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Sophie Klebanska with 2nd class passengers, SS Finland, Dec, 1912

My grandmother, Sophia Klebanskaya, was 17 when she left Volkovysk for the United States in 1912.  She traveled on the SS Finland, from Antwerp to New York.

She remembered traveling in spring; but according to her passenger list, the ship left Antwerp on November 30 and arrived in New York on December 12. She was an unaccompanied minor, but evidently traveled using her sister Mary’s identity. She is listed as Mary Klebanska, age 24, from Volkovysk, slated to go to her sister Juliette Fabry in Chicago. She was befriended by a woman on board, a nurse who helped her find the train station once they arrived, so grandma could travel on to Chicago. One memory that stood out in her mind nearly 80 years later, was the sight of another woman passenger sitting quietly, moving her mouth back and forth, looking like a cow chewing her cud. This was grandma’s first experience of chewing gum.

The SS Finland was a ship of the Red Star Line. Next August, the Red Star Line Museum will be opening in Antwerp, and this picture, and the story that goes with it, will be part of the exhibition. If at all possible, I plan to attend the museum opening in September.



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