Even on The Titanic
They Escaped Turkish Persecution Only to Die with the Sinking of the Titanic
Armenian News Network / Groong
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.
THE FOUR VICTIMS 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
Even on The Titanic