New photo and information about Maria Barr
It only took a few days to identify a woman wearing a military uniform in a vintage photo published Poland's Institute of National Remembrance. On Saturday, the IPN posted another photograph of Maria Barr.
On Sunday, March 14, the IPN posted a photo on Facebook showing a young woman in a Polish military uniform. "We would like to learn the story of an unidentified girl photographed over 70 years ago in one of English streets. We want to find out if she continued her emigration, or maybe she returned to her war-ravaged homeland, where Stalinist terror in full swing" - the institute said at the time.
The photo shows a young woman in a steel blue military uniform designed for air forces. She is wearing a side cap with the Polish Eagle. "Missing girl from the photo. Who are you?" - the IPN wrote in the post asking for help in identifying the woman from the photograph.
Internet users have came to the rescue. It turns out that the woman in the picture is Maria Barr, Polish wife of British pilot Philip Rex Barr, who was the leader of the No. 107 RAF Squadron. After he went missing over Holland, Maria accepted on behalf a posthumous decoration awarded by King George VI. It was exactly during this ceremony when the photo was taken.
"We're very happy to learn our readers and other internet users managed to find such important archives, which clearly reveal the identity of our 'unknown heroine'. According to 'Dziennik Polski' (issue no. 896 from June 11, 1943), it's Maria Barr (Barczynska), wife of a British pilot (leader of RAF Squadron No. 107) Philip Rex Barr who had died in 1943 over Holland. In the photo from the IPN Archive, Maria Barr holds in her hands his posthumous decoration - D.F.C. (Distinguished Flying Cross), which she accepted personally from the hands of King George VI that very same year" - said Adam Stefan Lewandowski from the IPN.
Another WWII fanpage "Polskie Siły Zbrojne na Zachodzie" (Polish Armed Forces in the West) arrived at the same conclusion. According to the information posted by the fanpage, Maria Barr was born in 1923 and died in 2018 aged 95.
Last Saturday, on March 20, the IPN posted another photo of Maria Barr which had been found by genealogist Adam Antoni Pszczółkowski. It shows Maria in a white dress sitting next to her husband Philip Rex Barr who wearing a British military uniform. Pszczółkowski said the photo comes from the Barr family archive and had been taken in 1941 in Glasgow, Scotland.
On March 16, history fan Tomasz Muskus said he managed to locate Maria Barr's family grave, where her father Lieutenant Benedykt Chłusewicz had been buried. "The grave in London is in a poor condition" - IPN chief Jarosław Szarek said added the institute would try to have the grave fixed.
Mr Muskus also managed to find the grave of Maria Barr's second husband, Stanisław Grabowski. "It turns out he was a soldier of the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade led by Colonel, later General, Stanisław Maczek. (...) After the war, Grabowski would become an established architect" - the IPN said.
The IPN director said on March 17 at a press briefing that the story of Maria Barr and the photo had been examined back in 2013 by dr Adam Puławski, an IPN historian at the time. Puławski told private radio TOK FM that he had stumbled upon the photo while making a research for a book about the Holocaust. "The picture of this lady caught my attention - she was elegant, in a uniform, and so I posted the picture on my Facebook, not thinking it would ever become so important" - he said.
As TOK FM pointed out, after 17 years of scientific work for the IPN, in 2018 dr Puławski had been forced to quit the institution after refusing to move to a clerical position.
"There are 39 million photos in the IPN. I can show you the correspondence by this historian, his post from 2013 in which he placed this information and received a question about the woman's identity. It's 2013 and his writes: this is a wife of some officer" - Mr Szarek said on March 17.
"We know the story now thanks to internet researchers (...). Historians at the IPN work with these archives, it's 92 kilometres of files, they publish books, but it was the social involvement, it was your activity that allowed to discover the story of this woman, and I think this story doesn't end here. Here, new fragment unfold every hour" - he added.
Asked how Maria Barr's photo had found its way to the IPN Archive, Szarek said it was taken from the Military Information Services (WSI - Poland's former intelligence and counterintelligence agency disbanded in 2006). "It was in a box full of pictures signed 'Polish Armed Forces in the West'" - said Mr Szarek.
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, IPN, PAP, tvn24.pl
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Family archive