Armenian Genocide news from diaspora in France and Argentina

May 31, 2010

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a national holiday and time to honor the war veterans who served to protect and defend the United States in wars. Yesterday, in France, a Khachkar commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide was inaugurated in Versailles, France. Armenian-French singer, Charles Aznavour unveiled the Khachkar at the ceremony. In France, on April 24th French-Armenians remember not only all those who lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide, but also all the Armenians who gave their lives for France in war.

The US and France have the largest Armenian populations in the Armenian diaspora.  In Argentina, home of the third largest population of Armenians (descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors), protests to prevent a bust of Kemal Ataturk from being erected in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, were successful leading to Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan canceling his visit to Argentina.

Many Armenians from Marash live in Argentina. My grandfather was from Marash (he eventually settled in New York). He survived the massacre carried out by Kemal Ataturk in 1920. Not only does Turkey deny the Genocide, the Turkish Government also asserts that Ataturk was not responsible for any of the massacres. However, that is not true.

Read the related articles in the news:

Khachkar commemorating Armenian Genocide victims unveiled in Versailles
Public Radio of Armenia | May 31, 2010

Erdogan cancels visit to Argentina: Kemal Ataturk bust not to be erected in Buenos Aires
Panorama.com | May 31, 2010


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.


Reflecting upon the deportation and death marches of Armenians in 1915

April 5, 2010

Yesterday, I hiked Bear Mountain in New York State, elevation 1,284 ft (391.4 m). It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. The temperature was in the 60’s (F). My 15-year-old godson and a good friend joined me for the outing. We packed sandwiches and plenty of water and wore good shoes for climbing rocks and walking on rough, but well-marked trails. The nearly 4-mile climb to the summit and back down took us about 4 hours (with breaks).

I’d remembered first hearing about Bear Mountain from my mom. She told stories of camping there with the Girl Scouts. My friend Rita remembers picnics and family outings at Bear Mountain, as well as many hikes with friends and students. I wanted to share this idyllic experience with my godson and he loved it.

But, throughout the afternoon, I couldn’t help imagining old women and little children being forced to walk for miles every day, in the hot sun and in the freezing winter, barefoot, eventually naked or barely clothed, and starving, until they literally dropped dead. Then, I’d return my thoughts to the three of us enjoying this special day together.

Many of the Armenians who were taken from their homes and towns by the Turkish officials in Ottoman Turkey naively believed they would be able to return home again. How could they have possibly imagined they were on organized death marches orchestrated to depopulate Turkey’s interior of its Armenian Christian population?

How is it that my grandfather who was torn from his mother and sisters, as well as his home and identity in Marash, could come to America (at the same age my godson is now) and find the resources within himself to rebuild his life in New York City? What did he think about when he wasn’t busy working, going to school, building a dental practice and a home for my grandmother and his children? Did he remember all the parts of his story that he left out of his letters to us? Did he ever want to go home again?

My godson is a good boy and he is the light of his mother’s and father’s life. (And mine, too). He loves and adores his parents. They have made a very safe and comfortable world for him. I wish it were possible to know what my grandfather’s life was like before the massacres in Marash. Did he live in fear? Did he know the kind of love and security my godson has received? Did the massacres define my grandfather? Did his mother shape his character? How is it that my grandfather was one of the lucky few who made it out of Turkey alive and managed to thrive once he reached the safe harbor of Ellis Island and Manhattan?


Finding out the truth about my grandfather and the genocide

February 7, 2010

As readers of this blog already know, I am writing a book about my grandfather, Dr. Karnig Kalpakian. This blog came about because as I started researching the history of the Armenian Genocide, I learned that what my high school Sunday School teacher warned us was true: the Turkish government actively denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide. And, sadly, many of our politicians and universities are on the Turkish lobby’s payroll. This blog is simply a means for sharing what I come across each day as I dig deeper into the mountains of evidence that actually do exist, which prove the truth of the Ottoman Turks’ slaughter and brutalization of over 1.5 million Armenians at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Last night I read Neither to Laugh nor to Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide by Father Abraham H. Hartunian. I learned about the book when I read the Ellis Island oral history of his son, Vartan Hartunian. Father Hartunian’s account is brutal and vivid. I shutter to think what horrors he may have edited out of his memory, because his descriptions of the attacks he witnessed and the terror he experienced are raw.

