Select Page
JAN PIROG
Born October 21st, 1919 in Rohatyn Poland, Jan was serving in the Polish Cavalry when the Nazis attacked Poland.

Introduction:

My name is Julian Stefan Pirog and this website will hopefully be a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man, my father, Jan Pirog V.M

Jan lost his father at just 6 months old, his father,my grandfather lost his life from wounds sustained in the battle between Poland and the Red army in 1920 that the Poles refer to as the miracle on the Vistula. The Poles only had a rag tag band of some 250,000 poorly clothed and even worse armed men yet beat back the Red army to Kiev where the League of Nations intervened and Poland was stopped in advancing further and against an army of some 2 million. 

Jan served in the Polish cavalry and was literally 3 days away from emigrating to USA when war broke out and his unit was mobilised to take on the superior forces of the heavily armed Germans. They did their jobs well and used tactics to counter attack where possible and remember, this was very much horseback against a highly mechanised and better prepared army. 

After a a few weeks the Red army also attacked Poland but from the Eastern side and so Jan was told to go back and ride to either Hungary or Romania and to gather with other Polish forces and to fight again but from another country. Most ended up in France via these countries 

Sadly, Jan was captured by the soviets while trying to say goodbye to his family and he was summarily sentenced to 2 years hard labour, in the gulag of Indigirka, Siberia. This was in effect a death sentence as most didn’t last the journey there, in the cattle trucks. Jan survived and was set free when the Germans attacked the Soviets. He was given one pickled herring and two slices of bread and told you can go ! 

He was 600 km from the nearest train station and in such conditions that none of us can imagine. This was a man that was no ordinary man. Not only did he make it, with his skeletal frame, he weighed just 77 pounds, he then undertook a period of rest and recuperation and was sent to what was then Persia. One cannot imagine the extremes of heat. Going from an area where minus 60 was recorded to 120 in the shade. Sadly man died from dysentery from eating too quickly. 

This is Jan’s story. I hope you enjoy it and that you take something from it. The indomitable spirit that is within each of us but most of us never find out about. 

Dad once told me that his only way of surviving was to not die until he had a hot bath, a good meal and to die in a warm and comfortable bed. It’s amazing what can keep someone alive. 

Jan died a free man on August 30th 2009, just 7 weeks from his 90th birthday. 

He never did return to his beloved Poland as those that did were either shot as traitors,to the soviet regime that was put in place, or they were sent back to Siberia. 

This is his story. 

God keep you Dad. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and miss you

Sitting for a Portrait after the war ended – in full regalia

Actual war-time photo

Jan when he was young

 

Jan in Scotland

Click play to sing along with the brigades Fight Song

Sing Along In Polish

 

Nie ma takiej wioski, nie ma takiej chatki,
gdzie by nie kochaly ulana mezatki.
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.

Niejedna panienka i niejedna wdowa,
Zobaczy ulana, kochac jest gotowa.
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.
.
Babcia umierala, jeszcze sie pytala,
“Czy na tamtym swiecie, ulani bedziecie?”
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.
Hej, hej, ulani, malowane dzieci,
Niejedna panienka za wami poleci.

The Following Regiments (Regiment’s) made up this Brigade

6 regiment uhlans of – Kaniowskich – Stanislawow

9 regiment Of Uhlans Malopolski – Tremblowa

14 regiment Uhlans – Jazowieckich of Lwow

6 Division of horseback artillery

6 squadron communication

1 cycle squadron

62 armoured division

7 Battalion Rifles

The independent 86 motorised anti aircraft battery.

The pennant is a Regimental below Pennant of the 9th Cavalry Regiment

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Did the Cavalry really Charge of the German tanks?

19th Sept ’39 Wolka Weglowa

The most spectacular Charge: 14th Jazłowiecka and a part of Malopolska 9th regiment charged. About 100 cavalrymen were killed but the charge opened the way for encircled “Poznan” Army to Warsaw. This charge was described with admiration by an Italian war correspondent

During the 2nd World War he served in the 1st Polish Anti Tank Regiment of the 1st Polish Armored Division and was attached to a 10th “regiment of mounted riflemen” (10th Mounted Rifle Regiment).

