A regional daily has uncovered the “incredible” life story of a Nazi massacre survivor who became a well-known character on its patch – prompting international interest in the story.
The Bradford Telegraph & Argus has revealed the history of “Polish Anna”, who was known by many for her public singing displays in the Yorkshire city, after running a nostalgia piece on her.
The T&A was first handed old photographs of “Anna”, real name Aniela Torba, in 2007 after they were found in a skip, but no-one at the time was able to tell the full story of her life.
But, after the follow-up was run last month, former Bradford resident Dr Christian Freitag got in touch with the T&A from Germany to share research on Ms Torba, revealing she was born in 1909 in Domostawa, a village in Poland.
Domostawa was the scene of a massacre by the Germans in 1943, with Dr Freitag surmising that Ms Torba survived the attack and sharing documentation which showed her as working as a slave labourer in Germany the following year.
Files showed she was later given permission to travel to England in 1948.
The fresh revelations saw the story catch the eye of Poland-based title The First News, with T&A journalist Emma Clayton telling the outlet: “The response has been immense.
“It would be wonderful to try and find out more about her early life.
“People are very keen to know her story, and how she ended up in Bradford.”
T&A editor Nigel Burton told HTFP: “Everyone in Bradford knew of Polish Anna – but no one, it seems, knew her incredible life story.
“When we ran a story several years ago there was a big reaction from readers which shed some light on her past, but a recent feature by community content editor Emma Clayton revealed even more.
“According to the International Centre on Nazi Prosecution in Arolsen, Germany, she was born Aniela Torba on 5 May 1909 in the village of Domostawa. During the Second World War she was imprisoned and told a friend that she escaped by covering herself with dead bodies.
“After the war she moved to England and settled in Bradford where she became a familiar figure in her woolly hat and over-sized jacket, often singing to herself (and anyone in earshot) in her distinctive deep voice.
“It’s an incredible story – the sort of tale regional newspapers do so well – and we are delighted it has now been picked up by newspapers in the land she once called home.”