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 PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:50 pm    Post subject: EVEN ON THE TITANIC! Reply with quote Back to top


They Escaped Turkish Persecution Only
to Die with the Sinking of the Titanic

Armenian News Network / Groong
February 5, 2007

by Katia M. Peltekian

Years ago while studying in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), by chance,
I came upon the grave of an Armenian who was buried at the Fairview
Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, along with 120 others who had lost their
lives in the Titanic disaster in 1912. At the time I didn't think much
about it. As many Armenians, I was also brought up with the notion
that I would find an Armenian under any stone anywhere in the world. I
have to confess, I actually chuckled at this man's headstone when I
thought, 'Even on the Titanic?'

Last summer, I had the opportunity to again visit Nova Scotia, a small
province with a population of less than 1 million people. As a student,
I had come to like the small city of Halifax that lies on the Atlantic
and has one of the major harbors in Canada - a harbor that had
welcomed Armenian survivors of the Hamidian massacres in the late 19th
century. The province has one of the most beautiful shores in the
world. And driving along the coast, I used to enjoy taking pictures of
the many lighthouses or watching the whales swim near the rocky
shores. The only problem for me was only a handful of Armenians lived
in Nova Scotia.

One of the reasons I went back to Halifax again was to visit the grave
of M. Der Zacarian. I was curious to find out more about this Armenian
who had lost his life with the sinking of the Titanic. I was also
curious to know if there were other Armenians on board that ship.
Because the Titanic sank near the shores of Nova Scotia, most of the
bodies that were recovered were buried in the city of Halifax. And Der
Zacarian, a lone Armenian, was also buried there, perhaps forgotten
and abandoned.

The largest ship of its time, the Titanic left Southampton, England on
its way to New York City on April 10, 1912. It was reputed to be the
safest ship ever built, so safe that the builders believed 20
lifeboats were more than enough. It carried around 2,200 crew members
and passengers who ranged from the world's wealthiest to the poorest
refugees. The passengers were accommodated in three classes: the first
luxurious class accommodated 329 passengers, the second class had 285
passengers, and the third class was taken up by 710 people. The crew
of the Titanic was comprised of 899 personnel.

Four days into the journey, on April 14, just before midnight, the
Titanic hit an iceberg. The collision was fatal and the ship began to
sink. Although each passenger was issued a lifejacket, less than half
could be accommodated on the lifeboats. Two hours and 40 minutes after
the collision, the Titanic had sunk completely. The next day, another
ship, the Carpathia rescued only 705 survivors from the lifeboats.
1522 had lost their lives.

I went over the list of names of the passengers and located no
Armenians in either the first or the second class. However, in the
third class list, I came across the names of 6 Armenians. According to
the registers of the Titanic, 5 of these Armenians were from the town
of Keghi in the Armenian province of Erzeroum, and one was from
'Abosknak' (which could be Akkonak). The six were identified as
laborers and all had boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. Of the
six, 4 lost their lives.

It was interesting that 5 were from Keghi, which was an administrative
district of Erzeroum province, and its district seat was in
Keghi-Kasaba. According to sources, Keghi was made up of 363 large and
small villages, 51 of which were Armenian. The estimated population of
the district at the beginning of the 20th century was 60,000 out of
whom around 20,000 were Armenians.

The economic conditions, the Turkish persecution of the Christian
minorities, and the sporadic massacres of the Armenians at the end of
the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century compelled many
to leave their towns seeking a better life in North America. And the
Keghetsi were no different. In fact, in 1911 alone a few thousand
young Keghetsi men had immigrated to the US as general laborers in
many North American industries.

According to one young man from Keghi, he and 7 other Keghetsis were
joined by 4 from Moush and 4 from Erzinga. Together, they walked for 7
days to Trebizond on the Black Sea and sailed to Marseilles
(France). They had stayed at the Keghetsi "hotel" in Marseilles, where
their compatriots had cared for them. This young man was fortunate; he
was waiting for money sent by his relatives in the US to be able to
sail to America. The money arrived 3 weeks late. (I. Kaprielian,
"Immigration & Settlement of Armenians in S. Ontario") However, five
of the Keghetsis managed to get tickets on the Titanic.


