Andrzej and Zofia: Where are Witold Pilecki’s Children Now?

Image Credit: Świadkowie Epoki/Youtube

In Netflix’s ‘Pilecki’s Report,’ we follow the true story of Witold Pilecki, a man who should have been celebrated by his country but was instead turned into a traitor. The film focuses on his arrest and his subsequent recounting of the events that begin with his service in the Polish army and then his work with the underground resistance networks during the Nazi occupation of Poland. We also witness his time in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he went of his own accord to expose the truth about the Nazi atrocities. For all that Pilecki did for his country, the service was not returned in kind, and his family had to go through some tough times.

Andrzej and Zofia Had a Tough Life Due to Their Father’s Reputation

Witold Pilecki and his wife, Maria, had two children, Andrzej and Zofia, born a year apart in Vilnius and Sukcje, respectively. They spent their childhood in the family estate of Suzdrowie in Lida but later moved to Ostrów Mazowiecka and then to Warsaw after their father left to serve in the Second World War. The moving around affected the children’s studies, but their father constantly encouraged them and remained in touch with them through lengthy and heartfelt letters.

Andrzej focused on his education and was also active in extracurricular, like joining the scout team of the local troop of the Polish Scouting Association in 1945. Following the move to Warsaw, he enrolled at the Radio Technical School and received a three-year work order at Zakłady Radiowe after his graduation, after having given two years of military service. He had also worked at the Department of Mathematical Apparatuses all this while. Apart from radio, he also showed a keen interest in aircraft modeling, but his dream of becoming a pilot was shattered when he was not allowed to join flying school because of his father being labeled a traitor. After facing much difficulty, he eventually found a place at the Faculty of Electronics of the Warsaw University of Technology in 1964, where he graduated in electronics engineering. After working for five years at Zakłady Farmaceutyczne Polfa in Tarchomin, he moved to the Institute of Industrial Chemistry at ul. Rydygiera 8 in Warsaw and stayed with them till retirement.

Zofia also faced the struggles that her brother had encountered. Her education was interrupted in the final year of high school when she left Ostrów and moved to Warsaw to help her mother support their family, which had fallen into squalor since their father’s death. After some time, she finished high school and enorlled in the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology, but the environment there wasn’t amiable to her. She was constantly harassed and poked about her father. Eventually, she received a message from the university about their inability to “tolerate the studies of the daughter of a traitor to the Polish nation.” She found a similar challenge in getting a job, and after much struggle, she finally found a place at a company named INCO. Zofia’s financial troubles were alleviated when she married and became Zofia Pilecka-Optułowicz.

Witold Pilecki’s Children are Honouring His Legacy Today

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The communist government had tainted Witold Pilecki’s reputation. So, when the Soviet Union fell and Poland became a democracy, the stain on Pilecki’s reputation was cleaned up, and he was recognized as the hero that he really was. His children played a significant part in this. In 1990, his wife and children received reparations from the government in return for the monetary struggle they had to go through in Pilecki’s absence.

To keep the memory of their father alive and to have the story of his extraordinary life told to the world, Andrzej and Zofia collaborated with the Institute of National Remembrance to document Pilecki’s life through photos and other available accounts of their father. Over the years, they have helped open thirty schools under their father’s name and one university in Oświęcim. They have come out and talked about their father on several occasions to make sure that the true account of his history is told to the world and not the false narrative created by the communist authorities at the time.

Image Credit: Świadkowie Epoki/Youtube

Zofia, who said that she exists “only to preserve the memory of [her] father,” has been honored with the title Lady of the Order of Polonia Restituta. In 2015, she was the curator at the Institute of National Remembrance. She also became the first honorary volunteer of the Warsaw Museum of Cursed Soldiers and Political Prisoners of the Polish People’s Republic. In 2017, Andrzej and Zofia received the Honorary Citizenship of the City of Ostrów Mazowiecka.

They were also present at the unveiling of the monument dedicated to their father at the square at Aleja Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw’s Żoliborz district. In 2022, Andrzej demanded 26 million zlotys ($5.7 million) as compensation for his father’s illegal execution and other wrongs that he was subjected to unfairly. The court agreed to pay him a portion but argued that his family had already been compensated. Meanwhile, the siblings continue to further their father’s legacy by doing philanthropic work while also making sure that he is remembered by the world for who he really was.

Read More: Maria Pilecka: How did Witold Pilecki’s Wife Die?