Does Elian Gonzalez story resemble that of the Navratil boys

Dec 12, 1999
We are being inundated with information on the Elian Gonzalez story, these days. I think that "Titanica" is all the more relevant if it can be related to contemporary events. Has anyone noted any similarity between the story of the Navratil boys, and Elian? At first blush, there appears to be at least some. It seems to me that these children were both taken by a parent, both were taken by a parent who sought a better life in the United States, both lost that parent at sea, both were for a time without a parent, and both were eventually returned to the remaining parent. The big difference is, of course, that the Navratil boys didn't have local relatives who wanted to keep them in the U.S. Additionally, I'm not sure that analogies can be drawn between leaving France in 1912, on the one hand, and leaving Cuba, today, on the other. Was Michael Navratil leaving France because of marital problems, or were there other issues? Although he was not jewish, I read in, I think, "Titanic: An Illustrated History" that he had a jewish background. Did Navratil live in France? With France just coming out of the pathetic Dreyfus affair at that time, he may have sensed persecution, and been concerned about his children growing up there. I'm not sure how Dreyfus, or anti-jewish sentiment may have affected ordinary rank and file people. Certainly, there was enough of the same sentiment in the U.S. at that time (as reflected in 1920s lynching of a jewish Atlanta businessman, for murder of a young girl; he was later proven to have been totally innocent). These are just some ideas I came up with. Perhaps some one else could help with additional facts, or background? Thanks.

Mike Herbold

Feb 13, 2001
Interesting connection and similarities. Actually the reason that Navratil was thought to be Jewish and was even buried in the Jewish cemetery in Halifax was because he was travelling under the name Hoffman. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but just purchased a book entitled "A Rainbow, of Time and of Space," subtitled "Orphans of the Titanic," by Sidney F. Tyler. Found the book through Bookfinder.

It was written in 1981 and tells the story of the two Navratil boys. They were taken care of on the Carpathia by first-class passenger Margaret Hays, who spoke French fluently. When the rescue ship landed she got them clothes and kept them at her New York apartment until their true identity was learned and their mother came from France to get them.

Michel Navratil still lives in France and has been a guest at many Titanic Historical Society functions over the years.
Dec 12, 1999
I was aware of Navratil, Sr., being buried in the Jewish cemetary in Halifax, based upon his psuedonym, "Hoffman." However, I thought that somewhere I read he did, in fact, have jewish relatives, maybe not. I was mistaken about "Illustrated History," which says Navratil was Slovakian. So, perhaps his motive in taking the boys was solely his problematic marriage, and separation. Who knows, maybe that was the underlying motivation with Elian's mother, too? It would be interesting to get Michel Navratil's views on the Elian controversy.

Karen Rock

It's interesting to see the similarity between the Navratil boys and Eilian Gonzalez. Although they had no relatives in the USA, there were opinions that the boys should remain in America with Margaret Hays even after their mother was found. In her book "Titanic: Women & Children First", Judith B Geller tells of the newspaper columnist Dorothy Dix writing that maybe the boys should be allowed to remain in America with the rich Mrs Hays instead of being returned to their poor mother where they would be forced to grow up with few opportunities for a good education and a better life. It's interesting to note that Michel Navratil became a scholar and served as a Professor of Philosophy!

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