The Polish cavalry in the 16th and 17th century rode into battle with feathered wings on their back. The sound instilled terror in the enemy, and many simply ran from it. Jan's division took those wings as their emblem.
During the 2nd World War he served in the 1st Polish Anti Tank Regiment of the 1st Polish Armored Division and was attached to 10th "pułk strzelcow konnych" (10th Mounted Rifle Regiment).
Lance Pennon of the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment
ŁAŃCUT zmotoryzowany od 1937
Pułk w okresie formowania miał duże problemy z zaopatrzeniem:W jednym łapciu, w jednym bucie,
Pułk został sformowany w 1921r. min. z żołnierzy Dywizjonu Mahometańskiego:Z dywizjonu mahometan,
Pułk miał proporczyk szmaragdowo-żółte (jako żywo kolor jajecznicy) z białą żyłką:Jajecznica ze szczypiorem,
(po zmotoryzowaniu w 10 Brygadzie Kawalerii gen. Maczka)
(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.)Please click on the link below to view confirmation of Jan's receipt of this prestigious award:
I was in Russia as a prisoner of war and was in the cavalry prior to that.
I tried to get to Hungary but wanted to visit my parents and was caught by Russian troops in Rohatyn and so was sentenced to 26 months in a Russian prison camp. We were liberated after Hitler's attack on Russia. I served in ALL the 1st Armoured Division 2nd front campaigns and received the Krzysz Waleczny (with bar) and Virtuti Militari. I hope that in my 83rd year some of our efforts will be, at last, recognised and not remembered as Canadian efforts alone, without the Poles getting so much as a mention. The Falaise battle was like being in hell!! Click below to read more about: Falaise - Operation TractableWe, as a division, are treated like Kings in Breda, Holland, where we have been back to visit by invitation many times, for gatherings and to visit old comrades who are laid to rest in the cemeteries of the region. 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 villagesThe 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. JAN PIROG’S LIFE STORY
(Prepared by Antony E. Pirog – Jan’s son.) 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 army, but Robert was fatally wounded. Jan never knew his birth father. Mother Maria Parypa - Born: July 5th, 1891 (Hey! That’s MY birthday) 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 armor (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 home town. 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. Quote from “http://www.artistic-license-inc.com/kolyma.htm:” ”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 terrorize, rape, beat and dehumanize 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 "
Click below to visit his web site After Siberia Jan’s physical recovery from his malnourishment was swift. Once he got good food and regular exercize, 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 were 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 organized 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 exercizes 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
Kolyma - Land of Gold and Death
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 persons 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!)