Luton family missing in Ukraine

In November 1916, former Luton Hoo gardener Jesse William Funge, his wife Ethel and young daughter fled from Germans occupying Rumania, where they had been working for Prince and Princess Bibesco. They escaped to Russia, where they settled in February 1917, only to get caught up in the later revolution there. Nothing more had been heard from them since August 1918.

Funge familyIn April 1919, Ethel's father, Mr Arthur Kent, of Hazelbury Crescent, Luton, was naturally concerned and sought the assistance of local MP Cecil Harmsworth.

The Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph (May 3th, 1919) took up the story. When last heard from the Funge family (pictured) were in the Ukraine and trying to return to Mogosoaia, the Rumanian seat of Princess Bibesco, but the Consul had urged them to remain in Ukraine.

Mr Harmsworth informed Mr Kent that it was impossible to inquire about Mr and Mrs Funge while they were under the Government of Chernugovsk, as it was impossible to communicate with that district. The Acting British Consul at Odessa had recently telegraphed that communication with the Ukraine was impossible. It also seemed impossible to make inquiries via Rumania, in view of the impossibility of communicating with Russia through Bessarabia.

Mr Harmsworth suggested that Mr Kent should write to Princess Bibesco and ascertain if she had received any news.

Writing from London on April 28th, the Princess said the letter had been forwarded from Bucharest. She was very sorry that she could not give news of Mr and Mrs Funge. They had written to her some months previously from Kiev, expressing a wish to get back to Rumania.

She at once replied that she would be very glad to have them back. She had heard nothing since, even having made inquiries from several friends, but she promised to acquaint Mr Kent with any news she might receive, and asked him to let her have any message he may receive. She hopes all was well with them and that they would be able to return to her in Rumania.

This is a period of anxiety for Mr Kent and family, said the Saturday Telegraph. It was to be hoped good news would speedily come.