According to the Titanic records, of the four Armenians who lost their
lives in the sinking, only one body was recovered, and is buried in
Halifax. The bodies of the other three were either not recovered or
not identified. The following information about the victims is
recorded in the Titanic files. It is to be noted that names could have
been misspelled by the Ship's staff.

a) Name: Mr. Maprie Der Zakarian
Age: 22 years
Last residence: Keghi, Turkey
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2656
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 6 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Buried: Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

When Mr. Der Zakarian's body was recovered, it was tagged as #304 with
the following description:

No. 304 - Male -
Estimated Age, 26. Dark Hair and slight mustache.
Clothing - Blue suit; striped shirt, brown pants, three shirts.
Effects - 80 francs in gold; $12.50 in gold in purse; empty purse.
Third class ticket.
Name: Mapri Der Zacarian

cool.gif Name: Mr. Sarkis Mardirosian
Age: 25 years
Last residence: Keghi, Turkey
Occupation: Farm laborer
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2655
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 7 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada

According to records, Mr. Mardirosian was an Armenian-American whose
family was traced to Beirut, Lebanon. He owned an antiques shop in
Lyons, France. Most probably. he was visiting his family and
relatives in Keghi.

His body, if recovered, was never identified.

c) Name: Mr. Artin Zakarian
Age: 27 years
Last residence: Keghi, Turkey
Occupation: General laborer
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2670
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 6 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Mr. Zakarian's body, if recovered, was never identified.

d) Name: Mr. Arsen Sirayanian
Age: 22 years
Last residence: Keghi, Turkey
Occupation: Farmer
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2669
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 7 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Mr. Sirayanian's body, if recovered, was never identified.

On July 13, 1912, Gochnak, the Armenian weekly from New York City,
published a letter sent by the Patriarchate of Keghi informing the
deaths of four Keghetsis in the sinking of the Titanic. Although the
letter gives the correct names of the victims, there is no mention of
the victims' ages:

a) Mampri Der Zakarian leaves behind a 25 year-old wife, a son, two
sisters and a brother.

cool.gif Sarkis Mardirossian is survived by an 80-year-old father,
75-year-old mother, a pregnant wife, a 5-year-old son and a brother.

c) Haroutyun Der Zakarian leaves behind a 40-year-old wife and 3 sons.

d) Arsen Sirkanian (and not Sirayanian as the Titanic records show) is
survived by a 75-year-old father and 70-year-old mother, one sister
and one brother.

In the three cemeteries where the Titanic victims are buried, there
are graves of unidentified passengers whose headstones bear only
numbers. In recent years, with the advance of science, some of the
remains of the bodies were identified by DNA tests and the names were
added to the gravestones. However, there remain many nameless graves
which could be of the Keghetsi youth who had escaped Turkish
persecution only to die on the Titanic.


Looking at the list of passengers by class, it was noticeable that
most of the 1st class passengers were able to go on the lifeboats, and
survived the sinking of the Titanic. Very few of the 710 passengers
from the third class survived the disaster. However, many male
passengers from the 3rd class were let on the lifeboats to man the
oars. The following information about the two Armenians who survived
is provided by the Titanic records.

a) Name: Mr. David Vartanian
Date of Birth: April 15, 1890
Last residence: Keghi, Turkey
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2658
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 6 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Mr. Vartanian was one of the 47 survivors who had escaped on Lifeboat
#13, although he claimed he was on board a collapsible boat. He
arrived in New York City on board the rescue ship The Carpathian on
April 18, 1912.

The records describe Mr. Vartanian as a 22 year old from Turkish
Armenia, the son of Azadia Vartanian and Sierma Agoyan. A laborer,
Vartanian lived in Oror township of Keghi. He was married to Bajer
Vartanian who stayed behind in Keghi. After disembarking in New York,
Vartanian, along with the other Armenian survivor Mr. Krekorian, left
for Canada where he worked for a few years. Later he moved to
Pennsylvania, and then to Michigan where he married again and had a
son and two daughters. He passed away in Detroit in August 1966 aged

cool.gif Name: Neshan Krekorian
Date of Birth: May 12, 1886
Last residence: Abosknak, Turkey
(note: the town could be Akkonak in Moush province)
Occupation: General laborer
Class: 3rd class passenger
Port of embarkation: Cherbourg, France
Ticket Number: 2654
Ticket price paid: #7, 4 shillings, 7 dimes
Destination: Brantford, Ontario, Canada

