Astrid Aghajanian survived the Armenian Genocide

June 14, 2012

When we focus on the number, 1,500,000 massacred in the Armenian Genocide, it is easy to lose sight of the individual lives touched by this man-made tragedy. Learning the stories of individuals is a meaningful way to come to know history.

The UK’s Independent published this powerful obituary which honors the life of Helen Astrid ‘Astghig’ Aghajanian, nee Gaidzakian:

Astrid Aghajanian: Survivor of the Armenian genocide who narrowly escaped death
June 14, 2012 |

Helen (Astghig/Astrid) Gaidzakian was born in Albistan, Turkey, March 28, 1913. She survived the deportation and massacre of the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. In 1942, she married Gaspar Aghajanian. The Aghajanians had two daughters. Widowed in 2007, Mrs. Aghajanian died in Gloucester May 11, 2012. Read about her life.

Armenian Genocide denial doesn’t make it go away

April 19, 2011

As Turkey is finding out, denying genocide does not succeed in making the issue disappear. Ironically, the government of Turkey continues to indirectly finance awareness of the Armenian Genocide by spending millions of dollars annually to fight Armenian Genocide recognition.

In contrast, Germany, Turkey’s former war ally, is an example of a country that meets its responsibility to educate the world about its role perpetrating the Holocaust, with the hope that education will prevent future genocides.

I recently attended a lecture and exhibit at a Sephardic Jewish center in New York City, and was privileged to see an exhibit of Sephardic Jews in the diaspora commissioned by the government of Spain (which expelled the Jewish people in 1492).

And, in March, on a visit to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia—where the founders of the United States of America gathered to write the Declaration of Independence—I was happily surprised to see the U.S. government’s displays acknowledging slavery in America at this prominent national historic site.

Many of the people of Turkey know what happened in April 1915 in their country. Most of the world also knows that 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish Government. The game of not officially ‘recognizing’ the systematic killings as genocide by certain governments is not a reflection of historical truth, but rather ugly and amoral present-day politics.

German, Spain, and the United States are just three examples of countries who tell the truth about their past crimes and injustices. Although they cannot undo the past, these countries make a serious effort to remember history, so history (of that kind) does not repeat itself.

As long as Turkey denies its genocide of the Armenian people, it will sadly remain stained by its fathers’ sins.  When the day finally arrives that Turkey accepts and apologizes for its past crimes, I believe the world community will welcome the opportunity to view Turkey with greater respect and friendship.

The Questions of Armenian Genocide Denial and Insulting Turkishness

April 12, 2011

I consider myself a reasonable and intelligent person. Yet, I fail to understand how Turkey has succeeded at bullying the world’s most powerful governments and leaders when it comes to Armenian Genocide recognition. 

  • Is it because there is a multimillion dollar industry built upon the lobbying for genocide denial? 
  • If Britain, the US, and Israel actually went on the record using the G-word, would Turkey actually stop all trade and military cooperation?
  • How is genocide denial in any country’s or peoples’ best interests?
  • Who benefits from genocide denial?
  • What greater good does such a policy serve?
  • Are the citizens of Turkey really better off because their government refuses to apologize for the past and thereby keeps its heinous deeds very much in the present?

Today, it is a crime in Turkey to insult Turkishness. At one time, my relatives were proud Turkish citizens. They spoke Turkish, listened to Turkish music, drank Turkish coffee, and loved the soil on which they were born. Is that Turkishness? 

When Sultan Hamid massacred the Armenians and the Ottoman Turks systematically decimating the Armenian Turks, many members of my family were killed because they were Christian and Armenian. Were the Turkish leaders’ acts  Turkishness’? 

My grandfather wrote a letter to his children telling of the Turkish family who risked their own lives to give him and his father refuge until they could escape from the Turkish soldiers hunting them down with the sole intent to kill them. Who was displaying Turkishness: the Turkish family or the Turkish soldiers? 

Who represents Turkishness today: the Turkish people who wish to make peace with their Armenian brethern or the Turkish Government who promotes and perpetuates genocide denial? 

P.S. As an American I am sad to see my government insulting Americanness.

