He was born as Chaim Mordechaj Gringlas in 1917 in Lublin, Poland. However, his family and, later, his wife called him Mietek. In 1926, Mietek's family moved to Warsaw. In February 1939 he received a call-up to the Polish Army. Gringlas was serving in Grodno. When the war began, his unit fought against the Soviets, who invaded eastern Poland in September 1939. In fact, his unit laid down its arms before the Red Army; thus, Gringlas avoided being captured as a prisoner of war by either the Germans or the Soviets.
Mietek Gringlas and his fiancée Lida (Blima) resolved not to stay in the German-occupied part of Poland so they fled to the Soviet zone. They settled in Białystok, where Mietek worked at a textile factory as an electrical engineer. In September 1940, they moved to the area of Równe, Western Ukraine. When in June 1941 Operation Barbarossa began, as an industrial engineer, Mietek was evacuated eastward. The Gringlases - Mietek, Blima,1 and their new-born daughter Ada - settled in the Cossack village of Kletskaia on the Don River, 100 kilometers west of Stalingrad.
In the summer of 1942, when the Germans launched their second great offensive in Russia, Gringlas decided to enlist in the Red Army. Although, as an engineer, he could have avoided mobilization, he went to the enlistment office and volunteered. Later, he recalled:
"I knew Hitler's Germans were committing atrocities and were overrunning the whole of Europe. I felt that here was an opportunity to do something against the Nazis, but more, I felt here was an opportunity for myself as a human being to do my share. Lida thought I should stay with her and our child if I could. It was a normal human reaction. But my decisions are not always rational. I thought, if the Germans catch up with us, as a Jew, I'm finished anyway, so why not kill some enemies before I am killed, and die as a 'human'."2
Mietek and his family crossed the Don River to the eastern bank, and Blima and Ada continued on to the Ural region, while he was included into an engineering unit (subordinated to the 26th Administration of Defense Construction of the Red Army) that was located there. In the Red Army Mietek was registered as Chaim Gringlas. Their unit took the brunt of a German attack and was decimated. The survivors, including Chaim, crossed the Volga River and rejoined their division. They took part in the construction of a new railroad line along the eastern bank of the Volga. For his participation in the battle of Stalingrad, Gringlas was awarded a medal.
After the capitulation of the German army on the Volga in February 1943, Gringlas continued across the Kalmyck Steppes and the North Caucasus. He served as an electrical engineer, repairing trucks and automobiles, and was assigned to a mobile repair shop. This type of service was fairly safe and, in April 1944, he succeeded in bringing his wife (who had been starving in the area of the Urals) to join his unit and in having her become part of the mobile repair shop. His commanders learned with chagrin that Blima had arrived with a child, but then adopted little Ada into their regiment as "the youngest soldier in the Soviet army." Blima rewound car generators and electric motors in the workshop Mietek-Khaim went through Ukraine, Carpathian Ruthenia, Slovakia, and finished the war in southern Poland. In July 1945, Mietek and Blima asked to be released from the Red Army in order to repatriate to Poland. The command approved their request. In 1947, the Gringlases left Poland and immigrated to Australia, where they had distant relatives, and settled in Melbourne. Ken Greenglass (as he called himself in Australia) was the founder of the C.M.G. Electric Motors Company. He died in 2010.