Pretty Russian Girl Stowaway Held at Ellis Island
A pretty eighteen-year-old Russian girl is a prisoner on Ellis Island today, charged with having come to this country a stowaway on the Russian Volunteer Company steamer Saratov. When detected, she was dressed as a man and was endeavoring to make her escape from the vessel, which is tied up at the bush docks, Brooklyn. The girl was caught through the vigilance of the immigration officials, who are carefully watching the steamers of the Volunteer Fleet and the East Asiatio Company's steamers since the discovery of plans to smuggle in here many persons who are barred from this country because of physical reasons.
The girl, who first answered to the name of Alix, but who on the discovery of her sex gave her hame as Paulina Flaks of Kowno, Russia, tells an interesting story of her attempt to enter this country. She declared that no one helped her embark on the vessel, and her presence there was not discovered. This is doubted by Commissioner Watchorn, and the case has already been put into the hands of the United States District Attorney to take action against the Captain of the vessel should the evidence warrant it.
On Sunday morning before dawn, the Federal officers on watch at the vessel discovered a stowaway, Jan Gedmin, a Russian, sliding down a hawser from the vessel to the pier. When discovered, the lad endeavored to get back on the vessel, but was unable to do so. He, too, when questioned declared that the officers and men on board did not know that he had made the trip with them, and had not aided him to evade the immigration law.
Boy Had Aid on Board
This, however, the inspectors said was untrue, for they watched long enough to convince them that there were persons on deck helping the boy to get away. The lad denied also that he knew the young woman, though they both declare they are natives of the same town.
Early Monday morning the watchman on the pier noticed two persons leave the ship. Both were apparently members of the crew. He halted them and asked to see their shore leave passes.
The biggest of the two promptly produced the necessary permit, and they were about to pass out the gate when the watchman noticed that the small man walked with rather an effeminate step and then remembered that the young man had smooth and ruddy cheeks.
His suspicions aroused, he ordered the young fellow back on the vessel. The stowaway later burst into tears and confessed that she was not Alix, the man, but Paulina.
In the detention pen on Ellis Island, she told the story of her attempt to enter the land from which she is barred, because, like the boy who was cought, she is suffering, the Marine Hospital doctors say, with trachoma, a contagious disease of the eyes.
"I lived with my father and mother in Kowno," she said through an interpreter. "Father, who was a mechanic, died some years ago and recently my mother died, and I was left alone in the world. My father was not well to do, and so after the death of my mother, I had a hard time to get along. As I had no one when she died to go to, I made up my mind to come to America, where many of my townsmen had gone."
Girl Hid on a Ship
"I had just money enough to pay my way to Rotterdam, and there I got employment as a servant in a Dutch family. After six weeks, when the family went away for the summer, I told my employer of my desire to come to America, and he advised me to come as a stowaway, declaring that many came that way.
"I knew that the steamers from Libau stopped at Rotterdam and so I waited until the Saratov arrived there. In the bustle of departure, I got on board. I hid until the vessel got under way and then mingled with the steerage passengers.
I was not suspected and continued to live as a passenger on the voyage. On the way across, I met a countryman whom I had known, and when we got here he gave me a man's clothing and explained that the only way to get ashore was as a man and after the officials had left the vessel. All day Sunday, I hid in Cabin 3, and late that night I tried to get ashore and was stopped.
"I do not want to go back to Russia, for I have no firends there. If I were allowed to land, I am sure I could get along. It was an awful trip, for I lived countinuously under a strain and feared every moment that I would be discovered by those on board."
Find Evidences of a Plot
The immigration officials believe that there is a wholesale plot to get "undesirables" into this country. They say a man in Russia has established a bureau for this purpose, and that he is working in league with a number of officers and seamen of the Russian vessels.
One man with trachoma was dicovered in this city three weeks ago, after he had got ashore from the steamer Estonia. The skipper and one of the officers have been indicted for that offense, and are now out on bail.
Another chance discovery since has convinced the officials that there is such a plot. An Inspector and an interpreter went up to the Grand Central Station some days ago on business.
There they noticed three Russo-German immigrants. They got into conversation with the men, and the latter freely told how they had landed from the steamer Estonia without going to the immigration station on Ellis Island.
They declared that they had paid a man in Libau $25 each to get them on a steamer. They had also paid $35 to a member of the crew for passage, and had followed it up with a fee of $12.50 each for the shore-leave passes by which they had gained their freedom on this side.
All three had trachoma. The Federal officials say they have reason to believe that about forty diseased persons were smuggled in from that vessel alone, who had not even been entered on the ship's manifest or put down as stowaways.
There is under Section 18 of the law of February 1907, a penalty of not less than $100 nor more than $1000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, for ship masters for every alien illegally landed. In the case of the girl, she declares there was no watch on the gangway, and this, the officials say, denotes that precautions were not used to prevent illegal landing.
Source: The New York Times, July 17, 1907