Every time my husband left for work he’d kiss me and say: ‘I love you, see you tomorrow.’ But then there was no tomorrow
As a criminal probe begins into the Nancy Glen sinking, one of the widows speaks publicly for the first time
HIS reassuring words, meant to make her understand the depth of his feelings for their new adoptive land, will haunt her forever. ‘It is a beautiful and safe place to live,’ Przemek Krawczyk told his wife, Gosia, after leaving their home in Poland to settle in the picturesque fishing village of Tarbert, Argyll.
Today, 13 years on, as a criminal investigation is launched into the sinking of the prawn boat he worked on, the irony of those words are not lost on Mrs Krawczyk as she faces a new chapter of her life without her beloved husband.
In January this year, 38-year-old Mr Krawczyk and his skipper on the Nancy Glen, Duncan MacDougall, 46, drowned when the vessel capsized and sank suddenly in Loch Fyne on its way home from a fishing trip.
There was only one survivor, John Miller, 34, who raised the alarm and was pulled from the water by the crew of a passing boat, before a major search was launched. Despite the best endeavours of the Coastguard, police and local fishermen, however, little could be done.
Both the wreck and the men lay at the bottom of the loch for three
Przemek was everything to me – my life, my love and my best friend
months before the vessel was raised in April and the bodies were mercifully returned to their families.
Now, following the announcement last week that a criminal investigation is under way into the sinking, the fisherman’s widow has opened up for the first time about her need for answers – and her commitment to finding out the truth behind her husband’s death.
The mother of two also spoke candidly about her last moments with her husband and revealed her plans to campaign for new regulations which will guarantee the recovery of all bodies lost at sea.
Last night she said: ‘My husband was everything to me. He was my life, he was my love, he was my best friend and he was an amazing father for our children.
‘I have the right to know why he went to work and never came home. I need answers – without them I cannot move on with my life. It is not just for me – this might prevent something so tragic and so painful happening to others.
‘It is right to be able to explain what happened truthfully to my kids, what happened to their father. I just want to know why he died.’
Mr Krawczyk, originally from the city of Ustka, Poland, was a highly experienced fisherman and had worked in Poland and Ireland for several years, before moving to Tarbert to work on the Scotia Star.
He became the skipper of the vessel – on which he worked for 12 years – before transferring to the Nancy Glen a year before the sink- ing on January 18. Last week, the Crown Office announced that the procurator fiscal had instructed Police Scotland to investigate the circumstances around the deaths.
Mrs Krawczyk, 41, believes this is the only way she will find out why her husband died.
Recalling the moment a neighbour broke the news that there had been a tragic accident involving the Nancy Glen, she said: ‘Half of me died that night and I want to know what happened – what made my husband go to work and not come home. I was busy around the house, cleaning up with music on, and I was happy, because Przemek said they had caught a lot of prawns all week and I was secretly hoping he might get the next day off.
‘But as I was taking the bins out, my neighbour came up to me and asked: “Who is with you? Do you know what’s happened?” I said no. I didn’t understand, I was still happy. She told me there had been an accident. It still didn’t click. Then she told me it was the Nancy Glen. I ran inside and started screaming and crying. I put my shoes and jacket on and I ran to the harbour.
‘Everyone in the village was there. I knew he had no chance of surviving in that water. But it was so calm, the water was so still – there was no reason for him to die. I hope that one day I will find out why.’
Following the tragedy, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) conducted a seabed survey of the Nancy Glen, which was lying at a depth of around 460ft, and concluded that it could not raise the boat.
However, following a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than £280,000 to try to recover the bodies, the Scottish Government stepped in and began working with salvage specialists.
The entire operation is believed to have cost around £1 million – and the crowdfunding money will now be divided between the families.
On April 12, the Nancy Glen was raised by a lifting barge and the bodies of the two fishermen were recovered the following day.
Mrs Krawczyk, who did not leave her home for five weeks following the tragedy, said knowing her husband was still at the bottom of the sea was ‘too painful for words’.
She said: ‘I felt so guilty, all the time, sitting and having a coffee here whilst my husband was there at the bottom of the sea.
‘I just wanted to go and take him myself but I couldn’t. I could not leave the house. I know it sounds ridiculous but I know deep down that I was waiting for him to come home. Because every time my husband left for work, he would kiss me on the forehead and say ‘I love you, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ Every time. And the night before he died, he did the same thing. But there was no tomorrow.’
Mrs Krawczyk is now determined to campaign for new regulations in Scotland which will ensure that all boats are raised and all bodies, where possible, are returned to their families.
She said: ‘I really hope my husband’s death brings something positive – not for me but for others, for other fishermen and their families, that he didn’t die for nothing.
‘Fishermen risk their lives every day and sacrifice themselves to bring the goods of the ocean for people to enjoy. They deserve to be protected and treated like everyone else – and have a guarantee that if something happens, their boat and their bodies will be recovered.’
She added: ‘I believe only the Scottish Government can make these changes. They have shown me they can do this, because I was in the middle of hell, and they managed to bring my husband home to me.’ She admits she will always cherish the moment she was finally able to say a proper goodbye to her husband after his body was recovered.
She said: ‘I am the lucky one. I got to sit beside him and be with him. I got to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him. I got to have a last date with my husband.
‘It was the most difficult farewell in my life but on this day I was the happiest person on earth because I got a chance to say goodbye.
‘I will be forever grateful to the Scottish Government for this – they brought my husband back to me and because of them, I was able to have one last date with him. I believe everyone should have this chance. I don’t want any other families, wives or children to go through the nightmare I went through.’
Mr Krawczyk, who graduated as a chef and worked in many restaurants in Poland before joining the Polish navy, where he served as a chef on a destroyer, left behind two children – Kacper, 21, and Mia, five.
The couple had IVF treatment for 12 years to have their youngest child – and Mrs Krawczyk said that explaining to her daughter what happened was one of the most difficult things she has faced.
She said: ‘He adored our son Kacper, and Mia. It is hard because Mia is so young, she won’t remember a lot, and she doesn’t understand what has happened.
‘I told her that her dad has gone to the sky, and for the first few nights after he died, we looked out the window and waved to him and said “Goodbye Dad, we love you”. But on the third night, she asked me why dad can’t take a rocket and come down to see us.
‘I realised then that she doesn’t understand. I have kept thousands of photos and documents for her when she is older, so she can create her own picture of him.’
Gazing lovingly at the family portraits and snaps on the walls around her, she solemnly added: ‘I would give anything for just ten minutes with him, just to tell him that I love him.
‘Being Przemek’s wife was an honour for me. I am grateful for every minute. I know our time together was shorter than we had hoped, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I would do it all again, exactly as we did it.’
I held his hand and told him how much I loved him. It was the most difficult farewell in my life
RECOVERY: The wreck of the Nancy Glen is winched from the seabed in an operation that cost the Scottish Government £1 million
LOVING FATHER: Przemek Krawczyk shared a kiss with wife Gosia before every voyage from Tarbert. Right, the doting dad and husband with daughter Mia, son Kacper and Gosia