Elzbieta ‘Bisia’ Krasicka Reavis High school teacher, WWII resistance spy, Polish countess
Bisia Reavis was born a countess. She grew up in a medieval castle in Poland, joined the resistance as a spy to fight Nazis in World War II when she was 18, married an American officer 11 days after they met, and eventually followed him to his hometown of St. Louis in a ship that nearly sank.
She taught two generations at Villa Duchesne High School and the old Sacred Heart City House school, often keeping students on the edge of their seats with her amazing real-life tales.
Elzbieta (Bisia) Krasicka Reavis died Monday (April 20, 2009) at de Greeff Hospice House at St. Anthony’s Medical Center. She was 87 and had lived for 50 years on Flora Place.
Mrs. Reavis was born the youngest of six children. Her father, the count, owned a forestry business, which gave him cover to have plenty of men working on his land. That was how his estate became the center of the underground movement after Hitler invaded Poland.
Mrs. Reavis helped defeated Polish Army members escape to France and England. She was young and attractive and, she recalled to family members, soon became a courier and spy, talking with enemy soldiers in bars and shops.
She drew maps to guide Resistance soldiers through dense forests, distributed underground newspapers and helped with administrative tasks.
In an interview with the Post-Dispatch in May 1947, she recalled how her biggest scare came when she was assigned to transfer a machine gun and ammunition from one concealed depot to another 20 miles away. She hid the munitions under straw in a horse-drawn buggy. Along the way, three Gestapo officers stopped her.
In her pocket, she carried identification papers and a pistol. She debated which to use.
She produced her papers and the soldiers asked what she was carrying under the straw.
Smiling, she replied: “A machine gun.”
They laughed at her joke and poked at the straw haphazardly before letting her go.
After the Russians invaded Poland, they treated the partisans like prisoners and pressed them into the Russian-dominated Polish army. The invaded Poles had no love for the Germans or the Russians, and Mrs. Reavis was asked, in an interview for a family history, which she would have shot first.
“Germans,” she replied. “Business before pleasure.”
Escaping the Russians, Mrs. Reavis fled to Lublin, Poland, where she met an American Army lieutenant who had escaped after spending five months in a prison camp.
His name was Isham Reavis. Within minutes of meeting her, he took out a piece of paper and began drawing.
He showed the drawing to a translator and said, “Tell her I’m going to marry her and take her to live in this house.”
They married 11 days later. After an 11-day honeymoon, the Army sent him back to the United States.
Still in occupied territory, Mrs. Reavis passed herself off as a Belgian before escaping to Krakow and later Nuremberg.
On Dec. 4, 1945, she left aboard a Liberty Ship. It nearly sank and was lost at sea for 18 days before landing in Boston, where she took a train to St. Louis.
Mrs. Reavis taught French at Academy of Sacred Heart schools here for more than 30 years and graduated from St. Louis University. Her husband was a gemologist at Jaccard’s Jewelery.
Survivors in addition to her husband are a daughter, Teresa Wetzel of University City; two sons, Antoni “Toni” Reavis of San Diego and Marek Reavis of Eureka, Calif.; a sister, Zosia Garapich of Poland; seven grandchildren; and 10 great grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be at 4 p.m. May 2 at Villa Duchesne, 801 South Spoede Road, Frontenac. .
Memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Missouri.