The Story of Amalie Torba.(Polish Anna )

 
All About Bradford.®
 
"FACTS, STORIES , HISTORY AND TRIVIA"  
 
This page is a look into what we know About "Amalie Torba"(Polish Anna )
 
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She became was known as "Big Anna", "Russian Anna",
"Polish Anna" 
 
One of Bradford's more colourful characters
If you were around the City from the 60s to the 80s you would have known about her.
  Most people were afraid of her.
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Polish Anna
Picture T&A
1909 -1985  
Some facts about Anna's life.
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Anna would hang around John Street Market, helping the traders in exchange for cups or tea.
 
She was large, strong and wore lots of badges in the lapels of her jacket.
always carried a big, square, hessian bag full of money.
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She had a collection of babys Dummys on her walking stick
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"She wore an old hat, an Army great coat, and big boots.
 
She would whistle away, fingers in her mouth.
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She would sometimes sing in a thunderous voice that set the pigeons rising from the market roof. Or she would bang her walking stick down on dustbin lids, causing unsuspecting passers-by to leap for safety.

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People would make fun of her And  also keep a wide berth of her.
 
She used her big frame to bully the traders, and would demand food and drinks which they gave to her for an easy life.
 
 Picture by Peter Ford  1983
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She also had a very soft loving side and would protect people in trouble. She loved children and it did get upset when they were cruel to her and runaway .
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 Now lots of Bradfordians have fond memories of her.
And would like to know her story.
 
How she became "Polish Anna."
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  Many people knew Anna by sight and reputation, it seemed that no-one knew her story.
 
How she came to Bradford, where she came from, and what had happened to her.
 
There were rumours that she had been experimented on by the Nazis in a concentration camp.
 
Her behaviour wasn't caused by an illness. It was
 because of the Horrors she had seen and gone though at the camp as a
young women.
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Her Story
 
The Baltic States were constantly under the control of either the Russians or the Germans - They had a long history of it.
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They were under control of the Germans just before the war and were actually treated better under the Germans.
 
 
When the war broke out, Russia - or should I say, that very unpleasant chap 
Joseph  Stalin, decided in his evil plans , it was time to take back Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
 
Stalin .
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 People were taken prisoner by the Russians and sent to Siberia and never saw there familys again.
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 Others were put into ‘starvation chambers’ Whole familys was wiped out that way.
 
 

Villages and towns were surrounded by the Soviet troupes .Until they  gave -up or starved to death.

This was when the Baltic people tried to escape.

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Escape  from Riga

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Anna and her family were said to be in the town of Riga .Latvia

They planed an escape.

But it went terribly wrong and her mother and father were shot as they made their  escape .

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She escaped in a hail of bullets and fought her way to the Polish border

She could have gone by sea or made her way through Lithuania

and into Poland.  She hid and blended in with the Polish for a few year

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Anna was happy to be known as ‘Polish’ because she probably had an inbuilt fear of anyone finding out she was Latvian.

She was terrified of loud noises so I’m pretty sure she would have had an irrational but understandable fear of ‘Russians’

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She was taken in by the Polish and set to work in the hospitals .She was a very caring and helpful nurse.

Until she was betrayed by one of the patients .

 They sent her  to be a slave worker in a tin can factory ,where the conditions were said to be terrible .

 
 
Annas ID card
T&A
 
"Some more info about the id card from Simon Bean on the facebook page"

The I D card is an "Ausweis" [foreign worker] identity work permit that was issued by a factory in Lubeck Germany it actually shows she was foreign slave labour in what I believe was a tin can factory in Lubeck. Conditions for workers would be terrible, but it shows she wasnt in a concentration camp at this time of her life ...

  
 Nobody knows how she got to to be in the

concentration camps

But her real name Aniela Torba is of Jewish origin so that might give us a clue.

 

 

The Gates at Dachau

(Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of its kind opened in Germany by the Nazi government in 1933, and it served as a model for later concentration camps. Designed to hold Jews, political prisoners, and other "undesirables," the camp is now a memorial to the more than 40,000 people who died and over 200,000 who were imprisoned here during the Nazi regime.)

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 One can only imagine the horror she witnessed and was put though.
 
 Only now that  she has gone do some people have good memories of Anna.
 
Her life is somewhat of a mystery and a matter for speculation.
 
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  It is beleved she was a victim of Dachau concentration camp and the rumour was that she had been

 experimented on by the fascists

She once told someone in another life she was as a

Medical student when she was in Poland   . "But the fascists had put an end to that"?

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 (One day the  camp SS Doctor walked around the camp asking if anyone was interested in helping with medical experiments and tests .Of cause Anna volunteered not knowing that she would actually be the experiment .

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 "Many tyrants Have had there doctors try invent a Wonder drug that they could inject in to solders to make them invincible in war."
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They were said to have injected Anna with steroids, testosterone and God knows what else. Just to see what would happen .
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People  told storys that they had tried to turn her in to a man.
 
