On this day in 1943, in Plungė, Samogitia, Wanda Rutkiewicz was born, a legendary mountaineer who lost her loved ones in cruel ways. In the mountains, she also carried the body of a deceased colleague, and after the expedition to Annapurna, she had to defend herself against accusations of fraud.
Wanda Rutkiewicz made history as the first European and the first Pole to stand atop the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest on October 16, 1978.
In a groundbreaking feat, Rutkiewicz’s ascent of Everest marked a momentous milestone in mountaineering. Her remarkable achievement solidified her as the first European woman to reach the summit and brought global recognition to Poland’s mountaineering prowess.
However, death always kept her company. She experienced two family tragedies. When she was 5 years old, her brother Jerzy, who was two years older, died after igniting a fire on an unexploded ordnance he found. Then, when she was 29, her father was murdered.
As a child, she collected the remains of her brother. At the age of 29, Wanda Rutkiewicz identified the body of her murdered father. Just when she thought she had finally found the love of her life, her beloved died before her eyes shortly thereafter.
Despite these traumatic experiences, the Polish woman made history in mountaineering. Rutkiewicz’s expedition to Everest became an emblem of determination, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of dreams. She went missing in May 1992 during a summit attempt on Kangchenjunga.