Polish-born Holocaust survivor Bronka Sundstrom, a very well-known hiking guide and a folk hero at Mount Rainier National Park, died on November 29, 2023, from congestive heart failure. She was 98.
Born Bronka Czyżyk in 1925 in Sandomierz, Poland, she was deported first to Auschwitz, where all her family had died. CLose to death, Sundstrom was liberated at the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen and was evacuated to Sweden. There she met her husband architect Ake Sundstrom and together they immigrated to the United States, settling in Tacoma. Both avid hikers, they built a house in Ashford in the Rainier foothills and became fixtures of Rainier trails. After her husband death, Bronka became famous as “Lady of the Mountain”. Till very old age she hiked every day. In 2002, Sundstrom became the oldest woman to climb Mount Rainier, making the round-trip trek in just under 19 hours at age 77. The mark stood until this past summer.
After Bronka Sundstrom left her hometown for a ghetto and then a death camp at the age of 13, she has never returned to Poland. Even though she hadn’t had many opportunities to meet Poles, she has continued to speak fluent Polish. Until recently she had kept a diary in Polish and read in the language of her homeland. She was portrayed in a Polish documentary “Lady of the Mountain / Kobieta skała” by Monika Meleń.