 (But There was no evidence to say that she wasn't a women.)
 
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She had some damage to her head and always wore a hat to cover it. She had a number tattooed on her wrist from the concentration camp.
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When market traders gave here food she would wolf it down cooked or not .

 and the way she hoarded money were all reflections on prison camp behaviour.  

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When the war ended she found herself being ill-treated again, by the Russians. who must have found out who she was .

She escaped from one tyranny straight into another.

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 Nobody knows how she made it to England and to Bradford
 

She must have been really lucky as the Nazis would kill off many of the people they had done experiments on before the allies got into the camps

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 One of the earlist picture we can find is when Anna was  at Morton Banks Fever Hospital, from 1950-52.
 
She helped out around the place.

"People were surprised how quickly she fit in and adapted to a hospital environment."

 
 
Early picture of Anna
Picture T&A
 
Picture T&A
 
A man who lived near her home in Chain Street picked up an envelope that had been thrown out near a skip. It contained a collection of photographs from Anna's life.
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 She loved the Royal family and all ways carried a picture of the Queen. One thing that terrified her were Marching Bands and she would run a mile on seeing or hearing one she didn't like loud bangs either. One insensitive boy once sneaked up behind her with a toy pistol and put it to her head. she went mad and chased him all around the market.
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She was taken in by a Polish family in the early 1970s  in Farcliffe Road, Heaton, living in the dormer.
Because of her strength she could get jobs in the local mills moving heavy bails About.
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 She had a friend in Halifax, a small lady, with the same sort of tattoo. Anna used to go into the toilets at John Street Market and talk to herself in the mirror. A friend in Halifax said the other lady used to do the same thing there.
 
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Anna used to sometimes sleep on the benches in Horton Park during the day.
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 People begin  to care about her..

 

 
Some friends in the Sun Pub 1980s

A former Bradford market trader says he collected for a seat for Anna, in John Street Market and used to give her breakfast.

 "One day she didn't turn up at the market."

 He went to her house in Chain Street but could get no reply.

 The Police eventually broke in and found her laid at the back of the door with a broken femur.

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She was taken to hospital but died later. As someone close to her, the trader was required to be present when the coroner's officer counted the money found in the house: £8,000 in half-crowns and two-shilling pieces.

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Funeral-directing firm of D Walsh and Sons  did the funeral at St Patrick's in Westgate.

 "There were seemingly no relatives so they did the funeral because Anna used to attend St Patrick's.  

Anna is buried in the Polish section of North Bierley cemetery."

A relative did turn up, from Vienna. But no one spoke to her.

So it's left to these photographs to offer some tantalising clues to a young womens life in  Latvia /Poland.

And  Later  a life in Bradford of the woman called "Polish Anna"

What happened in between remains a mystery and a matter for speculation.

 

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Finally

What people like about the story of Anna is that first it’s a real tragedy. And second it’s a great example of an experiment where the once suppressed prisoner becomes The Camp Commandant."

                                                                                                                              Phil Robinson 2013  ©

 

 

 Picture Phil Robinson 2011
 
Anna's final Resting Place

 Anna died in December, 1985, aged 76,

 
 
 

 

This story  has been the most commented about story on AAB this year .It seems lots of people what to know her somewhat tragic Story .Some people have mentioned about a plaque around the John street market area as a tribute to her. If you or your friends would like to donate towards the cost of a plaque I can set up a donation button with PayPal and we could get one made to remember her. Let me know if you would like to donate.

Or if you know anyone who can make I plaque or direct us to a place where they can be made to give us an indication of the cost.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Phil Robinson has made every effort to trace the copyright holders, but if they have inadvertently overlooked any, they will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the first opportunity.
 
 
Some text and pictures  from T&A 2007
 
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 She was more terrifying to me than Dr who!
 
 
1909-1985
 
Polish Anna Guest Book
click the link
below....
 
 
 
 
from the guest book :
 

When I worked in Rawson market Anna would come to our stall at Fitzpatrick’s. We would give her fruit and veg as we knew our boss Geoff Fitzpatrick would not have minded. She was frightening but if you smiled at her and were nice to her she would come inside the stall and come up to you and stroke your cheek, mutter something in Polish, smack her lips, laugh out loud and smile back. She had a difficult life but it says something about the folk in Bradford during the 70's and 80's-that they were good hearted as they looked out for her. She was a Bradford character and we are honoured that you ended up in our home town. Good night and God Bless Anna. Xx . Julie Gardiner 

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 I Had an interview with Georgey Spanswick on

BBC Radio Leeds. About Anna’s life in Bradford

 

YouTube Video

 
 
If you have any more info or pictures of Anna .let me know
 

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(Annas old Haunt by  Hazel Tidswell) 2011.
 

One of the last pictures taken of Anna 1984c

Picture sent in by John Firth .

 
 
 
John Street Market
 
 
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"A smile and a wave costs nothing."

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