Lance Pennant of the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment

To Which Jans regiment was attached to.

The Polish order of the VIRTUTI MILITARI was established 200 years ago by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski as the highest military decoration for gallantry the Polish nation bestows upon it’s soldiers for acts of heroism above and beyond the call of duty. The VIRTUTI MILITARI is equivalent to the American MEDAL OF HONOR or the British VICTORIA CROSS.

The photo of his actual medals.

Jan Pirog (V.M.)

JAN’S DECORATIONS

1939-45 STAR

FRANCE & Germany star

Africa star

War medal

Krzyz Walecznych with bar (which means twice). This could also be awarded to towns or villages.

Virtuti militari 5th class, or silver, which could also be awarded to whole towns or villages

The Virtuti Militari that Jan received was given to soldiers up to the rank of Major, the rank of the person determined which cross he got. Only soldiers from the rank of Major upwards could get the gold “virtuti.” It was not based on merit but on rank.

Jan says that the Poles were even snobby as to the highest cross that they could give. He is of the opinion that there should have been only one type of cross available as this would have been a lot less complicated and would not have allowed for “back slapping” officers who had done the same type of action but got a “nicer” looking medal or cross.

Bronzowy Krzyz Zaslugi and Krzyz Kombantantow (which are given in a civilian capacity for services AFTER the war).

Zlota Odznaka S.P.K. and Zlota Odznake Pierwszej Dywizji which are also given as awards for services rendered after the war to people who are outstanding in a helpful capacity.

On November 21st, 2004, Jan was awarded the Krzyz Kawalerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski (below):

The town of Breda in Holland specially minted a medal in honour of the Polish forces on the 50th anniverary of the war, with ALL the battles they were in put on it, with the slogan “Dzienkujemy Wam Polacy” or “We thank you Poles,” which shows just how much they appreciated how the Poles out-manoeuvered the German war machine with minimal damage to the surrounding towns and villages.

He also has a French medal for the 50th anniversary of the war, on which is written “Utah” and “Omaha.”

Virtuti Militari

“Virtuti Militari” is a Latin phrase and translates as “For Courage in War”. The Order of Virtuti Militari is the highest Polish military decoration, instituted in 1792 by King Stanislaw II Poniatowski of the Belarussian-Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth, and is conferred for exceptional deeds in combat. Awarded in five classes – Crosses: Wielki, Komandorski, Kawalerski, Zloty, Srebrny. It may be conferred on both Poles and foreigners as a reward for outstanding heroic achievement and services in battle.

Krzyz Walecznych

The “Krzyz Walecznych” (Cross of Valour) is a Polish military decoration instituted in 1920; it was conferred up to four times to troops in the active service and, in exceptional cases, to civilians who co-operated with the military. It was awarded for acts of valour and courage in battle.

LIFE STORY

Born: October 21st, 1919 – Rohatyn Poland

Father

Robert Pirog: Born: October 23rd, 1880 (Same as my brother, Julian.) Somewhere in the region of Chicago, IL, USA

Died: May 1st, 1920

Cause of death: Wounded in leg and chest defending Poland from Russian invasion. Never recovered.

Robert’s Father (Johan) was born and grew up “somewhere in New Jersey,” served in the 9th U.S Cavalry, and moved to the Chicago area where Robert was born. When he was 5 years old, the family moved to Poland flush with dollars, where they invested the money in real estate.

At 18, Robert left for America again – to avoid the Polish draft. At that time, Poland was under the rule of Austria. Several years later he returned, only to be forced into the Austrian Army for WW I. He survived that war, came home, sired Jan, and then was needed to defend Poland from the Russians – who had decided it was THEIR turn to rule Poland. A 350,000 strong Polish army repelled the one million strong Russian armies, but Robert was fatally wounded. Jan never knew his birth father.

