I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The RMS Titanic and the Stolen Baby!

Over on Inkwell Inspirations, I've got a post on what the RMS Titanic taught me about my spiritual life. But there was another story I wanted to share, too...

This past summer, my family visited an exhibition of artifacts from the RMS Titanic as the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. All over the globe, visitors have attended similar exhibitions, moved by the recreated staterooms, biographical sketches, miniaturized iceberg, and perfectly-preserved remnants on display. Dishes, unbroken. Precious jewelry, its wearers lost. Money and sheet music, protected by leather from the watery deep.

When you enter the exhibit, a docent hands you a card with the name, class, and a brief biography of a real Titanic passenger printed on it of your sex (many Holocaust museums do the same thing). The card doesn't tell you, however, if your passenger survived. You have to get to the end of the exhibit to find out, but boy, do you start worrying about your assigned passenger. Mine was sixty-year-old Emma Bucknell, a first-class passenger whose husband founded Bucknell University. My heart dropped when my children were assigned third-class passengers, however. Things didn't look good for them, and I hoped they wouldn't be devastated to learn of their deaths.

It turned out both of their passengers lived. When we got home, we decided to do a little research on them. It turned out that the Titanic's sinking was just the beginning of a terrible nightmare for my daughter's passenger, Mrs. Leah Aks.

Born in Poland, eighteen-year-old Leah Rosen Aks boarded the Titanic with her ten-month old son, Frank. Leah's husband, Sam, awaited them in America, where he'd gone ahead to Norfolk, Virginia, to open a tailoring shop. Leah and "Filly" received their own third-class cabin, and no doubt they enjoyed the privacy.

Leah and Filly were fortunate to make it up to the deck after the ship struck the iceberg, although they were not dressed warmly. Leah found herself next to Madeleine Astor, who provided her white silk shawl for Filly. As lifeboat 11 was lowering into the water, a frantic passenger ripped Filly from Leah's arms and tossed him into the boat. Like any mother would, Leah rushed the boat, screaming, but she was restrained by crew members.

Her baby disappeared over the side.

Leah, in a state of panic, was eventually pushed onto lifeboat 13 beside a woman named Serena Cook. I can't imagine what Leah went through that night. The trauma of the sinking, the cries and moans of injured and grieving, the bitter cold, and the unbearable not knowing. Where was Filly? Was he safe? Cared for? Would she ever know?

After being rescued by the Carpathia, Leah was with Serena on deck, freezing, exhausted, and desperate for her child. She heard a cry and looked up. An Italian woman walked past, carrying a baby boy. Filly?

Of course. Leah would know her Filly anywhere. With joy, she tried to take Filly back, but The Italian woman (possibly Argene del Carlo) insisted the child was hers. She wouldn't relinquish hold. Ever.

She'd seen her baby gone over the edge of the Titanic. He wouldn't be stolen from her arms again. Leah didn't back down, and in a scene reminiscent of the two women before King Solomon, the captain was called in to mediate.

Some reports say that Filly had a birthmark on his chest that Leah could describe. Other stories say Filly's circumcision was sufficient, proving he came from a Jewish mother. Nothing mentions Filly's response upon seeing his mother, which should have said it all.

Leah was reunited with Filly, and they arrived safely in America. The next year, Leah gave birth to a daughter, Sarah Carpathia Aks, although the nurses clearly knew about Leah's harrowing journey, because someone wrote Sarah Titanic Aks on her birth certificate.

And what happened to Filly, the tiny survivor of the Titanic?

Forty years later, he attended a reunion for survivors. He met the woman on whose lap he'd sat in lifeboat 11, Edith Russell. She reported that Frank became a wealthy steel magnate in Virginia.

And he kept Madeleine Astor's scarf, which is now on display in a Virginia museum.

As if the sinking of the Titanic doesn't want to make you hugs your kids already, the story of Leah and Filly is just another reminder of how precious our loved ones are.


Suzie Johnson said...

Oh, my. Susie, this is a beautiful story. I'm sitting here wiping tears from my eyes. This is just - wow - amazing.

Susanne Dietze said...

Oh Suzie, thanks for coming by. Isn't this an amazing story? I can't imagine what Leah went through that night. What joy that they were reunited.

Thanks for coming by.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Awh, this is so touching. Honestly, some people will snatch any opportunity to get what they want. Thankfully, God was watching out for them and ensured the end result was as it should be.

Thanks for this post, Susie. I didn't know about it.

Elissa Aks-Srabstein said...

Leah Rosen Aks and her son, "Filly" were my grandmother, "Mama Aks" and Uncle Phil. My father, Harry Aks, was Leah and Sam's third and last child. I am very, very delighted that your daughter followed my grandmother's story. I have heard many versions of what happened during the Titanic disaster, so it's hard to know what's really accurate. However, I do recall that my grandmother was taken on deck of the Carpathia rescue ship "in a dazed condition" and that it was my 10 month old uncle who "reached out his arms to her." I have also read that she was very shaken from the sinking for about a year. She was very loved by her family and many others. She was a wonderful cook and baker. She also worked at my grandfather's business-Sam Aks' auto parts, which still exists today. My Uncle Phil was active with the Titanic Historical Society his entire life. The items he had (including the scarf from Mrs. Astor) are on display at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA, just off 95. Thank you, again, for your wonderful blog detailing the story of my grandmother and uncle's survival of the Titanic sinking. All best wishes for you and your family's holiday season!!

Susanne Dietze said...

Elissa, I am so glad you came by and shared your family's story! Just amazing. My heart aches for Leah and what she went through, so I'm glad to know she was able to recover. She clearly was a special woman to overcome such a tragic experience and to be such a good mom, grandma and friend. Thank you so much for sharing with me. My daughter will love hearing this news, too.

Praying you enjoy a blessed holiday season, too!

Jill Carlier said...

I am researching certain Titanic passengers for a book I hope to write before I die and Leah and Frank are in my story. I was so happy to find/read this! Thank you, Suzanne, thank you Elissa! I have two questions that I have always wanted answered.

1. was Baby Filly grabbed from leah or was he accidentally dropped in all the confusion?

2. who actually caught Filly? Some sources say it was an Italian woman named Argene DelCarlo and some sources say it was Elizabeth Nye.

Its funny because I belong to a Titanic community where researchers would rather argue about which lifeboat one was saved in and how it was impossible for Madeline Astor to give over her scarf as she wasnt even on the same deck as Leah and Filly!

I have this same name on facebook or a reply here would be lovely. I think I would love to just talk with you! Also, I have read about another decendant named Alan Weinraub. Do you know him? Im trying to find him as well.

What a lovely blog, Suzanne, thank you!

Jill Carlier