Polish 2nd Corps + 1st Polish Armoured Division
Jan was born on June 10, 1926, in Polska Wola, Tarnopol Province, as the oldest of four children of Stefania Szmyd and Stanisław Kudła. His parents owned a farm in Polska Wola. In 1935, the family moved to Wiśniowczyk, Tarnopol Province, where they ran a co-op and restaurant.
After the outbreak of World War II, Jan along with his parents and siblings found themselves in the zone occupied by the Russians. On February 10, 1940, Stanisław and Stefania Kudłów, together with their children, were deported to the Refty labour camp in the Sverdlovsk Oblast of the USSR, as military settlers. They were forced to work in the taiga, receiving a meagre allowance of bread for their efforts. In November 1941, after the ‘amnesty’ for Polish deportees was declared, Jan Kudła left his family, travelled south and volunteered for the Polish Army being firmed in Tockoje, where he was admitted to the Cadet School of the 7th Infantry Division. With this unit he left the Soviet Union in April 1942, and crossed the Caspian Sea to Persia (Iran).
In Persia, at his own request, he was transferred to the Reconnaissance unit of the 8th Infantry Division. In July 1042, after serving in Iraq and Palestine, he transferred to a unit escorting prisoners of war by sea from Durban, South Africa to Halifax, Canada. In October 1942 he reached Glasgow, Scotland. Initially, he served in the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, then he was sent to a driver's course in Falkirk, Scotland. From October 1943 he served in the 1st Polish Armoured Division. As a soldier of the Workshop Company, he took part in a workshop course at the Technical Workshop Centre in Glasgow. After the Allied landing in Normandy, from the end of August 1944 until the end of the war, he served in the repair squads of the 10th Cavalry Brigade.
He participated in battles in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. After the surrender of Germany, he served in the occupation forces in Löningen. There, in July 1945, he made contact with an officer of the special services of the Polish Armed Forces in the West and undertook training to prepare for undercover work in Poland.
After demobilization in October 1946, he left for Poland with correspondence for the commander of the Extraterritorial District "Freedom and Independence" in Lviv. After delivering the mail in November 1946, he was appointed commander of the WiN Wielkopolska Region. In July 1948, he began his activity in a newly-established underground organization called the Polish Secret Military Organization. In November 1951, as a result of a slip-up, he was arrested by the Security Office. After a six-month investigation and a trial in Zielona Góra, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He served his sentence successively in Sztum, Wronki and Kawcz. He was released under an amnesty in December 1956. After leaving prison, he was forced to change his place of employment many times. From August 1980, he was briefly involved in the trade union activities of the Independent Self-Government Trade Union "Solidarność".
He retired in 1982. After 1989, he was active in numerous veterans' organizations. He was decorated many times and promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is the president of the Western Branch of the WiN Veterans Associstion. He lives in Zielona Góra.