Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz
Born(1911-12-14)December 14, 1911
Warsaw, Poland
DiedJanuary 4, 1943(1943-01-04) (aged 31)
Athens, Greece

Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz (Greek: Γεώργιος Ιβάνωφ-Σαϊνόβιτς, Georgios Ivanof-Sainovits; Warsaw, 14 December 1911 – Athens, 4 January 1943) was a Greek-Polish athlete who fought as a saboteur in the Greek Resistance during World War II and was executed by the Germans.


Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz was born in Warsaw on 14 December 1911, as the son of the Russian army colonel Count Vladimir Ivanov, and a Polish mother. His parents divorced soon after. His mother married a Greek, Ioannis Lambrinidis, and together they emigrated to Thessaloniki in northern Greece in 1926.[1][2]

He became an athlete in the G.S. Iraklis Thessaloniki sport club, and a distinguished swimmer: in 1934, he became Greek champion in 100 m freestyle.[1] After becoming a Polish citizen in 1935,[3] he became part of AZS Warsaw's water polo team and of the Polish national water polo team, and was declared Poland's top water polo player in 1938.[1] Iwanow also graduated from the University of Louvain in agricultural engineering, followed by post-graduate courses at the École nationale supérieure d'agriculture coloniale in Paris, before returning to Greece.[1]

Statue of Iwanow in Thessaloniki

With the outbreak of World War II and the German invasion of Poland, he helped to organize the evacuation of Polish refugees coming to Thessaloniki, and in 1940 was enlisted into Polish intelligence.[2] Fleeing the German invasion of Greece in April 1941, he left the country for the Middle East, to join the exiled Polish forces there. There he was chosen by the Polish and British intelligence services for an undercover mission in Greece.[1][2] On 13 October 1941, the British submarine HMS Thunderbolt (N25) brought him to the coast of Attica near Nea Makri. His subsequent activity in the Greek underground was prodigious: apart from establishing an extensive intelligence network for the Allies reporting on the military and political situation in Greece, on the Greek war industry, now used by the Germans, and on ship and railway schedules, he engaged in numerous sabotage missions.[1][2] He was responsible for the sabotage of the German aircraft motor repair facilities in the Maltsiniotis plant, which is credited with affecting over 400 engines and causing the crash of several German aircraft due to engine malfunctions, as well as the destruction of two German U-boats, U-133 and U-372,[2] sabotaging the latter and forcing it to surface and be sunk by the RAF off Haifa.

The first time he was caught by the Gestapo, after being betrayed by one of his associates, Konstantinos Pantos, he managed to escape after three days. The Germans then put a reward on him of 500,000 drachmas. He was finally captured after another betrayal on 8 September 1942, and sentenced by a German tribunal on 2 December to a triple death sentence. He was executed at the Kaisariani shooting range on 4 January 1943.[1][2][3]


Memorial plaque at the house Iwanow lived in Warsaw

On 5 December 1944, Field Marshal Harold Alexander, Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, sent a diploma of thanks to his mother, while on 30 March 1945, the Polish government in exile honoured Iwanow with the Virtuti Militari cross. On 5 March 1962 he was decorated by the British government for his service with the Polish forces, and on 25 May 1976, he was awarded the highest Greek medal for gallantry, the Cross of Valour in Gold.[1] In 1972, his life was made into a movie in the Polish People's Republic, as Agent Nr. 1.

In Greece, his memory is further honoured by a statue in Thessaloniki, as well as an annual swimming competition held since 1953, the "Ivanofeia". His former sport club, Iraklis, has named the Ivanofeio Indoor Hall in his honour.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "70η επέτειος από τον ηρωικό θάνατο του Γιώργου Ιβάνοφ-Σαϊνόβιτς" (in Greek). Embassy of the Polish Republic in Athens. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "A Celebration in Memory of Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz". Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b "70th anniversary of the death of Jerzy Iwanow-Szajnowicz, hero of Poland and Greece". Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.