This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Neshan Krekorian (May 12, 1886)

His name perhaps would have been forgotten to history had he not been one of the Armenian survivors of the Titanic and the one who was groundlessly said to have escaped from the ship in women’s clothes.

Neshan Krekorian was born on May 12, 1886, in the village of Keghi, in the Armenian province of Karin (Erzerum) now occupied by Turkey In early 1912, when Turkish persecutions became intolerable again, he decided to flee his village along with other Armenians (Arsen Siraganian, David Vartanian, Haroutioun Zakarian, and Mampré Zakarian) and leave for Canada.

Along with about 15 other Armenians, Krekorian walked for seven days to Trebizond on the Black Sea and from there he sailed to Marseilles. He boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg (France) as a third-class passenger. He later complained about being “cooped up like a chicken” in their cabin.

On the evening of April 14, Krekorian played cards, and around 11 o’clock crawled into his bunk with his clothes on. When the boat collided with the iceberg, he managed to make his way up to A-Deck. “He knew something had happened, but he didn’t quite know what,” his grandson Van Solomonian says. “The problem with the third-class passengers was that they were actually locked down on their decks, because at the time regulations required that steerage passengers be isolated from first and second class.”

Krekorian and a few other men broke a chain lock to get up to the upper decks. He arrived in the deck just as boat 10 was being lowered, filled to less than half capacity. He ran down the deck, made a leap for it, and landed in the boat. There were stories about an Armenian who had escaped dressed as a woman, which was most likely an inflated version of his loose clothing, which may have included a shawl, and an expression of prejudice against surviving foreigners.

Krekorian survived, but caught pneumonia. He was hospitalized in New York, and when he finally made it to his destination in Brantford, Ontario, he was in hospital again for a couple of weeks.

In 1918 he moved to St. Catherines, Ontario, and married Persape Vartanian (1898-1985) on 12 July 1924. They had three children: Alice, George Dennis, and Angeline.

Krekorian worked all his life on a General Motors Automobile assembly line.

The Titanic was his first and only time on a ship. “In St. Catharines they had a nice beach on Lake Ontario, and when the family would go there for Sunday picnics he would never, ever go in,” his grandson says. “I guess that speaks to the trauma that he experienced. He never got over that fear.”

He died in St. Catherines on May 21, 1978, aged 92, and is buried at the town’s Victoria Lawn Cemetery.