Stefan Bialans was born in Tsarist Russia in 1885. Some time before the Great War, he had emigrated to the United States of America and settled in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he presumably found work.
In the spring of 1915, however, perhaps perceiving that the forces of Imperial Russia were not faring well against The Central Powers, and maybe mindful of his patriotic duty, he decided to return to his homeland. As a consequence, he booked third class passage on the May sailing of the Lusitania from New York to Liverpool, on the first part of his journey home.
Having left Connecticut some time in April, he boarded the liner on the morning of 1st May 1915 at Pier 54 - the Cunard berth in New York - but had to wait until the early afternoon for the liner to sail out of the port. This was because she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April. Just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, just off the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her home port.
69 Russian nationals boarded the liner at New York but only 29 survived the sinking. Stefan Bialans was fortunate enough to be one of these and having been rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown. It is hoped that he was treated properly there, with courtesy and respect, because many of the Russian survivors were later to complain to the Russian Ambassador in Liverpool that they had been treated very badly by the authorities in Queenstown.
It is not known whether or not Stefan Bialans ever completed his journey to his homeland or indeed if he managed to survive the war! He was aged 30 years at the time of the liner’s last voyage.
Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, Graham Maddocks.
Copyright © Peter Kelly