Jay (Josef) Raven, was born Joseph Robert Kruk, the second child of Josef and Kruk in Pittsburgh PA. His older brother, Thaddus or Ted, became a musician. The name Kruk means ‘Scavenger’ in Polish. Josef Sr was a foundling, and raise in an orphanage, he was turned out of it at age 12, to make his own way on the streets of Warsaw. The kids had to rummage through garbage to find food to eat, so they were called Kruks. Later on, Ted and Jay changed their last name to Raven.
Jay Raven was studying medicine when the Spanish Civil War broke out. He enlisted in the Lincoln Brigade (Battalion) and was made a Lt.
At the battle of Jaharama, he was sent ahead to check the position that the brigade would be taking up, to relieve the Spanish troops. He and his driver arrived to find that the Spanish troops had already left, and that the Germans (who were there in support of Francos troops) were about to over-run the foxholes and trenches that the Spanish had made.
Sending his Driver back to alert the rest of the Brigade, Jay began running back and forth in the trenches, throwing grenades and firing his pistol towards the enemy.
He kept this up for about 30 minutes, leading the Germans to think that there were many men there, and not just one.
Just as the rest of the Brigade arrived, Jay, having just thrown another grenade, popped his head up over the side of the trench. A german had grabbed the grenade and threw it back towards Jay’s position. It blew up about 10 feet from him.
Badly injured, Jay could only sit down and keep talking to the rest of the brigade as they took up their position around him.
Taken to a house that was being used as a clinic, one of his eyes was removed, they hoped to save the other eye, and left that bandaged for the time being. They could do nothing about his face, it was broken and badly disfigured. A few days later, Ernest Hemingway came and interviewed Jay, this forms a chapter “Raven” in the book ‘Dispatches from the Front’.
After he was evacuated back to the US, Jay spent weeks in the hospital, they had to remove the remaining eye due to an infection (no antibiotics were available yet). They did try to repair the damage to his face, though he never looked the same.
While in the hospital Jay met Mary Tannenhaus, an RN, they married and had one child, Michael Robert Raven, in 1939.
Bob Raven with Mike, circa 1940
Lt. Jay Raven (center) helping to raise funds for the Lincoln Brigade after he was badly injured.
Jay Raven with his son, Mike, Aprill 1945, NYC.
Jay and Mary later divorced, and Jay had two more children, Lucy and Stanley, with his second wife, Ceile. Jay renovated tenements and houses quite successfully for many years.
He died in 1967.