Christine Kuliukas
 


Christine  Kuliukas (1924-2002)

Christine Kuliukas died on 7th August 2002 at Hempton Fields nursing home, Chinnor, Oxfordshire after suffering a severe stroke a week earlier. She was 78.
 Christine was born in the German-speaking region of Romania, called ‘The Banat’, in the village of Deutsch-Stamora on 6th July 1924. She was the third child of Martin and Christine Schönherr, following her brother Joseph (Jup, born 1920) and sister Magedelena (Leni, born 1922.)  The three children were raised in a small house on the main street leading to the church in the village’s centre. Romania was known as the ‘Fruit basket of Europe’ before the war and Christine had many happy memories of picking peaches and plums from the trees of the village's orchards from her childhood.

 In 1945, as the Second World War was ending and as Red Army troops poured west capturing territory previously held by the Nazis, the village of Deutsch-Stamora came under Soviet occupation. All those fit enough were taken away in cattle trucks to work in forced labour
camps. Christine, at the age of 21, was one such person. Her brother and sister had left the village before-hand and so escaped this fate.

 

 She soon found herself toiling every day from 6 am until 3 pm at a coal mine in Rudovka, in the Ukraine, for eighteen months. The meagre rations of thin porridge, soup and three slices of bread meant that her health quickly deteriorated and after twelve months of slave labour she was on the verge of starvation. In 1947 she became so ill that she found herself confined to the camp’s very basic infirmary. By selling her gold earrings (a gift from her grandfather) to a Ukrainian lady doctor she was able to buy enough food (mainly semolina) to regain enough of her health to survive. Soon after this the Soviets decided that the women of Rudovka might be more productive if they were sent to work on farms instead and so Christine found herself in Soviet occupied East Germany, near the town of Magdeburg. Once there she wrote a letter to her sister, Leni, who came to rescue her, smuggle her out of the Russian-occupied zone and take her back to where she and her brother were by then living, in Hanover. Christine still struggled with the dilemma and desire to return home to Romania to be with her mother but realised that this was not to be.
 
Christine came to England and settled in the West Midlands where she worked as an ancillary nurse in Cheddleton near Leek. Christine made many friends at this time. Her sister, Leni, came to England too and settled in the Mansfield area with her husband, a displaced person from Lithuania who was now employed as a coal miner. It was by this means that Christine met her husband, another Lithuanian refugee coal-miner, called Joe. On March 27th 1956 they married and bought a house in Cookson Street, Kirkby-in-Ashfield for £500. Christine had two children, a daughter Irena and a son, Algis and soon she began, at last, to settle into some kind of normal family life.
Whatever normality was present in those days was abruptly halted however. On September 14th 1962 her husband, Joe, suffered a severe mining accident that broke his back and would confine  him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  Christine stuck by him throughout all that time despite his increasing frustration and bad temper.

 

 

 In 1967 they moved from Cookson Street to a bungalow in Greenacres so that Joe could once again get around the whole house on his own.
 Christine lived under a great strain for many years,  and in 1995 it came to a head when she visited her husband whilst he was in a Sheffield hospital for one of his quite regular stays and it must have taken its toll because, a few minutes after arriving, she suffered a stroke which paralysed her left arm from that moment onwards. Life now became much more difficult for Christine  and then in 1998 her husband, Joe, died leaving her living on her own for the first time in forty-two years.

In 1999 Christine left Greenacres and moved into a home. She spent the last two and a half years at Hempton Fields nursing home, Chinnor, in Oxfordshire where she was very well looked after and received excellent care and attention. They made her last few months as pleasant as possible but on 30th July 2002 she suffered a sudden and very severe stroke from which she did not recover. She died in the early hours of 7th August with her daughter, Irena, by her side. She leaves one sister, one daughter, one son and six grand-children.

 Those that knew Christine will always remember her as a sweet, simple, selfless and kind person who suffered too much in her 78 years.

 Her funeral took place on Friday 16th August 2002 at Our Lady’s Roman Catholic Church, Kirkby-in-Ashfield. The service was conducted by Father Frank Higgins. Also present (that we know of) were Irena, David, Alex and Helena Newcombe, Algis, Lesley, Kestutis, Laima, Zemyna and Rozalija Kuliukas, Leni, Vytautas & Irena, Richard & Jackie Kavaliauskas, Mr & Mrs F. Josnoch, Mrs. N. Clayden, Mr & Mrs R. Clarke, Mrs. A. Z. Gregory, Mr & Mrs J. Feifer, Mrs. M. Smith, Mrs. M. Wells, Mr Morely, Mr & Mrs. B & V Burton, Mrs. Lewandowski, Mrs. M. Geasley, Mrs. Omara-Winson, Miss S. Doyle, Mrs S. Juckmiewicz, and Mrs Trudi Pawlak.

Algis Kuliukas

August 2002