Cristina & Roy Koczarski’s Funeral and Celebration of Life

Long time Polish community member, Cristina Koczarski passed away on February 8, 2024. Her late husband, Roy “Wojtek” Koczarski, died during COVID restrictions in April 2021. There will be a funeral mass for Cristina at the St. Madeleine Sophie Church in Bellevue. Following the mass, there will be the burial ceremony for both Cristina and Wojtek and then immediately after the funeral, the family invites everybody to the reception and memorial for both of them at the Polish Cultural Center.

Remembrances:

  • 11 am on June 27, 2024 – funeral mass for Cristina at St. Madeleine Sophie Church in Bellevue – this church was designed by Roy Koczarski
  • 1 pm / following the mass – funeral for Cristina and Wojtek at the Holyrood Cemetary, 1175 N 205th Street, Shoreline
  • 2:30 pm / following the funeral – reception and memorial for both at the Polish Cultural Center

In lieu of flowers, please make donations at the University of Washington gift page, search “Polish”, then choose Maria Kott Endowed Professorship of Polish Studies. You can also donate to the Seattle Polish Foundation and indicate that it is for the Maria Kott Endowed Professorship of Polish Studies.

Please RSVP to Basia McNair by June 16, phone: 206 295 7084 or email to: [email protected]

The obituary for Cristina is below. The obituary for Wojtek is here.

Cristina Janina Koczarski 

Cristina was born Krystyna Janina Rudczenko on January 5, 1932 in the town of Nieswiez, Poland. Her father, Sergiusz was the Superintendent of Schools of that area and her mother, Wiktoria was a school teacher. 

When Cristina started school, she was taught in Polish until the Russians invaded Poland and then they were taught in Russian. The students were told that Stalin would give them candy, the candy came from a picture of Stalin in their classroom.

On New Year’s Day of 1942, Cristina’s father was arrested and her mother was fired from her teaching position. They also lost their home at the same time. Cristina and her mother went to live with an old peasant woman. With the war escalating, Cristina’s mother wanted her to receive the sacraments of Penance and Communion not knowing what the future would hold and she wanted her daughter to be in the state of grace. The local priest spoke with Cristina about the sacraments and was sure Cristina knew what she was doing. After hearing her confession, the priest dressed in his vestments and presented Cristina with her First Holy Communion in a dark church, because they were afraid to be noticed and get into trouble. Cristina, even in her modest surroundings, felt she could hear music.

Serguisz, Cristina’s father was able to get away from the Russians as he was waiting to board the train to Siberia, when the Germans attacked the train station. He slipped away and was reunited with his family by a farmer. Cristina’s family, not wanting to stay in the area where the Russians were, slowly made their way to the German front line and asked the Germans to send them to Warszawa, Poland where Cristina’s uncle and family lived. The Germans took the Rudczenko family all the way to Berlin, where they were put in a labor camp. Both parents were put to work in a Krups factory where war materials were made. They put measurement markings and swastikas on the equipment.

While the war raged on, Cristina did not get behind in her studies. Her parents taught her what they could. When the subject was beyond what they knew, they would search through the camp for other teachers who knew the different subjects.

At the end of World War II, the Rudczenko family were in a displaced persons camp in the Americans’ part of Germany. The Americans were wanting to send the displaced persons back to their home country. Sergiusz explained to the Americans what happened to him when the Russians invaded  Poland, and that he did not want to take his family back to Poland under Russian rule. The Americans said that if he could fill a plane with others who wanted to leave, they would fly them to England and then by boat to the United States. Sergiusz was successful and they were on their way. Before leaving the camp, Cristina was tutored by a person who knew English. Cristina became the translator for her family on the boat, on the train, and in their new home, Seattle.

The family was met by Father Blanchard at the train in Seattle, and he introduced them to their sponsors. Cristina was enrolled in Holy Angels Catholic High for girls, to help improve her English. At Holy Angels, the nuns didn’t think the name “Krystyna” without a “Christ” in it was a good idea. That’s when Krystyna became Cristina. After graduating high school, Cristina attended Seattle University from 1950 to 1952, where she studied accounting. She was very good at it.

