The incredible story of Titanic Orphans.4 min read
It was the night of April 14, 1912, and RMS Titanic, the Ship of Dreams, was sinking. As we all know, nobody was spared from the terrible experience of dread on board, everybody, men, women, and children.
Michel Marcel Navratil was almost four-years-old at the time, and his brother Edmond Roger Navratil was two-years-old. They survived the disaster only because there was a place for them on Collapsible D, the ninth and final life-saving vessel that was lowered from the Titanic’s side. The two brothers were placed in the boat by Mr. Michel Navratil, their father. It’s sad, but this was the last memory the children would have of him, in fact the crew would allow only women and children into the lifeboats, so he had to remain on board the damaged ship. After the disaster, people dubbed them the Titanic Orphans: the French-speaking children didn’t understand English and knew only their nicknames, Lolo and Momon, and remained unclaimed by any guardian.
Until they could be reunited with a close family member, they were cared for by a woman, also a Titanic survivor, who lived in New York City, which spoke French and she could communicate with the children. It took a month and countless of newspaper appeals with photographs of Lolo and Momon before their mother was found: she was Ms. Marcelle Caretto, an Italian woman who lived in Nice, France, and was brought to New York on May 16, 1912.
But why the children were traveling only with their father? And their mother? Ms. Caretto didn’t have any idea her sons were being taken to the United States! It seems that she had never granted such permission to their father, her former husband. They had divorced earlier that year, and full custody of the boys was awarded to Ms. Caretto. Mr.Navratil could see the children only over weekends and holidays and so he plotted a clandestine program for the Easter weekend: to take his sons with him for start a new life in America. He picked up the boys on Good Friday, April 5, 1912, just days before the Titanic was to start his fatal maiden journey (and his last). From France, Mr.Navratil and his sons traveled to England. He had purchased three second-class tickets but with the false name of Hoffman, and they boarded at Southampton on April 10, 1912. It seems that on board, Mr. Navratil rarely let the children out of his sight, because he was afraid that someone could have recognize them, or expose his real identity. In your opinion, Ms.Caretto how much was outraged when she realized both her children missing? Probably, it never crossed her mind the boys’ father was taking them so far away, but he did it, and as you know it didn’t end so well! Not even for Mr.Michel Navratil: his body was among those recovered from the ocean, but because his false name was Jewish, he was buried at the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
But at the end, the children seem to have kept only good memories of the journey. Michel Marcel Navratil remembered later that the Titanic was a magnificent ship: he remembered playing with his brother, the images of the sea, and what they had for breakfast one morning, eggs in the second-class dining room, but he did not remember feeling fear. Only that he fell asleep after they were placed in the lifeboat. In his adult life, he lived in Montpellier, France, and worked as a university professor of psychology. Michel Marcel Navratil died in 2001, at the age of 92, and according to the Titanic Historical Society, he was the last male Titanic survivor. After him, there were four more female survivors still alive.
His younger brother Edmond joined the French troops during World War Two, and did not have a long life like his brother. During the war was held captive in an enemy camp but he eventually fled. His health worsened in the years after the war and he died at the age of 43.