Mark Irgang was born in Siberia, after his parents escaped from Jaroslav, Poland in 1944. When Mark was one year-old he and his family left for a displaced persons camp organized by HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) in Austria. Mark stayed with his parents in this camp until the age of five. While living there he was malnourished and endured unsanitary conditions.
When Mark’s sister was born, they tried to leave for the United States. It cost their family $500 for an 11 day voyage on a boat from Germany to New York City. Once they were in the U.S they were assisted by HIAS who hosted them in a hotel in NYC. Mark, his family, and other immigrants were aided by HIAS for a year. In that time both of Mark’s parents found jobs but his family was barely able to survive. His father worked in a steel plant and his mother as a seamstress. They lived in poor conditions with their landlord at the time.
Due to these circumstances, Mark had a difficult childhood. His first friend taught him to throw his first football in an alley near his family’s apartment. He became quite adept at this game and continued playing, eventually becoming a college football star. Mark received a football scholarship to Yankton College in South Dakota. After school Mark went on to get his Master’s Degree in Education and become a guidance counselor. Mark married and he and his wife had two children.