Mother

Maria Parypa – Born: July 5th, 1891

Status: Unknown

Robert’s and Maria’s Children

Katarzyna Pirog – Born: May 3rd, 1912

Anna Pirog – Born: January 1st, 1914

Jan Pirog – Born: October 21st, 1919

Step Father

Stefan Mahorowski – Born: March 3rd, 1896

Stefan and Maria’s Children

Antoni Mahorowski – Born: December 7th, 1922

Michal Mahorowski – Born: July 5th, 1929 (Same birthday as me too!!! – Cool!)

Jan’s Wife

Maria Dominik – Born: March 22nd, 1928 – Stanislawow, Poland

Jan’s and Maria’s Children and Grandchildren

Richard – Born: March 17th, 1947 – Germany

Richard’s Children:

Shelley Ann – Born: August 31st, 1968 – Bristol, England

Shelley’s Family:

Husband: Martin Smith

Son #1: Ethan Smith – Born: August 21st, 2002

Son #2: Joel Smith – Born: August 8th, 2004

Robert Jordan – Born: February 18th,1970 – Bristol, England

Robert’s Family:

Partner: Lisa Grey

Daughter: Chelsea Louise – Born: January 14th, 1992

Son: Liam Sydney – Born: August 28th, 2000

Henryk (Henry) Boguslaw – Born: October 16th, 1949 – England 

Deceased: March 8th, 2002 – May he rest in peace.

Henry’s son:

Mark Henryk – Born: December 15th, 1967 – Bristol, England

Antony (Tony) Edward – Born: July 5th, 1955 – Bristol, England

Tony’s Family:

Wife: Zofia Anna (Nee Silezin) – Born: March 15th, 1958 – Lukowa, Poland

Son #1: David (Dave) Alexander – Born: February 2nd, 1983 – La Grange, Illinois – Married March 31st, 2007 to Maria Patricia (Patty) Chuy: Birthday September 27th, 1986

Son #2: Steven (Steve) Jonathan – Born: June 22nd, 1985 – La Grange, Illinois

Son #3: Jonathan (Jon) Matthew – Born: October 17th – 1987, Downers Grove, Illinois

Julian (Jools) Stefan – Born: October 23rd, 1963 – Bristol, England

Education

Seven years of regular school, followed by two years of evening school studying life skills (money management, etc.)

Early Military Experience

Drafted by Polish army on October 19th, 1937.

He was still serving his mandatory military service in Kutno when WW II broke out and the Nazis attacked Poland. Jan was in the cavalry. His horse was a mare called Zoska (Pronounced ZOSHKAH).

Poland had been under foreign rule for 123 years prior to her independence after WW I. Because of this, it had been impossible to build a sizable, state-of-the-art military during the following 21 years (1918 – 1939), and so they were severely outgunned and overpowered by the Nazi war machine. Poland DID have armour (tanks etc.), but it was very minimal compared to that of the Germans. However, she did defend herself for five weeks before surrendering. Jan went from Kutno, to Lodz, to Warsaw, and his final battle took place in Grabina.

He tried to make his way to Hungary to join the expatriate Polish army there. As far as he knew, his whole family was left behind when the Russians arrested him (remember that Russia and Germany were still allies at this time). Jan states that 8,000 Polish Military personnel were taken to the Siberian Gulag along with him, and only 2,000 were still alive when they arrived at their destination. He believes the purpose of this “relocation” exercise was to wipe out as many of these men as possible.

The Fate of his Birth Family

After the war, he met a man he grew up with, who knew a communist “Apparatchik” in their hometown. He asked the Soviet comrade to find out what happened to the people in Rohatyn. What he found out was that the Russians “relocated” everyone who was of “high station” from Rohatyn to Siberia. This included the wealthy and the educated, (race was not taken into account – Rohatyn was predominantly Jewish, and Ukrainian. Poles were a minority). The Pirogs, being wealthy, were all taken, and Jan assumes they all died at the hands of the Soviets. It seems their home was taken over by the Soviets and became a NKVD (precursor to KGB) headquarters.

The Siberian Concentration Camp

Name: Indegirka

Location: Kolyma, USSR

Duration of stay: Two years

Released: When Germany attacked Russia. Jan weighed 35 kilos (approximately 77 pounds). He subsisted on a daily diet of 300 grams of bread and a bowl of watery cabbage soup.

