The White Star Line that owned the Titanic paid Marcelle’s passage to America on the Oceanic, so that she could personally claim her children. There was some suspicion of whether Marcelle was truly their mother. However, when Madame Navratil arrived on May 16, New York was impressed.
Marcelle Navratil was 21 years old, Italian, “and as pretty as the two children whom even the sea spared,” the papers wrote. “She is rather slender, lithe and graceful, with a wealth of lustrous black hair, big brown eyes, and a complexion of peach-bloom. She wore deep morning, and dark shadows under her eyes told of many days and nights of yearning she had spent for her children since first she learned of their fate and came to recover them in a strange land.”
The reporters learned Marcelle had socialized very little on her voyage, except with one American woman who spoke fluent French. She had been consumed with worry that her young sons would not recognize her.
Madame Navratil was detained only a short time by customs formalities about her baggage she had only two pieces, a small suitcase and a little valise. Her reunion with the children was picturesque. The door was flung open and the boys’ reaction showed she was indeed their mother. “Mes enfants!” she cried. “Mes petits.”
Michel was sitting in the corner of the window seat, with a big pictured alphabet book in his lap. The little one was scrambling over the floor awkwardly trying to piece together a puzzle picture, and crowing contentedly to himself the while in a language no one else could understand. “A growing wonder spread across over the already serious little face of the bigger boy, while the little one, stared in wide-eyed bewilderment at the figure in the doorway.”
Edmond let out one long wail and ran with tiny outstretched arms to his mother. The mother was trembling with sobs and she ran forward and picked up her boys. Little Edmond cried, “Oh Maman! Oh Maman!” As if his heart would break, while Michel cried softly. Madame Navratil and her two boys were left alone in the room for nearly an hour.
Later, Madame Navratil declared to “la presse” that she had not asked the children a single word about their experience on shipboard or thereafter, nor about their father, who had parted with them on the titanic and gone to his death with the ship. “I do not want them to think about that,” she said. “They must be only happy from now on—only happy; no more distress.”
The White Star Line paid for their passage home to Nice, France at the end of May.