Armenian Genocide 96th Anniversary Commemoration — Times Square — Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 4, 2011


(February 25, 2011) NY, NY–For the 26th year, thousands of Armenian Americans and their supporters will gather in Times Square (43rd St. & Broadway) to commemorate the first genocide of the 20th Century: The Armenian Genocide. To be held on Sunday, May 1, 2011 from 2-4 PM, this historic event will pay tribute to the 1.5 million Armenians who were annihilated by the Young Turk Government of the Ottoman Empire. The Commemoration will also celebrate the survival and spirit of the Armenian people, their rich heritage and global contributions.

Presenters will include civic, religious, humanitarian, educational, cultural leaders and performing artists. This event is free and open to the public.

Armenian Genocide experts Dennis R. Papazian, PhD, National Grand Commander of Knights of Vartan, Dr. Arthur Kubikian, former Chairman of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square (1999 and 2006) and Dr. Raffi A. Hovanessian, active in Armenian affairs and Vice Chair of the Diocesan Council in N.Y., are available for media interviews via phone and in-person. Armenian Genocide Survivors are also available (with translators) to discuss their eyewitness accounts as refugees from the Armenian Genocide. Their painful accounts of the horrendous horrors and mass destruction they witnessed and lived through are critical contributions to world history.

Dr. Papazian comments, “There is no question that when genocide goes unpunished, it makes other perpetrators discount the possibility of being punished for their transgressions. The Turkish government to this day continues to deny the reality of the first genocide of the 20th Century, the Armenian Genocide, which opened the door to all the genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries including the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. In fact, when Hitler sent his Death Heads troops into Poland at the beginning of World War II, he said, “Go. Kill without mercy. Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?”

Armenian Genocide experts and survivors available for interviews

Issues to explore with experts:

  • Why do the Armenians and supporters commemorate the Armenian Genocide?
  • What is the historical evidence to support the Armenian Genocide?
  • Why is the Turkish government denying the Armenian Genocide and what would be the outcomes if the Turkish government acknowledged the Genocide?
  • What major world historical events have taken place in the 20th and 21st centuries because of the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish Ottoman Empire and other nations?
  • What are the consequences of countries recognizing the Armenian Genocide?

The Experts

Dennis R. Papazian, PhD, is the National Grand Commander of Knights of Vartan and founding Director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where from 1971-2006, he held the position of Professor of History. He also served four years as Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly of America in Washington, D.C. In addition, Dr. Papazian was on the Board of Trustees of the American Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern), Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the St. Nersess Armenian Theological Seminary, President of the Society for Armenian Studies and Editor of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and resides in N.J. with his wife, Mary, who is Senior Vice President of Lehman College, CUNY.

Arthur H. Kubikian, DDS, is the former Chairman of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square (1999 and 2006) and is an active member of the Knights of Vartan.  He resides in Long Island, N.Y.

Raffi A. Hovanessian, MD, has been active in Armenian affairs throughout his life and is presently Vice Chair of the Diocesan Council in N.Y.  He has served on the boards of the Armenian Assembly, AGBU, St. Nersess Seminary and the American University of Armenia and is an active member of the Knights of Vartan.  He resides in N.J.

The 96th Commemoration is organized by the Mid-Atlantic chapters of Knights & Daughters of Vartan, a U.S. fraternal organization of Armenian-Americans, and co-sponsored by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Council of America and ADL-Ramgavars.

Participating Organizations: Diocese of the Armenian Church, Prelacy of the Armenian Church, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Catholic Eparchy for US and Canada, Mid-Atlantic ACYOA, AYF, Armenian Youth Organizations, Armenian University and College Clubs.


What do you know about your family’s Armenian Genocide story?

April 1, 2011

If your family came from historic Armenia:

  • Do you know where your family came from?
  • What do you know about their lives?
  • What was the family business?
  • What kind of house did they live in?
  • Did they go to school?
  • Was the family Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, or Protestant?
  • Do you know anything about family members that died in the Armenian Genocide?
  • If members of the family survived the deportation marches, do you know what happened to them along the way?
  • To what countries did the family emigrate?
  • How did members of the family earn a living and survive in their new homelands?
  • Do you speak Armenian?
  • What do you know about the history of the Armenians before the Armenian Genocide?

These are just some of the questions for which I am seeking answers. As I learn about the strength, determination, resourcefulness, faith, and work ethic my family displayed as they experienced the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath, I am awed.

