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srijeda, 11. travnja 2012.

The Untold Story Of Croatians On The Titanic......& On The Carpathian

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic will be April 15th, and the fact that there were Croatians on board that day may be news to some, or many. Not exactly the type of story that makes one proud or glad that there's a Croatian connection to this historical catastrophic event, but an interesting fact that many people of Croatian background may not know nonetheless.

At that time there were many people arriving to Ellis Island from various parts of Europe searching for a fresh start and opportunity, and in some cases to escape political oppression and persecution, and of course Croatians were among the masses. (at that time in 1912 the Croatian crown lands were a part of the Habsburg ruled Austro-Hungarian empire and many Croats were already familiar with seafaring and sailing). From Dublin to Minsk, Madrid to Helsinki, from Oslo to Zagreb. (There's actually records of Croatians being present in the New World in the 17th century, even including aboard ships of John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), and quite possibly even Christopher Columbus, via Dubrovnik/Ragusa. Many Croatian sailors from the coastal Dalmation areas and Dubrovnik found their way working on ships, even aboard Spanish, English and other expeditions. But that's another topic). I threw in some related links below about the history of Croatians coming to the new world from that time, and from before. The first piece is just an excerpt from an online Croatian newspaper special report about the Croatian survivors on the first and last trip of the Titanic....


SPECIAL: How poor travelers avoided death and boarded the rescue boat that was reserved for the wealthy. Of the 30 passengers from Croatia on the Titanic, only 3 managed to tell their tale.



...My mother had 12 children, I was the oldest and my father depended on me to somehow help take care of the family. I heard from some people that in America, one can make good money, So I went on my way.  Up until that time, I had never seen the sea or a steamliner, and the Titanic struck me as grandiose, but now I wish that I had never seen it at all. .......words written by John (Ivan) Jalševac in 1937. Full stories:

Croatians On The Titanic:

Bartol Čor,35.
Ivan Čor,27.
Ljudevit Čor,19.
Grga Čačić,18.
Luka Čačić,38.
Manda Čačić,21.
Marija Čačić,30.
Petar Čalić,17.
Jovo Čalić,17.
Joso Čulumović,17.
Mirko Dika,17.
Jovan Dimić,42.
Josip Draženović,33.
Ignac Hendeković,28.
Ivan Jelševac,29.
Milan Karaica,30.
Nikola Lulić,29.
Jeka Orešković,23.
Luka Orešković,20.
Marija Orešković,20.
Mara Osman - Banski,31.
Štefo Pavlović,32.
Mate Pocrnić,17.
Tome Pocrnić,24.
Matilda Peteranec,28.
Ivan Stanković,33.
Ivan Strilić,27.
Stjepan Turčin,36.
Mile Smiljanić,37.

A scene from the 1997 award winning film"Titanic", where in the background you can here some dialogue in Croatian. (She's calling for someone to bring the whiskey)

Three Croats Amongst Titanic Survivors



New details have emerged as the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the famous Titanic approaches. Amongst 2,209 passengers and staff on board the infamous Titanic which sank on 15 April 1912, were 30 Croats.

Out of the 30 Croats who were heading for America in search of a better life, only 3 survived the tragedy. Nikola Lulic, Ivan Jalsevac and Mara Osman managed to leave the ship just under two hours before it sank.

"My father said Nikola completely changed and that the Titanic tragedy left its mark," said Mile Lulic, a relative of Titanic survivor Nikola Lulic to Croatian daily newspaper 24sata. All three survivors, who found it difficult to cope with the stress after the ordeal, were believed to have jumped from the sinking Titanic into the water, although it was unclear wether or not lifeboats were waiting or they had to wait in the freezing waters for a rescue boat.

Jalsevac and Lulic eventually returned to Croatia but Osman managed to get to America and stayed there for the remainder of her life.

 Croatians on the Titanic


 (Extract from the Croatian Information Centre, Zagreb, based on the publication by Ivana Ivancic, 'Titanic', Hrvatska Riječ , Sarajevo, March 29, 1998, p.26.)

The glamour of the premieres of the movie blockbuster 'Titanic' took place in Zagreb on March 13. A party was thrown for the representatives of Croatia's high society, including the diplomatic corps and numerous politicians, in the luxurious Intercontinental Hotel.

However, it seems that this - we could say bizarre and decadent glamour - also indicates that the majority of those on the Titanic were practically abandoned. The story of Titanic also reanimates the story of the differences between rich and poor. The story about the lower class passengers on the Titanic, who were stopped in realising their 'American dream', is also a story about 30 Croatian passengers.

'Search for a Better Life'

Most of the Croats worked on the Titanic as stokers and a small number of them came on board to get to America, 'the land of prosperity'. Most of them were originally from the Croatian regions of Lika and Posavina (Sava Valley region). One of them was Ivan Jalsevac from Topolovac, near the town of Sisak. He managed to escape the jaws of the Big Blue. His family still keeps written details of his memory on that fatal night. Ivan, who always spoke about that night to his family, died in 1945. The disaster affected his life as he witnessed the death of his friends, visions which haunted him for life.

His nephew told us the stories: "My uncle told me that a strong crash awakened him. That was the moment when the Titanic hit the iceberg. Everyone was shocked at first, but after a few minutes, when the passengers and crew realised what had happened, panic ran rampant. Passengers, suddenly facing the possibility of ending their lives in the cold Atlantic Ocean, were petrified. The lower deck passengers were not allowed to come out. The ship's staff locked all the exits from the lower decks. There was no room for lower class passengers to be saved. They were crossed out automatically for a rescue. A terrible noise was heard from the deck of the ship and the occasional gun shot, probably to make some order among the panic stricken mass.

"My uncle and two of his friends, Drazen and Stankovic, tried to save as many women and children as possible. That was their last meeting alive. Ivan Jalsevac never saw his friends again. He managed to escape through to the main deck and to jump into the cold Atlantic. That was his only chance out alive. In the cold ocean, next to the sinking Titanic was one of the lifeboats full of women and children. He reached for it and thankfully the women helped and took him into the boat because the sailors showed no interest in saving him.

"They managed to paddle to the 'Carpathia' steam boat that took on most of the survivors of the catastrophe. There were twenty Croat sailors from Dalmatia working on the Carpathia.

"The White Star Line Company, which owned the Titanic, decorated survivors and presented them an ironic award - free life passes to travel with the company. The ones who were reimbursed were mostly the rich and second class, excluding the third class - including Croats.

The Croats on the Titanic were: Ivan Stankovic, Ivan Jalsevic, Josip Drazenovic, Franjo and Ana Korum, Ivan Markun, Ljudevit Cop, Branko Dakic, Ivan Bartoli, Mirko Dika, Stevo Pavlovic, Matilda Petrinac, Milan Karasin, Stevan Turcin, Ciro Rekic, Marija Cacic, Janko Vuk, Ivan Strimic, Petar Calic, Manda Calic, Tomo Pakrevic, Tomo Uzelac, Luka Oreskovic, Mate Pokrajac, Marija Oreskovic, and Janko and Mile Smiljanic.

RMS Carpathian & Croats

Unknown to most, there is yet another Croatian connection to this story that is less well known, with a somewhat happier ending. The RMS Carpathia was the first ship to rescue survivors of the RMS Titanic. The "Carpathian" was travelling from New York City to Rijeka, Croatia on the night of Sunday, 14 April 1912, and with it over 70 Croatian sailors on board.

(* Editor's Note- during the Habsburg monarchy centuries many cities and towns and in Central Europe especially, still had different version names used also at times, depending on who was writing or where the map was made etc...Rijeka/Fiume/Sankt Veit am Flaum, Ljubiljana/Laibach, Koper/Capodistria, Zagreb/Agram, Bratislava/Pressburg, Dubrovnik/Ragusa, Vienna/Beč, Pécs/Fünfkirchen, Senj/Zengg, Gdańsk/Danzig, Pazin/Mitterburg, Krnov/Jägerndorf, Kaliningrad/Königsberg/Karaliaučiu/Królewiec, Opatija/Sankt Jakobi, Nin/Fleissenburg, Udine/Weiden to name just a very few of many hundreds of examples*)

At 4:00 a.m., the Carpathian was the first ship to arrive at the scene, after working her way through dangerous ice fields, the ship was able to take on 705 survivors of the disaster. By 9:00, the last survivor had been picked up, and the ship was then ordered to immediately turn around and depart for New York.

Amid the hectic chaos, one of the Croatian crew members of the Carpathian, Josip Car, (pronounced like "tsar" in Croatian) decided to hold onto and save a life jacket from one of the survivors of the Titanic that was going to be discarded. Today it is one of only five recovered life jackets in the world from the RMS Titanic and it's the only one found in Europe. This historical item was later donated after his death to the Maritime and History Museum in Rijeka. (PPMHP)

*Note- Interestingly for those not in the know, and since already on the topic of ships, sailors and the Adriatic sea, I should briefly highlight the early Croatian Navy activities that extend well before the 21st century. From the time of the Croatian King Petar Krešimir IV around 1066 the Croatian Navy was still an integral part of the overall Croatian military force, during King Petar Krešimir's reign there was a duke Rusin who assisted with the coordination and activities of the navy, some other dukes and admirals before and after from 835 to 1089 were Družac, Božidar, Berigoj, Jakov, and the fact that the very title of Duke could be borne only by governmental dignitaries and bestowed by the King is proof of the navy importance. In 1069, when he donated the island of Maun to the city of Zadar, in the surviving royal charter document King Krešimir did not fail to point out that ancient Dalmatia was rightfully part of the Croatian Kingdom and that it was "...our own island that lies on our Dalmatian sea...". (Latin: nostram propriam insulam in nostro Dalmatico mari sitam) ie: the eastern Adriatic of the Croatian Kingdom, even the Byzantine empire recognized him, along with his maritime naval fleet, as the supreme ruler of the coastal areas and eastern Adriatic Sea. However well before this and already from the year 642 the early Croats are recorded by the Longobard historian Paul the Deacon as having many ships at the city of Siponto across the Adriatic Sea. The same sources speak about Croats as successful ship builders. At the time of Duke Vladislav (821- 835) sources mention a strong navy. Thanks to the Croatian maritime power of Duke Mislav (835-845), he signed a treaty with Pietro Tradonico, doge of the Venetian Republic in 839, which led to the growth of Croatian sea power and control of the eastern Adriatic. During the rule of Duke Trpimir (845-864) Croats broke through to Furlania and in front of Venice itself. In 871 as an ally of the Frankish Carolingian Emperor and King of Italy Louis II, the Croatian Navy under Duke Domagoj distinguished itself in the liberation of Bari, Taranto and southern Italy from the Arab Saracens occupation. Interestingly, during the reign of Duke Branimir (879-892) the Venetians were defeated and were even obligated to pay tribute to the Croatians for the freedom of sailing on the eastern Adriatic, the taxes ensured a safe passage preventing attacks or conflict from the Croatian ships, (so besides being independent of not only the Frankish Empire but also the Byzantine Empire and Venice as well, then it also shows that a well organized under command royal maritime naval force existed). In the work of the domestic and foreign policy manual De Administrando Imperio by eastern Roman Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus VII from circa. the year 950, he wrote that after King Tomislav secured peace with the Bulgarian Empire who bordered the Croatian Kingdom to the east, and the Frankish Empire to our west, we had a military of 60,000 cavalry, 100,000 foot soldiers as well as 80 galleys (larger ships with 40 sailors) and 100 cutters (konduras - smaller ships with 10 to 20 sailors), not counting the oarsmen this would then amount to over 5000 sailors. Later during the times of Croatian Kings Michael Krešimir II (reign 949-969) and Stephen Držislav (reign 969–997) as well as their powerful Bans/Viceroys Pribina and Godemir, Croatian Navy ships were victorious when in conflict with the fleets of Saracens and Muslim Arabs attempting to cross and invade from the Italian peninsula of Gargano in 968-969. A number of Croatian Navy conflicts during these centuries successfully repelled Muslim Saracen and Moorish pirate raids arriving from Italy whose primary aim was to attempt to carry off women and children as sex slaves. Later the era of King Stjepan Držislav (969-996) was also marked with successful maritime trade and safekeeping of maritime routes and domination of Croatia on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. King Stephen I Krešimirović (988-1058) is known in sources for solidifying the Croatian Kingdom domains of the formerly named Pannonia and Dalmatia, but also for strengthening the military and especially ensuring the coastal defence and rule with the aid of his Croatian Navy fleet, with trade and commerce flourishing afterwards. Later in 1084, when the Normans under Robert Guiscard Duke of Apulia and Calabria conquered southern Italy and Sicily, he invaded the Adriatic Sea and western Balkan provinces of the Byzantine empire, and King Dmitar Zvonimir (1074-1089) even helped by sending troops as well as ships from the Croatian fleet to his aid. It is even precisely for these reasons that the medieval Croatian Kings with their royal courts, Viceroys/Bans and many of their nobility kept their seats and official royal residences near the strategic coastal areas, to much easier personally oversee and direct their maritime fleets. (Nin, Šibenik, Zadar, Biograd, Split, Klis, Knin, Trogir, Solin, Kaštela etc). Without getting into the maritime tradition and history including Dubrovnik, events after union with Hungary and the Habsburg Empire, the thousands of Croat sailors who took part in the epic historic Battle of Leponto defeating the Ottoman Empire fleet etc, these are just a few examples of the early Croatian Navy presence and maritime naval history from well over a thousand years ago. Basically in a nutshell, the Croatian Navy and maritime tradition and history is then actually much, much longer than just 25 years, which is good to know.

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