All Saints Day – In Memory of Jan Kuta

The Video below is a reflection of All Saints Day, and in memory of my grandfather, John Kuta – During World War II, He was arrested in Hamme, Belgium and sent to Morbac Labour Camp by Nazi Germany.

The video reflects his time spent here, and the ordeal he faced.

Below is a full transcript of the video.

All Saints Day

Yhana and I are starting our trip today in Church Street, Maldon because not only do we want to visit Maldon Cemetery to pay our respects to my Grandfather, Yhana’s Great-Grandfather but we also wanted to re-visit a few locations around the town that are connected in one way or another to our family story.

So our first stop is St Mary’s Church, where a few of our forebears are buried. 

Many of these locations Yhana has never visited, so It’s going to be a new adventure for her.

It’s the 1st November, All Saints Day and being that my grandfather identified himself as Roman Catholic, although baptised Greek Catholic and in keeping with  family tradition we intend to light some candles next to his graveside.

My grandfather John Kuta, was born in 1924 in Komarno, Galicia. Which is an Eastern European territory that existed between 1770 – 1918, at the time of his birth. Komarno was a Polish town, I will tell you a little more about this as the film progresses.

Just here, under this extension is buried my 2x great-grandmother Charlotte Anna Newman, who was born Charlotte Diskett on the 19th July 1866 in Compton Valence, Dorset. She moved to Essex with her first husband Charles Barrett, a soldier for Colchester (my 2x great-grandfather.) Sadly he died very young and is buried in Colchester. But Charlotte is buried alongside her second husband Frederick. Its a shame though, that this new extension was built right on top of their burial. Charlotte died in Spital Road, Maldon on the 23rd April 1935.

Firstly, A little about all Saints day

All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, or Hallowmas, is a Christian celebration in honor of all the saints from Christian history. In Western Christianity, it is observed on November 1st by the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church, and other Protestant denominations. The Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic churches observe All Saints Day on the first Sunday following Pentecost. 

The Christian festival of All Saints Day comes from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between those in Heaven and on Earth. In Catholic tradition, the holiday honors all those who have passed on to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a national holiday in numerous historically Catholic countries. In Methodist tradition, All Saints Day relates to giving God earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of his saints, remembering those who were well-known and not. Additionally, individuals throughout Christian history are celebrated, such as Peter the Apostle and Charles Wesley, as well as people who have personally guided one to faith in Jesus, such as one’s relative or friend.

Right now we are taking a little wander down Fitches Crescent, which is not far from St Mary’s Church and The Promenade. It is here that my grandfather John lived with my grandmother Rosie May. Every time I visit this street, its always a trip down memory land for me as I stayed here as a small boy and have a lot of very early memories of the place.

My grandfather’s hands were placed into a machine and the Nazi’s broke them.

For many years I have been piecing together the life of my grandfather John Kuta or as he was known in Poland – Jan Kuta, Or in the Ukraine Iban Kyta and France Jean Kuta – My grandfather was associated with all these places and moved around a lot, not always through choice. As a result his story is a complicated one 

He was a Pole, born on the 21st January 1924, his family fled Poland just a few weeks before the Russians / Ukrainians invaded in the late 1920’s and settled in Bethune, France.

His ordeal was not over, as the Nazi’s invaded France in 1940.

And he found himself on the wrong side of Nazi Germany whilst fighting and protesting against them.

On one occasion – My grandfather was arrested in Hamme, Belgium.

He was then transferred to Morbach concentration camp via Detmold Court House, Germany. 

Morbach is classed as a french camp although now located close to its border in Germany. It is a subsidiary camp that belonged to Natzweiler-Struthof, a camp infamous for human experiments. (Please forgive my pronunciation of the German words)

He was transported to his prison on 5th November 1942 at 11.09 am

He was sentenced to 8 weeks on two separate occasions, but may easily have been held longer.

He was forced two work hard manual labour and on one occasion didn’t comply so my grandfather’s hands were placed into a machine and the Nazi’s broke them.

On his release he would have had no money.

And probably walked 446 kilometres = 277.132 miles home to Bethune, through dangerous war ravaged france.

He was sent to a labour camp on two occasions

Whilst home in France, his family worked tiresomely as farmers, for three years they lived on a diet of Turnips as food was scarce and monopolised by the Germans.

Eventually he ended up in a Polish displacement camp in Essex, England, it is believed he arrived in 1945.

My Grandfather, Jan Kuta was one of those people that lived on the edge and survived more then most of us ever could. I never knew my Grandfather, he died just a few months before I was born. I would have been his first Grandson and like my sister before me I imagine he would have been a Godsend to us. Everyone that talks of him, always do with admiration and love, he was a “Nice” man and respected by everyone that knew him.

Jan Kuta was born on the 18th January 1924, in Katarynice, Lviv, Poland. He was one of four known children born to Michal and Katarzyna Kuta. 

Jan was born during a time of difficulty right at the beginning of the second polish republic. A time of interwar which started with the recreation of independent Poland (1918) and ended with the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union at the onset of the Second World War. During the second polish republic, Poland was often chaotic and for some an unsafe place to be. Jan’s family especially lived in a region of Poland which boarded with Ukraine, a piece of land disputed and fought over by more then one country for over two hundred years. 

John hardly spoke of what happened in Germany, in Poland upon the borders of Ukraine. All I can guess is that the memory he had, was to heart breaking to remember.

John was taken from us on the 23 February 1878, at 44 Fitches Crescent, Maldon. He past away suddenly through Cardiac Arrest and Ischaemic Heart Disease, he was 54 years old.

No age really, and a great loss to the family he left behind.

John’s ashes were laid to rest at London Road, Cemetery, Maldon where his memorial still remains today. 

A small reminder of a brave, amazing man.

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