Communing online across the Armenian diaspora

May 20, 2010

Earlier today, I ‘chatted’ with an Armenian in Beirut on Facebook. His family (like my grandfather’s family) was from Marash. Several months ago, I discovered a Facebook page with Marashtzi Canadian Armenians sharing pictures of their summer picnic. Last summer, I met an Israeli-born Armenian woman while I was visiting Jerusalem and learned that her family was also from Marash. Here, in New York City, many Armenian families are the children and grandchildren of genocide survivors from Marash. In fact, the husband of my Armenian grocer (Yaranush) is also Marashtzi.

These are just a few examples of how Armenians from one town decimated by the Ottoman Turks built their lives in the cities where they were welcomed all over the world. And now, through the Internet, we are finding one another. I wish our grandparents could be alive to know their children are rebuilding Marash—and Van, Sepastia, Aintab, Kayseri, Constantinople, Everek, Harpoot, Zeitun, Diyarbekir, Urfa, Sivas—in their hearts and here online.

The Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides: An inconvenient truth

March 18, 2010

Thank you to Lucine Kasbarian for sharing her article:

The Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides: An inconvenient truth | March 17, 2010

A table of Turks, a Greek and an Armenian, and a reference to the genocide

March 10, 2010

This afternoon, while waiting for a friend, I stopped into a pizzeria in Queens (outside New York City). The men sitting at the table behind me were talking in a familiar language, which I soon realized was Turkish.

After finishing their lunch, the men headed out of the restaurant. But, one of the men stopped at the counter to ask the owner for something.

The owner replied, “Hey, your grandfather didn’t give my grandfather water!”

Both men smiled and laughed.

Then, the Turk, still smiling, shook his finger and said, “Shame on you!”

(The brief exchange was quite friendly and the men clearly had good feelings towards one another.)

As I was leaving, I asked the owner if he was Armenian.

He replied, “No, I’m Greek.”

I said, “I am Armenian and I heard what you said to your customer.”

He smiled and said, “Oh, they’re Turkish.”

On an individual level, many Armenians and Turks share warm friendships. We are also friendly to one another when we are nothing more than strangers.

I recall an incident that occurred a few years ago when I stopped into a New York City bodega. The clerk (a Turk) actually apologized to me for what happened in Turkey, when he learned that I was Armenian.

So, what happens when the leaders of our governments do the talking and make the decisions for us? Where is the disconnect?

Turkey is counting on our silence

October 14, 2009

Let every Armenian who lost family in the Armenian Genocide hear this call. The moment is now. The Protocol was signed. Turkey has pledged to establish a commission to “investigate the Armenian Issue.”

We need your family histories. Please pass this message on to every Armenian you know and ask for their help. Don’t let Turkey escape responsibility for the actions of the Ottoman Turks and the crimes they committed upon our grandparents, great-grandparents and innocent children during the Armenian Genocide.

[Replies to this blog will be kept confidential unless you give us permission to share information.]

Turkey’s Military Museum Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents

October 9, 2009

I was curious when I saw an article posted online by the Associated Press today. It mentions the existence of the “Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents,” which is located in Istanbul. When I read a description of what it contains, my heart cried.

  • How can Armenia and Turkey achieve a real and lasting peace when generations of Turks have been indoctrinated to believe that Armenians were the aggressors during the atrocities committed in 1915?
  • What will be the fate of the Armenians in the world’s collective memory if the Protocol is signed between Armenia and Turkey, before Turkey acknowledges the truth–that genocide was committed by the Ottoman Turks?

I started this blog because I sincerely want the world to know what happened to my grandfather Karnig, his sisters and his mother, during the Armenian Genocide. My intent for this blog: is for it to serve as a forum for Armenians to honor the memories of their family members.

While I did not want this blog to depart from that vision, this moment in world politics interrupted my project plan. At first glance I was relieved to hear the news that Armenia and Turkey were seeking peace through a Protocol. But, as I read more about the dynamics of the process and the details of the Protocol, I recognized this diplomatic initiative will not serve Armenia, and it will exacerbate the open wound which remains in the collective heart of the Armenian diaspora.

  • What good is peace when only one side stands to gain?
  • How can such a peace last?

Once the Protocol is signed, how will Armenians the world over succeed in compelling Turkey to do what is morally right–to stop actively bearing false witness (paying lobbyists to convince our lawmakers to vote against resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, pressuring school districts and universities to remove mentions of the Armenian Genocide from their curriculum and textbooks, referring to the “so-called” “Armenian Issue”…maintaining the “Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents”…)?

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