According to one source, Krekorian did not have a ticket for the
Titanic and had to bribe a travel agent in Marseilles to get on
board. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Krekorian managed to make his
way up to the deck just as Lifeboat #10 was being lowered down. He
jumped for it and landed on the boat, saving himself. The boat carried
28 other passengers and 2 able seamen. After landing in New York City,
he left for St. Catherine's, Ontario (Canada), married Persa Vartanian
in 1924 and had 4 children. Krekorian worked all his life on an
assembly line at General Motors Automobile Company. He died in
St. Catherine's in May, 1978 at the age of 92.

Kerkorian had related his story as the following:

It started with a muffled bang. Krekorian, 25, heard a crash at about
11:40 p.m. as water began seeping into the watertight compartments
near the steerage area where third-class passengers were staying.
Kerkorian continued: "In a minute there was chaos and confusion. Women
rushed hither and thither and then the lights went out and we were all
left in the dark. Everybody seemed to lose their heads and just stand
about and shriek. The lights flickered back and steerage passengers
relaxed a little." They slipped on their life jackets and Krekorian
dressed warmly. As it turned out, some of the European and Middle
Eastern immigrants in the lower sections may not have had a chance. By
law, the steerage passengers were separated from others presumably to
prevent the spread of infectious disease. Iron locks hindered their
escape. Several locked doors had to be axed-open by Krekorian and
others as they struggled to the outside decks. On deck, the scene was
calm at first, but over the next two hours, things deteriorated. When
the passengers realized there weren't enough lifeboats to go around,
panic spread. Fathers and older males gave comforting words to their
shrieking families who were separated from them and directed to the
lifeboats. As the head of the ship nosed into the Atlantic, it was
obvious the end was near. Crew members dealt harshly with male
passengers trying to save themselves. Krekorian had claimed later that
in that chaos there was no law of the sea that women and children
could go first. He saw some throwing women and children overboard
because there wasn't enough space for everybody. The crew shot men who
leapt into these lifeboats. (Titanic: The Canadian Story by Alan

Of course many stories were told about the men, especially those in
the 3rd class who survived the disaster. There was even a headline in
one of the newspapers which read "Armenian Who Dressed in Women's
Clothes to Get off Titanic." Kerkorian denied it and according to
witnesses he actually used a rope to leap into lifeboat #10 and save

In addition to these Armenians, the Toronto Star ran an article on
April 19, 1912 entitled "Poor Peasant and Multi-Millionaire Together
in Death," in which it mentioned yet another Armenian who died with
the sinking of The Titanic. According to this article, Mr. Nardji
Narsini, an Armenian peasant, kissed his pregnant wife, placed her in
one of the lifeboats and said to her: "Maria, perhaps we never meet
again, but some day you tell our child how I died." Nardji lost his
life, and his wife Maria became the ward of charity as soon as she
disembarked the rescue ship The Carpathia. The article continued,
"Maria Narsini lost everything she had in the world: the linens she
had made against the day of her marriage, the feather bed lining -
they were her marriage dot - and Nardji had saved up $100 in addition
to the price of the steamship tickets, and this too was lost."
However, these two names (or similar sounding names) do not appear on
either the passenger lists or the crew lists of The Titanic. It is to
be noted that the ship's records do state that their lists are

It is ironic that these Armenians fled from a nightmare thousands of
miles away only to face a new disaster. What happened to the families
they had left behind when the Turkish army entered the Armenian
villages and began massacring the innocent? These young men were
hoping to settle down in Canada and bring over their families. Mampre
Der Zacarian had a wife and a child. Haroutyun Der Zakarian left
behind a wife and three sons. Sarkis Mardirossian left behind a
pregnant wife and a son. David Vartanian, one of the survivors, was
married when he left Keghi, but years later he remarried when he
settled in America. Had he received news that his wife did not survive
the terrible massacres perpetrated by the Turks in the province of
Erzeroum? Would these victims have survived the Genocide had they
stayed in their towns with their families?

With such stories, it is distressing to know that one can find an
Armenian anywhere in this world.
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