Joanna Muszkowska-Penson

Prof. Dr. Joanna Muszkowska-Penson was born in Warsaw on October 25, 1921.

Her father, Prof. Jan Muszkowski, was a teacher. She grew up in an atmosphere of enthusiasm for Polish independence. From the Girl Scouts she learned values such as loyalty, friendship and the obligation to do good.

In 1939, when Germany started World War II with the attack on Poland, she graduated from high school. She joined the underground movement against the occupation and became a soldier in the Union of Armed Struggle in 1940.

In March 1941 she and other members of her group were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Pawiak prison. From there she was deported to Ravensbrück in September of 1941. In the camp she had to experience how SS doctors carried out pseudo-medical experiments on Polish women. She herself survived typhus and severe jaundice in the camp.

After the war she successfully studied medicine. From 1950 to 1980 she was employed at the Kidney Disease Clinic of the Medical University of Gdańsk. In 1976 she was appointed professor. As a lecturer, she was highly valued in the training of future doctors. From 1980-1991 she worked as a senior physician in the internal department at the Gdańsk Voivodeship Hospital. The patients loved her because of her great dedication to the sick.

In August of 1980 she supported the striking shipyard workers in Gdańsk and joined the "Solidarność". She became Lech Walesa's personal doctor and often his interpreter. In June 1984 she was arrested for distributing illegal publications, but was released a few days later because of protests and petitions. Undeterred, she continued to support the opposition movement as a doctor during the strikes at the Gdańsk shipyard and in the port of Gdańsk in May and August 1988.

In 1991 she retired and moved to Glasgow to live with her daughter. In 2006 she returned to Poland to work in the Lech Walesa office.

She is a holder of high state awards and an honorary citizen of the city of Gdańsk.