By the end of August 1939, the 19th Division of Infantry, commanded by General brig. Józef Kwaciszewski (including Pilecki’s squadron), was directed to the area of Piotrków Trybunalski, in order to protect the main road from Piotrków to Tomaszów Mazowiecki. On the night of September 5th, the German XVI Artillery Corps destroyed the Polish division, and the scattered soldiers (among whom was Pilecki) crossed Vistula river and joined the ranks of the regrouping 41st Division of Infantry Reserves. The newly appointed cavalry commander of the Division – Major Jan Włodarkiewicz, had the second lieutenant Witold Pilecki take the position of his second in command. While fighting the Germans, the troops of the 41st Division of Infantry Reserves directed themselves southeast as a means of creating a safe passage to Romania. After the Soviet invasion of September 17, Hungary and Romania became the immediate objects of interest for the Polish command, which wanted to facilitate the march of the troops southwards and eventually enable them to crossover through the borders. On the September 22 Pilecki’s division gets obliterated, and the soldiers ordered to surrender their weapons. The majority has not surrendered though. A part of them escaped to Hungary and continued fighting along with the allied French. Others, among which was Pilecki, returned to the homeland with the intention to carry on fighting in the underground.
After the 17th of September, Pilecki’s closest family members living in Sukurcze had found themselves under Soviet occupation. To avoid the fates of other Polish families – arrested and deported to Siberia by the NKVD, Maria Pilecka and her children hid amongst the local inhabitants, waiting for an opportunity to break through to the General Government. It was only in April of 1940 that they were able to cross the Soviet-German frontier, and arrive at Maria’s parents’ in Ostrowia Mazowiecka. Only here was she finally able to learn that her husband is alive and currently resides in Warsaw.