"Who's the girl in the photo?" Mystery solved

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The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has recently asked for help in identifying a young woman shown in a vintage 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.

On Sunday, the IPN published an archive photo showing a young woman wearing 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.

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.

"It's Maria Barr"

The identity of the woman was confirmed, among others, by the moderator of a Facebook fanpage "II Wojna Światowa w Kolorze" (The Second World War in Colour). "I've done it manually by browsing through hundreds issues of emigration press, and in the end I've found it in "Dziennik Polski" - we read on the fanpage.

It turned out that the photo shows Maria Barr, Polish wife of Philip Rex Barr, leader of No. 107 RAF Squadron.

"Maria was from Grodno, her father was a Polish Army Colonel (I suspect it might have been Benedykt Chłusewicz). Philip Barr went missing in action over Holland and was posthumously decorated with DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). The distinction was accepted on his behalf by Maria. The photograph was taken on June 8, 1943, after King George VI handed the distinctions to the families of the fallen soldiers" - fanpage owner said.

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.

The author of the post read in PARADA magazine issue from February 1944 that the woman had married British pilot Philip Barr in 1941, and that her husband was killed in action the following year. "King George VI decorated him with high air force distinction of DFC. Later on, Maria Barr would get married once more, this time with a Polish pilot" - the author wrote.

Further information posted in the comments sections suggests that Maria was most likely a daughter of Colonel Benedykt Chłusewicz, an officer of the Polish Independent Highland Brigade and a veteran of the Norwegian campaign of 1940.

Also posted on the fanpage was a photo of an issue of a New-York-based paper "The Polish Review" dated September 13, 1943. The paper published an article at the time about Maria Barr with the very photograph recently discovered by the IPN.

IPN confirms

The aforementioned findings were confirmed by the IPN on Tuesday.

"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.

He added that "at the moment we may safely assume the case has been closed very quickly and with a positive outcome". Mr Lewandowski stressed, however, the IPN would continue verifying further information.

"We thank our readers. We're hugely impressed by their dedication, passion and knowledge. We congratulate you and encourage to following our account, where in the foreseeable future we certainly will keep on publishing materials requiring similar examination and cooperation" - he concluded.


Źródło: TVN24 News in English, tvn24.pl

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Twitter/@Jan_Pawlicki