Family of seven, only three survive sinking of Athenia
Work in progress
(From the) List of 93 Passengers killed when Athenia was torpedoed by German U-30, on Sunday the 3rd. of September 1939
( a ) the Polish family of a mother and her three children, did the father stay behind hoping his family would make it to Canada? Was he planning to join them all later?
The people mentioned above are from my family, this is their story as well as I, Spirydon's Granddaughter, can recall.
To protect his family from the oncoming war, Spirydon, his wife Ewdokia, and five children: John (Jan) born Nov. 24, 1918, Nina (Neonela) born Oct. 23, 1920, Stefan born August 2, 1924, Aleksandra born about 1935 and Jakeb born about 1937 prepared to leave for Canada.
Their journey from Trosteniec, Poland to England was enjoyable. They spent three days in Liverpool, England and on Sept. 2, 1939 they boarded the Athenia, a 560-foot turbine-driven twin-screw, British steamship owned by Anchor-Donaldson White Star Liner. On Sunday Sept.3, 1939 at seven thirty, other reports say nine in the evening, the Athenia was 250 miles west of the tiny Inishtrahull Island; only five miles off the northern-most tip of the Irish coast of Ireland when tragedy struck. The Kucharczuk family (except for Jan who was on a different lifeboat) spent seven hours together on the lifeboat along with many other passengers before a rescue ship, Southern Cross Yacht, was sighted. According to the book “A Night of Terror, The Story of the Athenia Affair”, written by Max Caulfield and published in 1958, the six members of the Kucharczuk family were in lifeboat #8.
As life-boat #8 was nearing the Southern Cross the oarsmen pulled on the wrong side causing life-boat #8 to edge towards the stern where another lifeboat with 5 or 6 people was already caught. The life-boats locked together and drifted nearer to the stern underneath the counter. A swelling wave rocked the Southern Cross bringing the counter down on #8 and flipping it over three times. #8 came to rest upside down with about 50 people in the water. The lifeboat sank at once. Spirydon and Neonela found each other while floating in the water. Other people tried to grab hold of them but Steve had to fight them off because they would off all been sunk by the extra weight. They hung on to each other and onto a chunk of wood for hours before being picked up by a rescue ship. I cannot find Spirydon and Neonela names on any survivor lists.
Nina was extremely ill. After several days, she discovered her father on the same ship. The rescue ship returned them to Glasgow, Scotland. For six weeks they waited and prayed for the uniting of their whole family. Jan, Spirydon’s oldest son, who was picked up by the Knute Nelson and landed at Galway, Ireland was the only one who returned to them. This was an enormous shock to Spirydon and Neonela for they expected to see the whole family. Ewdokia, forty years old, Stefan fifteen, Aleksandra eight and Jakeb two, were among the one hundred and twelve who perished.
From Glasgow, Scotland, the three Kucharczuk’s boarded the Cameronia and arrived on 16 October 1939 in New York, New York. They landed on 19 October 1939 in Canada at St. Armand, P.Q.
In Canada they spelled their surname as Kucharchuk and given names as Steve, John and Nina. They had a very tough time dealing with this tragedy.