”Conditions in the Kolyma camp were atrocious at best. Prisoners not only had to face the wrath of the guards but also the brutality of their fellow inmates. Some prison gangs were given tacit approval by the guards to terrorise, rape, beat and dehumanise other prisoners.”

(Stanley J. Kowalski is a survivor of the Kolyma camp and has written a moving account about the history of Kolyma and his experiences there in his work “Kolyma – Land of Gold and Death ¬ Click here to visit his web site).

After Siberia

Jan’s physical recovery from his malnourishment was swift. Once he got good food and regular exercise, he regained his vigour very quickly. He notes, however, that he suffered from some amnesia as a result of his experiences in Kolyma, and that he has not regained all his pre-wartime memories to this day.

Jan joined the Polish army in Buzuluk, Russia two months after his release. This was November 1941. He was one of the fortunate early ones (84,000) who was released to join the Allied forces in the west. On March 29th, 1942 he was relocated to Tehran, Iran. Later, Polish forces in Russia were forced by Stalin to remain to help him defend against Hitler.

After Iran, he spent four weeks in Egypt where he guarded tanks and ammunition for Field Marshal Montgomery’s army.

On September 2nd, 1942, they were moved out on a long, circuitous journey to England, which took 64 days, with a 6 week stop in South Africa (apparently that was FUN!). In order to avoid the German U-boats, they went via Rio de Janeiro (where they stopped for five days of MORE fun), and New York. They arrived eventually in Liverpool, England. They initially were sent to Scotland, where they were organised into their various planned military duties. Jan was assigned to tanks and was sent to Catterick in Yorkshire for training.

Preparation for the Normandy invasion (D-Day) took 6 months, and exercises took them from Chippenham in South West England to Lanark, Scotland. That was followed by 1 month of rest. Jan says they (the Poles?), were used as “special forces” for the very worst battle situations.

World War II – Normandy and Beyond

Jan landed in Arromanches. They fought the 10th German S.S. Armoured Division. I quote from Jan:

“The final onslaught on Germany, I was very sad. We were sold out to Stalin by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt in Yalta. We had no home to go to. We stayed in Germany in the British army for two years after the war ended.”

The Battle on the Border – September 30th, 1944

Jan in Belgium

The Battle on the border began in Belgium in a place called Turnhout and was fought through to Barlenassaw in Holland.

“My platoon was attached to the 10th Rifle Regiment, (10 P.S.K).

We started to move forwards and my tank went over a land mine, which damaged a caterpillar and disabled us from moving on. I got in touch with my headquarters and they told me to wait. They sent a transport and I sent three men to get a new tank. About twenty minutes later, a German unit of 9 tanks and infantry tried to cut off our regiment. I had to stop them and somehow I managed to do it. My driver was loading the gun and I destroyed four enemy tanks, damaged two more, and killed a lot of Germans soldiers. We did not take any prisoners. There were only two of us, but they turned back from their objective. We saved our regiment!

My friend and I were both awarded the Virtuti Militari cross for this. I already had a cross which is one grade lower (the Krzyz Walecznych), for Normandy, and I had another awarded in a place called Siddeburen in Holland.”

J. Pirog – Rotmistrz Pierwszej Dywizji Pancernej V.M. (Platoon Sergeant)

After the War

He met Maria Dominik in Germany in a camp called Dalum. They were guarding the displaced person’s camps. They were married on February 9th, 1946.

Jan and Maria were transferred to England on May 2nd, 1947 to the Ullenwood camp near Cheltenham. They stayed there three months. June 30th, 1947 they were transferred to Witley Camp, the head office. There they stayed until October 8th, 1948 when he was demobbed.

He worked for a farmer in Bath for a while in his orchard, and then went on to work for an engineering firm. In 1952 he began work in coal mining until the pit was closed down in 1963. His final job after that, which lasted until his retirement (17 years ago) was in a container factory (Dickinson, Robinson Group).

In the coal mines with Mr. Padlewski
(Looks nastier than the war to us non-veterans! I KNOW it wasn’t easy!)

Photo Gallery

I Love You Dad And I Miss You.