Ondrey Kocej (Andrew Kucey) born 1893, emigrated from near the small farming village of Marikova, Slovakia (Czechoslavakia) to the mining community of Coalhurst, Alberta since the year 1929. He found work in the collieries and saved in order to buy a small house for his family who were still in Europe. Wife Maria (nee Kapitanik) aged thirty-eight, son Cyril twelve and daughter Sidonia (Sonya) aged nine, sailed aboard the S.S. Bremmen in 1933 to join him in Canada.
The family reunited and settled down to life in the community. With the start of the depression, work was sporadic in the collieries, but it was still the major work for the majority of men. Andrew Kucey was working in the mine on the evening of December 9, 1935 when disaster struck. The Coalhurst mine explosion left Andrew Kocej injured but lucky to be a survivor. From his hospital bed, Andrew recounted the story for a reporter from the Lethbridge Herald. "We had just passed other men going into mine about three minutes before explosion. We were coming out. As we passed pipe man by name of Gresl he said, "You go home?" I answered "Yes". We went about fifty feet. We saw sparks and fire. Then fire came like mighty wind. There was terrific explosion. Knocked me down. Threw me on rails. Cut knee to bone. I thought air pipe had broken, but that wasn't it. " Kocej's belief is that a spark from telephone wires in the mine ignited gas in the mine, causing explosion. His clothes were burnt, his hair singed his eyebrows burned off, face blistered and his arms and hands are swathed in bandages.
"After the explosion we threw away our dinner pails and crawled on hands and knees for 20 minutes to reach the shaft. The smell of gas was terrible. I choked, couldn't breathe for some minutes. Fire, rocks, dust all over, big noise, couldn't see. Covered face with hands and crawled."
With the approach of World War 11, Andrew joined the RCAF as a cook and was stationed in Lethbridge, to where he moved his family which had grown with the addition of a son, Frank.
After the war, Andrew worked for the Lethbridge Municipal Airport until his retirement in 1958.
His daughter Sonja married John Buck in December, 1944 and they made Edmonton their home where John established his own electrical business.
Maria Kucey became ill and passed away in Edmonton University Hospital in 1954.
Cyril Kucey married and resided in Vancouver, British Columbia until his death in November, 1974.
Andrew Kucey lived in quiet retirement to the age of 79, and passed away in Lethbridge in October, 1972.
John Buck died in April, 1978, and Sonja Buck in December, 1981, in Edmonton.
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