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Click on any illustration with colored border to see it full size. Then click on "Back" button to return to this page. Here is help in pronouncing Polish words

The name BIEGA is rare, as a perusal of telephone books ascertains anywhere you try. Virtually all the families with the name BIEGA, wherever in the world they are located, are descendents of a family of farmers in the Sanok area of southern Poland. Although none have acquired fame because of title or wealth, they have all been hard working people and many have achieved positions of importance in the communities in which they reside and in the organizations in which they work.

South Poland The southern boundary of Poland is a natural one created by the Carpathian mountain range, which stretches from Romania in the east to the valley of the Oder in Silesia in the west. The highest peaks (2,600 meters) create the Tatra Mountains at one end and the Rodna Mountains in Romania at the other. The river San originates below lower peaks of only 1,300m. (4,300 ft.) of the Bieszczady Range. This mountain group still retains a wild beauty, rounded peaks covered by forests, which has become protected by the creation of a national park. For 200km. the river flows through a charming region of gradually lower mountain ranges, sometimes through narrow gorges, other times through gentle valleys until, at the ancient fortress town of Przemysl, it enters a sandy plain and finally after 440km (275 miles) joins the mighty Vistula to continue on toward the Baltic Sea.

View of Sanok The old city of Sanok lies in the upper reach of the San river, only 45 km. due north of the Bieszczady mountains and near the border of modern Ukraine. The name Sanok appears already in an old Ruthenian chronicle of 1150. Then there was only a wooden fortress standing on the steep hill, where the present stone castle is situated, 70m. (230 feet) above the river. A document granting township privileges to Sanok is dated 20 January 1339.
An ancient trade route from Hungary ran through an easy mountain pass to Sanok, then Przemysl and on towards the Baltic Sea as well as Ruthenia and its capital Kiev. This trade brought prosperity to the town and it grew rapidly. It was frequently visited by king Wladyslaw Jagiello, in fact the marriage of the king to his second wife Elizabeth Granowska took place in the parish church in 1417.
For the next 150 years Sanok developed and became rich. The present stone building of the Castle dates to 1510 and was erected by Queen Bona, wife of Zygmunt I the Elder. At that time the Castle was separated from the town by a moat, spanned by a wooden draw-bridge. The town declined in the XVII century as a result of wars. The Swedish invasion (known as the "Deluge") reached Sanok in 1655. It was burned during the invasion of the Transylvanian duke Rakoczy in 1657.

In 1850 Sanok had a population of only 3,000. The rebirth of the town was brought about by the railroad, the discovery of oil in the area and the development of new industry in the middle of the XIX century. In 1914 it suffered considerable damage at the hands of the Russians who had momentarily pushed the Austrians back to the Carpathian mountains. Again in 1945 a battle between the retreating Germans and the advancing Soviets caused substantial destruction of property.

Sanok area map Today it is a vibrant city of 40,000 with two large industrial plants and an energetic town council. The streets are clean, roses and other flowers are planted in the city squares and along the main streets. It possesses a large cultural center with a theater; a large library; an artificial skating rink; indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
Across the river, on the slopes of the wooded hills, a 38 ha (95 acre) park contains 120 buildings brought here from villages all over the region. This Ethnographic Museum preserves examples of the architecture and culture of four distinct ethnic groups, particularly the Lemkos. The buildings include an inn, farmhouses, churches and windmills, the oldest of which date to the XVII century.
To see more photos of Sanok and surrounding country, click here.

Twenty kilometers north from Sanok, along the road which follows the river, lies a small village called Mrzygłód. At one time this was a town called Królewslka Tyrawa established by King Jagiello in 1431. The stone church was built at that time. However in the XVII century the town declined due to destruction by wars, frequent floods and epidemics and never recovered. A small ceramic industry still existed here until the early XX century. Just to the west of the road from Sanok to Mrzygłód lies a village Dębna, which already in the XV century was part of an estate.