Cristina met her future husband, Wojtek Koczarski, at a party in a private Polish family’s home. They continued their friendship/courtship attending events and parties at the Polish Hall in Seattle. Both were in a dance group that Sergiusz taught at the Polish Hall. They performed at the Polish Halls in Seattle and Tacoma.

In 1954, Cristina and Wojtek were married at St Alphonse in Ballard and the reception was in the Rudczenko home right across the street. After Cristina’s mother died, the young couple moved in with her father so they could save money.  Basia, their daughter was born in 1955 while still living in the home in Ballard. Wojtek was designing and building the family’s future home in Bellevue during this time. 

In 1957, they moved into their new home and Sergiusz moved in with them. Adam and Michael were born in 1959 and 1963.

Cristina was active in the Polish community. The ladies were doing all the work behind the parties and events at the Polish Hall. Cristina would work with the other ladies to prepare and decorate for parties; then they would rush home, shower and dress for the party that they all purchased tickets to.

In the 1960s, it was becoming clear that the Polish Hall needed a lot of work. The balcony was rotten, the foundation needed work and maintaining the building and paying the bills were becoming an issue. The ladies of the Polish community came together and formed Kolo Pan, Ladies Auxiliary. Mrs Scrobecki and Mrs Golka were among the first presidents. Cristina was a part of this founding group. The ladies raised money by having a bazaar. Later they had two bazaars a year, one in spring and the other in the fall. During the first bazaars, all the money earned went to the Polish Home Association. Over the years as the ladies saw a need, they would retain some of the money to make purchases. The ladies of Kolo Pan bought a new oven, the dishwasher, the steam table, the double door refrigerator, several freezers and many other needed items. 

The ladies would host the working evenings at each other’s homes, where they would gather around the dining room table and work on items to sell at the bazaar. They made canvas purses, dressed store-bought dolls in Polish costumes, Polish Christmas ornaments and much more. Cristina was put in charge of the deli table at the bazaar. There was no place in the state to buy Polish imports. So, before each bazaar, Cristina and Marta Golubiec would make the journey to Vancouver, British Columbia to purchase items for the bazaar in a Monza  Corvair. It was always nerve-racking, would they make it through the border or held back and asked to pay tariffs, or worse. Marta and Cristina talked with the border guards, telling them about the bazaar and inviting them to come. Before they knew it they were safe back in the United States with no problems.

Cristina and her husband were always active in the Polish community and the Polish Hall. Wojtek would design the new entrance in the late 1960s and again with the new addition. Cristina was baking, cooking, making pierogi or whatever was needed to help the Polish community continue. Cristina was a lifetime member of Polish Home Association and served as a trustee. She was the treasurer of the Polish National Alliance, Seattle branch. Their daughter, Basia followed in their footsteps.

Cristina supported Wojtek in his work as an architect. She would go with him to the events for the many churches he designed. Both were active in the Catholic Church that they attended. Being part of the Catholic Church was very important to both of them. 

Cristina taught all the women of her family to cook their favorite foods. They would be in the kitchen listening to Polish Carols and making Christmas cookies. Kim, Cristina’s granddaughter took pictures of our family dinners, brunches, gatherings and collected the recipes for the Koczarski cookbook. 

The Koczarski home was a welcoming place for family, friends and guests of the Polish community. Cristina and Wojtek sponsored several individuals from Poland and a family from Australia. Together, they would find jobs for the new immigrants and make them feel welcome in their new city and country. Cristina would have visiting performers stay at her home. Cristina would take Polish visitors shopping for the items their families at home had asked them to find. She would always have something sweet freshly baked or waiting in the freezer to be served.  By the time tea was ready, a sweet treat was also ready. Cristina could put together a breakfast or lunch or dinner quickly. Everyone felt at home when staying with them.

Cristina and Wojtek found the most joy in their family members and all their accomplishments. They are survived by their children: Basia(Mark), Adam(Doreen)and Mike(Christina).They have nine grandchildren: Kimberly, Joseph(Carly), David(Molly), Robert, Matthew, Briana, Corey(Cheri), Christian and Dylan. And there are four Koczarski great-grandchildren: Marcus, Sebastian, Quinn and Max.

More: Please contact Basia McNair, phone: 206 295 7084 or email to: [email protected]