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
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