The founder of Poland’s first female police division, whose fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation gained world recognition and inspired the nickname „Polish Joan of Arc”, has been honoured at the place of her burial in Manchester to mark 100 years of the Polish Police.
Commandant of the Women’s Section of the Polish Police Force and later a minister of the Polish Government-in-Exile, Stanisława Paleolog, who gained prominence for her work on combating the trafficking of women and children, was remembered with a plaque at the city’s Southern Cemetery, which was unveiled on 2 July.
Among those attending the ceremony were Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester Leszek Rowicki, representatives of the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police, Polish Police Liaison Officers in the UK, Paleolog’s family and Gen Jarosław Rzymkowski from the Municipal Police Headquarters in Gdańsk, of which Paleolog is a patron.
Speaking about the unveiling, Consul General Rowicki said: “I am so glad that the founder of Poland’s first female police division Stanisława Paleolog has been honoured with a commemorative plaque where she was laid to rest in Manchester. A world-renowned opponent of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and juvenile delinquency, she was an example of how a professional and effective female police officer should function, which inspired forces such as New Scotland Yard. This courageous individual was also very active while living in the UK, playing an important role in the government-in-exile, publishing a book about her time in the police force and showing how to combat inequalities in our world. I am sure that with the unveiling of this plaque the memory of her great achievements will live on among the Manchester community.”
Born on 4 May 1892, Stanisława Filipina Paleolog studied at the Academy of Trade in Lwów. In 1914 she joined the Polish Military Organisation. Seriously wounded in the defence of Lwów, in December 1918 she joined the Women’s Civic Militia, and later helped establish the Voluntary Women’s Legion. In 1925, she was appointed Commandant of the Women’s Section of the Polish Police Force, serving in this capacity until 1939.
During her tenure, Paleolog became an expert on combating such crimes as human trafficking, sexual exploitation and juvenile delinquency. Among her duties were fighting crime against women and children. In particular, she worked on combating the trafficking of women who were sent to escort agencies, including in South America. Her enthusiasm, energy and engagement in the construction of a professional and effective female police division made this force known in the world.
Foreign press was enthusiastic in its praise for the Polish women’s police, which was frequently presented as a model worth following. In 1929, the Daily Express called Paleolog the “Polish Joan of Arc”, emphasising her contribution to the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.
In May 1935, a delegation of English policewomen from New Scotland Yard – headed by Mary Sophia Allen – came to Poland to familiarise themselves with the work of policewomen officers. The comprehensive preparation of the Polish Women Police Division made a huge impression on New Scotland Yard, including the fact that Polish policewomen performed all police tasks, including wearing weapons, cooperating with informers, and interrogating pimps and victims of human trafficking.
Paleolog’s police career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. In September 1939, together with the National Police Headquarters and officers from the police school company, she was evacuated to Wołyń, where she joined the Independent Operational Group “Polesie”. She became a liaison officer and her students – paramedics. After the capitulation of the Polish army she returned to Warsaw and became an active member of the clandestine Union of Armed Struggle aka the Home Army. She served in counterintelligence, and also helped organise the State Security Corps. In 1945, threatened with arrest in communist Poland, she decided to leave the country. She joined the Second Polish Corps and came to Great Britain, settling in London, where she worked as a police expert at New Scotland Yard. She was appointed a minister in the government-in-exile of Antoni Pająk in 1955.
She wrote a book about the interwar Polish policewomen entitled “The Women Police of Poland 1925-1939”, which is the most comprehensive study on this subject.
Following a long-lasting illness, she died on 3 December 1968 in Penley (Wales) and was buried in Manchester.
The plaque is an initiative of the Polish Police, Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester and the Polish Church of Divine Mercy.
Photo: Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester