– A Documentary Film –
(Love on a Bridge)
Refugees fleeing to safety to escape persecution and massacres survive a second tragedy – the sinking of the Titanic
More than a century ago, innocent Christian Armenians who were living in the Ottoman Empire during the late 1800s began to flee persecution and massacres during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. These became known as the Hamidian Massacres and took place between 1894 and 1896. It is estimated that between 80,000 to as many as 300,000 mostly Christian Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Some Armenians were able to seek refuge aboard the lower decks of what was believed to be the largest passenger ship of its kind in the world, and a ship thought to be unsinkable – the Titanic.
Six Armenians who thought they had escaped certain death from the “near-genocidal” atrocities of the Hamidian Massacres, now found themselves facing another horror. This is because the ship that was supposed to provide them refuge, the Titanic, was now sinking with more than 2200 passengers aboard.
Miraculously two of these Armenian refugees – Nishan Krikorian and David Vartanian – did survive while more than 1,500 passengers aboard the Titanic drowned.
Titanic Love documents the lives of these two Armenian refugees. This documentary follows their miraculous survival from the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. It tells their story of love found and lost, surviving the horrors of a sinking ship, and ultimately beating the odds to finally arrive safely on the shores of America. This documentary also tells the heartwarming story of the great-granddaughter of one of these two survivors who relives her wedding reception aboard a Titanic replica in memory of her great-grandparents.
– Story Line –
Titanic Love is the story of 22-year-old David Vartanian and his wife, Mary Byzar Vartanian, who were both from the historic Armenian city of Keghi, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. At that time, the Ottoman government required all able-bodied men living in the Ottoman Empire to be drafted into military service to fight on the front lines of World War I. Titanic Love provides the details of a life-altering moment when David Vartanian escapes being drafted when an ethnic Muslim Turk rescues him by offering his deceased son’s documents. Disguised as a Muslim, David purchases a third-class ticket on the Titanic to travel to Cherbourg, France, leaving behind his wife, Mary. While aboard the Titanic, David dreams of a brighter future in America where he would work and send funds home to Mary so that she could ultimately join him. But his dreams are shattered on the eve of April 14, 1912 when the Titanic crashes into an iceberg and begins to sink. Like so many frantic passengers, David jumps into the frigid waters and survives only by tenaciously holding onto a small vessel carrying women and children.
Arriving in New York City, David reunites with his wife’s brothers who had escaped the Ottomans as they burned their village to the ground. In the process of escaping, they were separated from their sister. Undeterred, David tries to locate his wife. After six obsessive years of searching, David finally locates her, wires funds to her, and this allows his wife, Mary to purchase a ticket to Canada where they reunite in 1923.
After being separated for nearly a decade from each other, and after witnessing unimaginable atrocities that culminated in the planned extermination of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, David and Mary are reunited as Mary walks across the Niagara Falls bridge into the arms of her beloved.
Ninety-seven years after David Vartanian’s miraculous survival, a Milwaukee talk show announces a contest by the Milwaukee Public Museum’s “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.” The winners would be granted a wedding ceremony on the set of the Titanic exhibit.
With hundreds of entries, the contest winner announced is 28-year-old Melissa Vartanian – none other than David Vartanian’s great-granddaughter – and her 31-year-old fiancé, Vache Mikaelian.
The couple are rewarded a wedding ceremony on the Titanic exhibit set on Friday, May 15, 2009. The reception dinner menu was identical to the one that the first-class Titanic guests had enjoyed on the evening of April 14, 1912 hours before the sinking of their majestic ship in the North Atlantic Ocean. Titanic Love will also tell the story of Nishan Krikorian who also survived the sinking of the Titanic and started a new life in Canada.