carabinieri in Athens. It is said that his position was revealed by a greek officer after the Italians promised him a large sum of money in exchange.

Iwanow's trial was a parody(like almost all trials conducted by the german court. He was condemned to death by execution.As he was escorted at the place of execution he made his last move and he exterminated two of his guards but his task to escape was really hard and a bullet injured him in the back and he fell down .
Almost dead he was put on the line along with other members of the resistance. Before the last signal of the german officer he shouted Long live Greece Long live Poland.

The German intelligence achieved to find many of Iwanow's collaborators and executed them.However noone knows what happened to the chemistry student and close partner of Iwanow. During the German occupation Iwanow had only a few chances to see his mother because of the fear of getting caught.After the WW2 ended the British queen Elisabeth order the donnation of 1000 pounds to Iwanow's mother. There is a basketball arena in Thessaloniki named after Iwanow(Ivanofeion)


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