Witty, brilliant and occasionally provocative, Desiderius Pongrácz was a blue-blooded count from the Hungarian aristocracy. He chose to live his life as a man of the land pursuing a career in viticulture. After graduating from the Hungarian Academy for Agriculture in 1944, instead of returning to the family estate, Desiderius Pongrácz joined the cavalry in the Hungarian army. Shortly after Hungary’s surrender, he was captured by the advancing Russians.
For nearly a decade, he would toil in the infamous labour camps of Siberia as a prisoner of war, first as a lumberjack and then in the perilous Siberian copper mines. He would later credit these torturous years of drudgery and solitude for instilling in him the zeal for life that would become the hallmark of his character.
Finally, with the war over and his homeland in the steely grip of the Soviet Union, Desiderius Pongrácz was released back to Hungary. During the chaos of the Hungarian revolt, he resolved to escape and set his sights on Africa after securing a position as a farm manager in Namibia through his European nobility connections.
In 1958, he relocated to the Stellenbosch winelands where he worked as a farm manager before joining the research institute of Nietvoorby under Dr Piet Venter in 1963. While at the research institute, he obtained his Masters of Science Degree in Agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch.