109 years ago, one of the darkest pages in the history of the world was written. The ocean liner Titanic, one of the largest ships ever built and the largest ship of its time, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, carrying 2,224 passengers and crew.
After colliding with an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, United States, the gigantic vessel was wrecked in two, killing more than 1,500 people. Even today, the tragedy of the Titanicis considered one of the deadliest maritime accidents in modern history.
What many do not know is that among the victims were four Greek passengers, who left Europe, in search of a better life and new opportunities in America.
Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, Vassilios Katavelos and the brothers Apostolos Chronopoulos and Dimitrios Chronopoulos, came from the same village, Agios Sostis, in the region of Messenia in the Peloponnese.
They were all under 30 and once they heard the news of the Titanic and the cruise in the United States, they traveled to Marseilles in France, to board the ship at the port of Cherbourg.
Tragically, their dreams, like those of many others who were lost that night, never came true, as all four died in the most famous sinking in naval history, and although the bodies of Lymperopoulos and Katavelos have been found, those of the two Chronopoulos brothers have never been found.
The Untold Stories of the Greek Passengers of the Titanic
Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, who was 30 at the time, owned a small factory in New York. He had returned to Greece – where his family was – for his son’s baptism and wanted to return to the United States to pursue his plans to expand his business. Despite his wife’s insistence on staying longer in Greece and spending time with his family, he thought the trip on the Titanic would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so he took the Chronopoulos brothers with him and offered them jobs in the United States.
In fact, he had already bought a ticket for another cruise ship, but changed his ticket at the last minute, so he could travel with the other three Greek passengers.
Lymperopoulos was also the only one who managed to board one of the lifeboats, as the fact that he spoke good English helped him find his way on deck. However, his lifeboat was lost in the ocean and he did not survive the sinking.
Vassilis Katavelos was only 19 when he boarded the Titanic. His older brother was already living in the United States and had managed to create a fortune working there, so Vassilis wanted to join him.
Following the advice of his compatriot, Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, he agreed to travel to the United States, so he sold his sheep in Messenia and bought a ticket to Marseilles to board the Titanic.
After his tragic loss, his brother, who was waiting for him in the United States, only received Vassilis’ comb and birth certificate from the shipwreck.
Apostolos Chronopoulos, 26, had previously worked in America as an interpreter for a few years, but had returned to Greece to meet his younger brother Dimitris, 18, and take him to New York to work at the Lymperopoulos factory. Initially, the two brothers were going to travel the Atlantic with another much more affordable liner, but their new employer, Panagiotis Lymperopoulos, persuaded them to change their tickets and travel with the Titanic to get to the United States more quickly.
In the months following the tragedy, many bodies of the Titanic passengers were washed ashore in Canada and their remains were interred at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 121 victims of the sunken ship are believed to have been buried at Fairview, and a third of them have never been identified, so their graves only show the date of their death. It is possible that the bodies of the Greek passengers were among those found in the area.
The four Greeks of Titanic, however, have never been forgotten in their homeland. A small marble monument was built in their honor outside the local church in their village in Messenia.
“In memory of the four Greek victims of the 1912 Titanic seeking better fortune in the United States for themselves and their families. Vassilios G. Katavelos, Panagiotis K. Lymperopoulos, Apostolos M. Chronopoulos, Dimitrios M. Chronopoulos”, are the words inscribed at the top of the plague monument, in the minds of Greek travellers.