- Veronica Smile
- BBC News Mundo, Argentina
His father was a flower grower. His mother, teacher. And he grew up in a province – Misiones, in northeastern Argentina – that does not open into the sea.
But while there was no obvious connection to the nautical, Eliana Krawczyk had been fascinated by the idea of being a part of the navy since childhood.
“We had an older cousin who graduated from a naval school and she used to see him in his uniform when he came back from high school and was stunned, then he got the desire to join the Force,” his sister Silvina tells BBC Mundo .
Eliana was the only female crew member of the 44 who died in the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine in the South Atlantic, who is now five years old.
The family did not have the means to send the youngest of six siblings -four men and two women- to study at the nearest naval school, in Buenos Aires, so after graduating from high school, he began studying engineering at a nearby university.
However, in 2002, after her mother passed away, the young woman, then 20 years old, was determined to follow her dreams and the following year she joined the Navy.
It was in his first year of naval school that he made the decision that would mark his destiny: being a diver
“He went with his nest to the Mar del Plata naval base to swear the flag. It rained a lot that day and his companions always say that they were completely soaked. In the distance he saw the shape of a submarine and it was there that he said he was going to be a diver,” says Silvina.
it would end graduate with the best average and make history not only in his country, but also in the region.
“Argentina has had submarines since 1933. It took Eliana 79 years to graduate in 2012 as the first female submarine officer of the Argentine Republic and of South America,” says her proud sister.
fearless and generous
Silvina was not surprised that her younger sister pioneered.
“My mother always said he was like a boy scout: he was always ready for anything. He set a goal and stuck to it.”
His biggest dream, he says, was become a commander. “If her life hadn’t been cut short, she would have gained weight,” she says confidently.
In her lifetime, she reached the rank of lieutenant and was posthumously promoted to lieutenant commander.
After graduating from naval school and before specializing as a submariner, he sailed around the world aboard the emblematic frigate ARA Libertad, conducting two summer Antarctic campaigns.
After completing her specialization, she was assigned as a crew member of the submarine ARA Salta.
As the only female submariner in the country, she logically always had to work surrounded by men.
“It felt like a lakesays Silvina, when asked about that experience.
During her career, she has never complained of discrimination or abuse because of her gender, she says.
In an interview in 2016, Eliana herself told how she felt about being appointed commander-in-chief of the ARA San Juan, the jewel of the Argentine submarine fleet.
“I’m the only woman on board and I feel good, satisfied and happyhe counted.
“I sleep with two companions in the same cabin, I do my morning watch and I am responsible for launching torpedoes during military exercises,” she described.
Silvina notes that her sister was used to being among men.
“We grew up in a family with many boys and she was the youngest. The boys ran the patota (gang) and Eliana had an affinity with them.”
She adds that she did not follow traditional feminine patterns.
“When Justice released her locker at the naval base, we went looking for her belongings. You could imagine that because she was a woman, there could be perfume and makeup, but we found books and magazines about submarines.”
However, not everything in his life was work. “She was a friend for many years with a civilian and I longed to be a mother somedayalthough due to work commitments he always postponed that dream,” he reveals.
Instead, he used that ‘mother soul’ with his brothers, he says.
While sailing with the Navy, instead of renting an apartment in Mar del Plata, where she was stationed, she lived on the ship when they returned to land, and with the money she had saved, she took first Silvina and then her brother Junior along. , to whom he paid their careers also related to the sea.
Silvina holds a degree in marine propulsion and worked for many years as a machinist in the merchant navy. His brother, who died of cancer in 2018, graduated from fishing school and was also an operator on a fishing boat.
What happened to the ARA San Juan
Based on her professional experience, Silvina rejects the post-sink theories that the submarine was in poor condition.
The sub had its half-life repaired, he says, and “Eliana never told me it was wrong.”
On the contrary, she was immensely proud of her ship, which she nicknamed the “steel giant”.
Regarding the failure of the ARA San Juan during its penultimate navigation, as it traveled from Mar del Plata, in Buenos Aires province, to Ushuaia, in the extreme south of Patagonia, he points out that “they always arise in mechanics. In all boats are damaged”.
But he says when he last spoke to Eliana, on November 8, before they sailed back from Ushuaia on what would be his last voyage, he told her the problem (an oil leak) was under control and fixed.”
In addition, he assures that his sister “was not a kamikaze” and that the crew would not have set sail if they had any doubts about the condition of the vehicle.
After five years, The Argentine judiciary has not yet determined the cause of the sinking. The main hypothesis is that something caused the ARA San Juan to implode.
Silvina is not surprised that it is still not well known what happened to the ship, which was found exactly one year and two days after the sinking at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, some 500 kilometers from the city of Comodoro Rivadavia.
“The submarine is here 907 meters deep and, from what I could see in the pictures, it’s destroyed in a 30% or 40%”.
“All that is really known is that there was a message from the Navy that a fire had started, and the latest communication said they were going to a safe floating plane (about 40 meters deep) because the crew had a very brave spent the night because they had sailed on the surface and the storm had treated them very badly”.
Silvina believes the explosion could have been caused by explosive gases generated by that fire, and theorizes it could have been an electrical fault caused by water ingress in the battery room when the submarine surfaced to refresh the air, in the middle of the storm that produced very high waves.
A report from the Department of Defense and another from Congress point to something similar.
For Silvina, one of the few family members who took part in the search for the sunken submarine aboard a contracted American ship, the find meant closure.
“Humanly speaking, we need to know where our loved ones who have died are. We need to identify where their graves are. It was like closing a cycle“, he reflects.
However, he clarifies that his family does not agree with the request of the majority of the relatives of the 44 deceased crew members who want the authorities Float the remains of the ARA San Juan againan operation that would be very expensive.
“That’s their grave for eternity. It’s a symbiosis of the 44 with the sea and their submarine.”
The thought of his sister lying there gives him peace.
“Eliana is in the place she chose. The submarine, her ‘steel giant’, covers her and she sails stealthily into the sea, the place where she has chosen to be.”
Don’t forget that you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss our best content.