Matthew Babka was born in Imperial Russia in 1887. Some time before the Great War, he had immigrated to Canada, where he obtained employment.
In the spring of 1915, perhaps because of the poor military standing of the Czarist Army on the eastern front, he decided to return to his homeland and as a consequence, booked third class passage on the
Lusitania for England, on the main part of his journey home.
Having left Canada at the end of April he boarded the liner on the morning of 1st May 1915 at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour, in time for her scheduled 10.00 a.m. sailing. This sailing was then delayed until the early afternoon as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner the S.S. Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April. Then, just six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20,
within sight of coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool destination.
There were 68 Russian nationals on board at the time and Matthew Babka was fortunate enough to be counted amongst the 29 of them who survived. Having been rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown. It is hoped that he was treated properly, once there, because many of the Russian survivors later complained to their ambassador in Liverpool of their poor treatment at the hands of the authorities!
The story of Matthew Babka ends here. Some time later, his family in Russia communicated with authorities enquiring about him. He never returned to his home, and he was never heard from again. Did he get caught up in the War raging throughout mainland Europe at that time, did he perish at sea on another vessel, did he succumb to illness, or did he simply assume another identity and disappear from his family. He remains a mystery. He was aged 28 years at the time of the sinking.
Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, Graham Maddocks, Jim Kalafus, Mike Poirier, Paul Latimer.
Copyright © Peter Kelly