because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Peggy van Lier

In her mid-twenties during World War II in Belgium, Peggy van Lier decided not to sit quietly by and just try to live through the Nazi occupation. So she joined in-your-face woman Dede de Jongh's Comet Line, a highly organized underground system that sheltered downed Allied pilots and smuggled them back to safety through Spain.

Pretending to be a worker with a Swedish Red Cross agency that provided food and clothing for children, van Lier actually helped to forge papers, organize hiding places, and supervise pilot escorts. Highly energetic, she inspired others to work harder and risk more and was so invaluable to the Line that she eventually received multiple national recognitions, including the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Netherlands Resistance Cross.

On one occasion, she was taken and interrogated by what she later called "a fat, evil, rat-faced SS officer," but she remained so cool -- despite being told that they had just shot to death one of her co-workers -- that she fooled them into releasing her. Even though her identity was now badly compromised, van Lier still had to be ordered by her superior to escape to Great Britain before she would agree to stop her activities. And even in safety, she learned to parachute and kept up her training so she would be ready should they ever change their minds and decide to send her back in.

Peggy van Lier and the Comet Line saved more than 800 pilots, most of which would otherwise have unquestionably perished. But who was counting? Certainly not an in-your-face woman.

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