Passenger Profile: Ms. Anna
as told by Mr. John Rudolph (Contributing author and grandson of Ms. Turja-Lundi)
“I can never understand why God
would have spared a poor Finnish girl when all those rich people drowned.”
Ms. Anna Turja Lundi, Titanic survivor
Mr. Rudolph resides in California and is Mrs. Turja-Lundi's grandson.
Anna Turja was one
of twenty-one children born in Oulainen, a small town located in northern
Finland. The husband of her sister, Maria, had offered her a job in America
working for him. He booked her passage on the Titanic.
Young Anna Turja
My Grandmother was 18 years old
when she boarded the Titanic in Southampton on her way to America.
To her, the Titanic was literally a floating city. The main deck, with all its shops and attractions was bigger than the main street in her home town in Finland. She was a steerage (third class) passenger. She had two roommates on board who were also young Finnish women. One was married, traveling with her baby, the other was traveling with her brother. In steerage, the men were kept apart from the women, in the front part of the ship.
The atmosphere in third class was quite lively: a lot of talking, singing, and fellowship.
Late that Sunday night, she felt a shudder and a shake. Shortly thereafter, her roommate's brother knocked on their door. “Something is wrong" he said, "You should all wear warm clothing and put on your life jackets." A crewman tried to keep them down below. He ordered them back, but they refused to do so and he didn’t argue with them.
remembers that the doors were closed and chained shut behind them to prevent
others from coming up. The other two women continued up to a higher deck, but
out of pure curiosity and chance she remained on what turned out to be the boat
deck. She thought it was too cold to go up further, and she was intrigued by the
activity and by the music being played by the ship's band, though she didn’t
know the names of the tunes.
One of Titanic's third class cabins
On the boat deck, Anna met another woman from Finland, Mrs. Maria Emelia Panula, on her way to Pennsylvania with her five children to meet her husband. "Do we all have to die by water?" Mrs. Panula asked. She had apparently lost a teenage son in a drowning accident back in Finland.
Grandma never believed the hype of the ship being unsinkable, and she didn’t understand what was going on because she didn't know the language. She remembers the band coming out of the reception room, and the doors being locked after everyone had gotten out.
* Webmaster's note. Maria Panula's two oldest sons were denied seats in a life boat because of their age. (Older boys were not allowed to board) Despite another Finnish woman offering to look after her baby and 2 youngest sons if she'd put them on the boat, she refused and all 5 of her children perished along with her. It's difficult and disturbing both to try to understand why she did that.
Titanic approaches the iceberg
She also remembers seeing
the lights of another ship from the deck. Eventually a sailor physically threw
her into a lifeboat. Her lifeboat was fully loaded when it was launched; it was
not one of the ones that got caught up in the cables. They immediately rowed
away from the ship, fearing that they would get sucked down with it when it went
under. The sailors were so well trained, very instrumental in keeping the boats
She heard loud explosions as the lights went out. The lifeboat was so full that as she held her hand on the edge of the boat her fingers got wet up to the knuckles. For the first five or ten minutes they had to beat people off who were trying to get in the lifeboat.
They were in the lifeboats for eight hours. Though the night was what she referred to as a “brilliant, bright night,” they had to burn any scraps of paper they could find -- money or anything else that wouldn’t cause a flash fire -- so that the boats could see each other and stay together.
Her most haunting memory was the screams and cries of the people dying in the water. Every time she would get to this part of the story she would start crying. “They were in the water, and we couldn’t help them.” she said.
One of Titanic's lifeboat's approaches the Carpathia
On board the Carpathia,
the people were wonderful. They gave up their blankets and coats, anything that
could help. She kept looking for her roommates, but she never saw either of them
again. She later found out that the entire Panula family had been confirmed
The survivors did not have to go through Ellis Island, as all other immigrants did in those days. Instead, they were taken straight to New York Hospital, and then sent on their way. Because of the language problem, she was literally "tagged" and put on a train to Ashtabula, Ohio. Years later, my uncle Butch, was trying to get a security “crypto clearance” in the Army. The FBI investigated why there was no record of Grandma’s citizen registration from entering the country. (He got the clearance.)
The first photo of Anna Turja in America
She was greeted by a crowd in
Ashtabula, as she was somewhat of a celebrity by this time. She soon met my
grandfather; they fell in love and got married. She never did go to work for her
brother-in-law. Somehow, her name had appeared on the list of passengers lost,
and it wasn’t until 5 or 6 weeks later when her family received a letter from
her, that they found out she was alive.
She was a special guest when the 1953 movie "Titanic" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb, first came to the new theater in Ashtabula. It was the first movie she had ever seen in her life. When reporters asked her afterwards (through my uncle as translator) if she thought the movie was realistic, all she could say was, “If they were close enough to film it, why didn’t they help?” The reporters took that as a “Yes” to their question. Family members tried to explain to her that it was a re-creation. She just kept saying, “No, no.”
Years later, on July 20, 1969, when they were watching the first moon walk, she wouldn’t (and never did) believe that it was really happening. “No, no", she would say. "If they could re-create the Titanic, they could re-create this, too.”
Over the years she was interviewed regularly by the local newspapers when the anniversary of the sinking came around, but she turned down appearances on I’ve Got a Secret and The Ed Sullivan Show, partly because of her physical condition, her age, and the language problem. (She never felt strongly enough about it to learn English.) She also refused many times to join in any lawsuits over the loss. She and my grandfather felt that they didn’t need to go after money, Grandma had her life, and that was compensation enough.
Mrs. Turja-Lundi on her 60th birthday
Every year on the April 14
-15 anniversary, she would sit her seven children down to tell them the story
again. The phrase she would always close with, and repeated throughout her life
was, “I can never understand why God would have spared a poor Finnish girl
when all those rich people drowned.”
Mrs. Anna Sophia (Turja) Lundi passed away in Long Beach, California in 1982 at the age of 89.
The warm smile of Anna Turja in her later years
The White Star official passenger list for the
Page E11 top entry reads:
Turja, Miss Anna Sofia - Saved
The Red Cross report says:
Turja, Miss Anna Sofia.
Saved in Lifeboat number 15. 18 years old.
Of Oulainen, Finland. En route to Ashtabula, Ohio.
Received $50 from Relief Fund.
Born 20th June 1893. Traveling with the Panulas.
Later became Mrs. Lundi, returned to Finland.
(From the Red Cross Emergency Relief Booklet,
Case number 460. (Finnish). Girl, 18 years old, injured. ($100).
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