London to Leningrad- December1931- Last Leg of Journey

The final leg of the journey from New Jersey to Leningrad began in Hull, England, where Dad’s family boarded the Arcturus, a small Finnish passenger steamship at 6:00 on the evening of December 23.   The Arcturus was nothing like the luxurious Berengaria. The Berengaria was a magnificent queen, while the Arcturus was a weary peasant.  Travel on the North Sea route was rough, windy, and lonesome.  The sea was choppy.  Christmas Eve was equally unpleasant.  They should have been home in Rockaway, preparing for a happy, albeit sparse Christmas Day.

According to what one of my aunts wrote in the diary, “The afternoon of Christmas Day, the ship arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark.  We  walked around Copenhagen and bought some candy from one store that had remained open.”

The Arcturus left Denmark at noon the next day for its final destination of Helsinki, Finland.  The Baltic Sea was cold and rough.  By the second day out, the entire ship was seasick as the Arcturus rolled from side to side and heaved up and down like a roller coaster.  Dishes slid off the tables and no one was able to eat.  Finally, on the morning of the twenty-eighth, the ship completed its journey.

Within an hour, they were at yet another hotel- The Hansa Hotel.  As they all sat eating breakfast, they watched as the snowy landscape outside the windows of the restaurant was transformed into a scene from a Christmas card. Despite the snow and wind, my grandfather insisted that they take a walk around the city. He allowed them to buy a few trinkets. I am sure he realized they would probably never return again, so he wanted his children to experience as much as possible.

They left for the train at 10:30 that evening, and by 11:23, the train was moving toward its final destination- Leningrad. The train pulled into the station before 6:00 that night.

What would their lives be like?  Was the decision to leave New Jersey correct?  Had my grandfather found the answer of how to live a better life by taking his family away to a country which had not felt the effects of the Great Depression?  Only time would tell.

Rereading the final diary pages of the, I found another entry hidden between the lines: “April 20, 1942- Mrs. Hopler’s gift and ruby ring to Anna. The ruby stone fell out.”   —Who was Mrs. Hopler, and what was the signifcance of the ring?”

Aboard Arcturus copy

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About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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One Response to London to Leningrad- December1931- Last Leg of Journey

  1. kjw616 says:

    I am curious, for anyone who may familiar with Helsinki, if the Hansa Hotel still exists?

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