This is the area from which virtually all the Biega families, wherever they may be today, originate. According to the records of Father Joseph Michałkowski of Mrzygłód, written in 1912, the name Biega appeared in church records in the 16th. century. The name biega in Polish means "runs", so perhaps some forefather was fast on his feet and was given this name to distinguish him from his siblings.
Biega home The Mrzygłód parish registry book reveals that in 1800 at least three families with the name Biega owned farms within the parish (which includes Dębna). There are several Biega families still living today in Sanok, Dębna and Mrzygłód. The soltys (elected bailiff) of Dębna was Zbigniew Biega as recently as 2009. In Mrzygłód the elected soltys is Zdzisław Biega
Predominantly they are Roman Catholic. However, for centuries the San River marked the western border of the influence of the Greek Orthodox church and of Ruthenian speaking villages. In Sanok itself there is an Orthodox church and an Ukrainian community. Some time ago a Biega boy married a Ruthenian girl and their children were brought up in the Orthodox religion. As a result, today there are a few Biega families who call themselves Ukrainians, rather than Poles.

Other than a normal career movement to other Polish cities, the emigration of Biega families to other countries occurred in three distinct phases.

  • Late 19th - early 20th century.
    The poverty in the rural areas of Galicia, then part of the Austrian empire, and lack of land, forced an emigration in search of economic opportunity. The destination was primarily the coal mines of Pennsylvania, as well as industry in New Jersey and Connecticut. Some also went to Canada and Brazil. See lists of families in the U.S.A. Census of 1910, 1920, 1930. The list of immigrants to U.S.A., who came through Ellis Island, also contains many Biegas, mainly from Dębna.
  • after World War II.
    Initially taken to German prison or labor camps, they were unwilling to return to a Poland under virtual Soviet occupation. Some went to U.S.A., others to Canada and Australia, a few to to England or France.
  • 1970s and 1980s
    A few fled communist Poland, particularly after martial law closed down Solidarity.
During earlier wars, undoubtedly some Biega boys found themselves far from home, either as captives or wounded. In particular, during the Napoleonic wars (1790-1812), there were Polish legions, made up of volunteers, fighting in Italy, Spain and even Haiti. Therefore it is quite likely that the occasional Biega family, thought to be Italian or Spanish, was founded by a young man who originally come from the Sanok area.

Biega on the Internet.
A search for "biega" in Google, or any other search engine, brings up many false leads due to the fact that biega means run in Polish. Therefore there are many references to Polish sporting events. Also the phrase o co biega means "what's it about?" Therefore many Polish pages including this phrase (including a stage play with that name) are referenced by search engines.
There are very many references to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in central Africa, mainly because it is a UNESCO endeavor aimed at rescuing the gorillas in their natural habitat. Kahuzi and Biega are the names of two mountain peaks in the park. I have tried to find the origin of the name of Mt.Biega (2790m high), so far without succes.

However there are some interesting Google references that repeat many times (2007).

  • This Web-site is prominently displayed.
  • the many papers written by, or co-authored by, Dr. Tamara Biega,
  • papers written by, or co-authored by Dr. Timothy Biega,
  • Stan Biega Bus Sales (Australia),
  • Cara Biega, producer of documentary films for National Geographic Television,
  • Dawn Biega, cellist in an orchestra in Austin, TX
  • Doug Biega, coach of the succesful Beaver Falls, PA, high school basketball team,
  • Alex & Mike Biega, junior league ice hockey players, Montreal, Quebec and Harvard University,
  • Joanna Biega, National Library of Australia and Dep.Dir Polish Historical Institute in Australia,
  • Joseph E. Biega, director of funeral home, Middletown, CT, (see story),
  • Stanisław Biega (in Polish Google), director of a railroad support group and prominent in ecological affairs,
  • Marek Biega (in Polish Google), coach of football (soccer) teams in southern Poland.
  • Łukasz Biega (in Polish Google), promotions and marketing specialist, Agora, Kraków

Return to Top of page.
Go to Biega family page for an index to all the family pages.
Return to Home Page.
Biega Families
All about them
Sanok and
Mrzygłód photos made in 2009..
Sanok area photos..
Kahuzi-Biega N.P., maps and photos.
Sanok Web-site, in English and Polish.
Mrzygłód, Dębna , more about the Biega home town, maps, pictures.
Tygodnik Sanocki, Sanok's weekly newspaper, in Polish.
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last update December 2009