Daughter of a wealthy Polish Count, Krystyna Skarbek was a society beauty and headstrong outdoor girl. She was in Africa with her diplomat husband when World War II broke out. Deciding to help the British free occupied Poland, she approached them with a plan. She wanted to return to Poland through Hungary in order to set up a line of communications. British Intelligence were impressed with the "flaming Polish patriot," and in 1939, Skarbek worked to organize Polish resistance groups and smuggle Polish pilots out. In 1941, she was arrested by the Gestapo, but they let her go after she faked a case of tuberculosis by biting her tongue to make it bleed.
The British gave Skarbek a new identity, and as Christine Granville she was smuggled out of Poland to Turkey.
Trained as a radio operator and paratrooper, she was dropped into France after D-Day. As her resistance area was overrun with Nazis, she escaped, hiking 70 miles to a safer area in the Alps, where she helped turn Axis fighters. Her success rate was incredible, the risks she pulled off extraordinary. On one occasion, she gave a rousing speech to 3,000 Polish men fighting for the Nazis; at the end she told anyone who was with her to take off his Nazi jacket, and as one 3,000 men threw their coats into the air.
Her most famous caper was when she rescued two colleagues by outing herself as a spy to French officials working for the Gestapo and then arranging a prisoner release with the use of retaliation threats and promises of money. Granville and the prisoners made it out alive, and her reputation as a legendary spy was secured.
After the war and used to the adrenaline rush, she lived a frenetic life and was murdered in 1952 by an obsessed lover. Rumor has it that she had an affair with Ian Fleming and was the inspiration for his first Bond girl, Vesper Lynd
in Casino Royale.