By the time she was 17, Helena Kapolka had fled the Gestapo, been shot in the leg, joined the resistance, taken prisoner for torture in a concentration camp and witnessed mass killings.
Tributes have been paid to the 87-year-old, who died at Dell Field Court Care Home, in Etchingham Road, Finchley, on June 14.
Born Helena Radlinska, her father Viktor, was an intelligence officer with the Polish Army in Warsaw before he was executed by the Russians in 1939.
After witnessing the Warsaw Ghetto first hand in 1942, she joined the resistance as a courier of the Home Army newspaper at the age of 17.
Attempting to flee from the Gestapo, she was then shot through the leg, taken as a prisoner for interrogation then sent to the notorious women’s concentration camp at Ravensbruck.
Here, she was forced to watch mass executions and became part of the slave marches to work centres, during which many died.
But being the youngest inmate, she was part of 1,000 Polish women released to the Red Cross in 1945, before going to Sweden, then Italy and finally arriving in the UK as a refugee.
In London, she went to the Polish School of Architecture, where she met her husband, Kajetan Kapolka, also an architect.
The couple moved to Claremont Park, Finchley, and had two children – Chris and Barbara, and two grandchildren, before Kajetan died.
Paying tribute to his mother, Chris Kapolka said: “She was remarkable, but she crumbled and she suffered. Her war time experiences took their toll.
“When we were younger, she was always in and out of mental institutions. She later retreated within herself and became a recluse, unable to deal with bureaucratic matters.
“But she regained some composure in later life due to the amazing staff at Dell Field.
“I am very proud of her for overcoming it all, she was an incredibly strong lady and she will be sorely missed.”