At 17, Agnes Lackovic was delivering coded messages to Allied agents in Munich. And at 17, Eden Prairie High School senior Sasha Allen was producing a documentary on Agnes' story.
Allen's 12-minute film on the teenage spy — who married a GI after World War II and moved with him to Eden Prairie — won a grand prize of $6,000 last month from the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in its annual Discovery Award international competition.
CEO Norm Conard presented Allen with the award on Sept. 20 at the Cummins-Phipps-Grill House, a refurbished 19th-century farmhouse in Eden Prairie. It was the second grand prize for Allen, who also won in 2021 for her documentary on Welsh journalist Gareth Jones' reporting on a genocidal famine in Soviet-era Ukraine that killed millions.
In a statement, Conard said Allen's documentary was "a perfect addition to our Hall of Unsung Heroes. … Sasha's documentary masterfully relates the powerful impact of this 17-year-old unsung hero, who courageously saved the lives of hundreds of Jews and other endangered people during World War II."
"I'm honestly just happy to have more people learn about these incredible people and what their stories are," Allen said.
Allen first heard about Agnes Lackovic in April, when Lackovic's daughter spoke at the Eden Prairie Historical Society's annual meeting. As a teenager, Agnes relayed coded messages to Allied agents in Germany and helped her aunt, Rosa Schneider, smuggle hundreds of Jews and Allied soldiers out of the country.
"Her aunt was telling her to do these things, and she went along with it and did it, and I think that's incredible," Allen said. "I don't know that I would have been able to do that, as young as she was."
According to a 1998 Star Tribune story, Agnes met a Minnesota GI after the war named Willard Daluge, married and moved to the United States, where they raised two children.
She worked for Control Data in 1960s but didn't open up about her wartime exploits until the 1990s and went on to write a memoir, "Rosa's Miracle Mouse: The True Story of a World War II Undercover Teenager." She died at age 79 in 2007, and is buried alongside her husband at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Allen began making historical documentaries in sixth grade for the annual History Day contest at her school. After that sparked her interest, she sought out other programs that would enable her to do similar projects.
She said she starts her research as soon as she finds out about competitions, and that she was drawn to the Lowell Milken Center's Discovery Award program for its focus on history's unsung heroes whose achievements remain largely unknown.
"It feels really great … [a] really, really amazing opportunity to have. I really enjoy making these projects," Allen said.
To tell Agnes' story, Allen said she relied on her autobiography and photos provided by her daughter. She typically researches extensively, she said, gathering everything she can from books, websites, archives, videos and more.
She said she creates a storyboard to line up all the information she wants to include in the documentary. After that, she writes out the script and decides how to present her research as a video.
"It's honestly my favorite part of the process. I really love that kind of visual storytelling," Allen said.
Allen has been using different editing software programs to produce her documentaries and switched to Adobe products last year, which she said have become her go-to.
"I'm still learning as I go," she said. "It's so much fun."
The Lowell Milken Center has sponsored the Discovery Award competition since 2012. It awarded more than $20,000 this year to elementary, middle and high school students, including Allen's brother Nico, an Eden Prairie High sophomore. He received an honorable mention worth $500 for a website he created on Aristides De Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese diplomat who saved an estimated 30,000 German refugees during World War II, many of them Jews.
In a statement, businessman and philanthropist Lowell Milken said stories about unsung heroes provide "the opportunity to motivate new generations to aspire to values that are essential during the challenging times we face."
Allen said she plans to use the prize money for editing software and college tuition. After she graduates next year from high school, she said, she hopes to study history — and would love to continue making documentaries.