My aunt reflects on Armenians living in Turkey before the Armenian Genocide

Last week, I interviewed my aunt to learn about her family and their history in Turkey.

During our conversation I asked her if she speaks any Armenian. She admitted she knows some words, but she doesn’t speak the language.  I mentioned that several other recent interviewees (all children of Armenians from Turkey) also only know a few Armenian words, but they cannot speak the language of our ancestors (neither do I).

Honestly, I’ve been surprised to learn that every Armenian I’ve interviewed told me their parents all spoke fluent Turkish. I knew my grandfather spoke Turkish—he only learned and spoke Armenian when he came to the United States,  after escaping the massacres that claimed his mother’s and sister’s lives. When my grandfather was a boy, Armenians were forbidden to speak their language in Turkey. In fact, my aunt explained that if an Armenian was caught speaking Armenian in Turkey, they risked having their tongue cut out.

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