This is part of my series of interesting newspaper articles and snippets that I find in the old Latvian newspapers available through Periodika. Most of the articles I post are in some way related to migration, wars or other events that are of particular genealogical note.

Source: Strādnieku AvÄ«ze (Workers’ Newspaper), April 7, 1923

Escaped from a ship’s command. The following ship workers deserted from the steamship “Estonia” when it was in a New York port: Jānis Strazdiņš, Adolfs Freimanis, Augusts RudzÄ«tis, Bruno Freimanis, Staņislavs VodeiÅ¡o, Staņislavs Papirtis, Aleksandrs Dovkants, Ludwigs Zvagulis, Ernests KreiÅ¡manis, Adolfs Eilenbergs, Adolfs Kleins and Reinholds Baburs. By order of the captain, if the deserters return to Latvia, they will be held to account for their actions.

One has to wonder – why did these ship workers desert the Estonia, a ship that travelled from Liepāja to New York during the 1920s? I am particularly interested in finding answers, since the last man mentioned, Reinholds Baburs, is very likely to be my great-great-grandmother Karline Matilde Baburs’ cousin. Baburs is an extremely uncommon name in Latvia, and the ages fit with a Reinholds Baburs I have a record of.

I looked up the ship manifest on Ellis Island, and this is what I found about the twelve men, in the same order as mentioned in the article – their jobs, their ages, and their years of service at sea.

  1. Jānis Strazdiņš – Cooks’ mate, 27, 7 years service
  2. Adolfs Freimanis – Mess boy, 30, 1/2 year service
  3. Augusts RudzÄ«tis – Mess boy, 42, 9 years service
  4. Bruno Freimanis – Mess boy, 33, no years of service
  5. Staņislavs VodeiÅ¡o – Waiter, 45, 2 years service
  6. Staņislavs Papirtis – Waiter, 25, 4 years service
  7. Aleksanders Dovkants – Musician, 33, 1 year service
  8. Ludwigs Zvagulis – Musiker, 37, 1/2 year service
  9. Ernest KreiÅ¡manis – Electrical Assistant, 39, 12 years service
  10. Adolfs Eilenbergs – Kitchen boy, 24, 8 years service
  11. Adolfs Kleins – Waiter, 41, 1/2 year service
  12. Reinholds Baburs – Music Conductor, 41, 2 1/2 years service

The manifest mentions four other deserters as well, but those four were not Latvian citizens, so hence why they probably weren’t mentioned in a Latvian newspaper.

Looking at their ages, and the average time at sea – one really has to wonder why they left the ship. The conditions must have been extremely harsh to get people who have had as many years of service as some of them have to desert – I’m sure that could affect future job prospects. And why would two musicians and a conductor desert a ship if there were bad conditions? Could they have not pursued a career on land? I’m very curious.

Then the next question – did they leave as a group, or individually? Did they know that the others were planning it too? How common was desertion from ships in this era? That is a question I want to answer.

Furthermore – did any of these men ever return to Latvia? I found a newspaper article that mentions a Reinholds Baburs selling land in Preiļi parish in 1935, but that doesn’t say anything about his age, so I don’t know if he is the same Reinholds Baburs. Not to mention such a sale could potentially take place without him being there. So did he ever return? If so, what was his punishment? Or do I have some unknown distant relatives somewhere in the United States? I’m curious to know! So if you happen to be descended from Reinholds Baburs – or any of these crewmen, for that matter – do let me know what happened to them!

Workers’ Newspaper – April 7, 1923
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