I wanted to read his book because I learned that he led a church congregation in Marash (which is the city where my grandfather lived). I hoped to learn more about what happened in 1920, as my grandfather only glossed over the events in his letters to our family. The only clue I had to the madness is that my grandfather referred to his home burning and that his mother and sisters were taken to the mosque and ‘butchered’. But, I questioned his knowledge and memory of the event because until last night I had not read an account, or spoken with anyone, who knew of the mosque (I kept encountering the recounting of the burning of the churches with their congregations inside).

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE IS VERY VIOLENT AND GRAPHIC

On pages 136-137 of Neither to Laugh not to Weep, Father Hartunian writes:

On the night of January 23, to the firing, the thundering of the cannons, the din of battle, a more calamitous evil was added—fire! The Turks had begun to set Armenian houses and buildings on fire. Even Turkish buildings were being burned if it seemed possible thus to spread the blaze to the Armenian quarters or one of the military centers. The flames rose everywhere; the city glowed beneath their light. From every side, bullets were incessantly whizzing like hail, and no one knew when he might be hit. Every moment there was danger of a fierce attack on any center where the Armenians had gathered. The fire horrified us. It was impossible to withstand it. I do not know a battle on a field or in the air, but I do know that a battle in a city is a hellish thing!

In the other centers the situation was the same or even worse. But no horrors can ever parallel the experience of the Armenians in the Armenian quarters and in their houses. These were tortured without respite and without pity and then slaughtered. A well-known and supposedly good-hearted Turk, Murad Bey, was in the Great Mosque, Ooloo Jami, where the murderers were at work. Some Armenian women and children, watching the slaughter and awaiting their turn, pleaded, “Please tell them to shoot us and not cut our throats with the knife!” and our kind Turk answered, “Don’t be afraid. The knives have been sharpened well and you will not suffer much.”

The city’s greatest Hoca was there too, Dayi Zade Hoca, and the Turks turned to him saying, “Hoca, shall we slaughter the small children too?” Does the Koran give us permission?” “Yes,” he answered, “slaughter them too. The Koran permits. We must kill the offspring of the scorpions, too, that they may not grow and sting us.”

Now, I know the fate of my grandfather’s mother, Mary Mesrobian Kalpakian; and his sisters, Anais Kalpakian (13 or 14 years old), and Armenouhi Kalpakian (9 or 10 years old).

The more I read, the more my grandfather’s words are verified as fact. This history is no ‘myth’ as Turkish government spokespeople continue to allege. But, I wish they were right.


Write President Obama with your family’s Armenian Genocide history (I did)

November 14, 2009

President Obama is meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 7, 2009.

To send your letter testifying about your family’s Armenian Genocide-related history to President Obama, click this link:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/

This is a copy of my letter to President Obama:

November 12, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your leadership and the vision you are putting forth for America. I actually cried with tears of happiness when I voted for you.

My late father always celebrated the anniversary of the day he arrived in America and saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. He called May 15th, “God Bless America Day.” It was more important to him to celebrate that day, than it was to celebrate his own birthday.

President Obama, I am an Armenian-American. I am writing to you today because I understand you will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey, again, before the end of this year. I am speaking up now on behalf of the memory of my mother’s parents and grandparents, who suffered unthinkable personal tragedies at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide. I still believe you intend to keep your campaign promise to call the systematic mass murder and deportation of Armenians, Greeks and other non-Muslims a “Genocide.”

I truly believe you are the right person to find a way to work through this issue because the world respects you. If a man of your principles and moral courage does not speak up to the Turkish Government, who will? Allowing Turkey to perpetuate a denial campaign, so as not to disturb our national interests, is no different than befriending the playground bully and then not speaking up to his assertions that he never abused anyone. In this comparison, the bully would actually make claims that it was he who was assaulted, and he was merely defending himself.

My grandfather’s family did not assault the Turkish government. In fact, my great great grandfather, Dr. Aboujhon Kuzujian, was a prominent medical doctor from Aintab who migrated to Marash. The family name was officially changed from Kuzujian to Kalpakleoglou or Karnoug (in Armenian) when my great great grandfather received a Kalpak (Persian lamb hat) as an honor from the Sultan of Turkey. Dr. Kuzujian was recognized as a hero for saving the lives of children during an epidemic in Marash that took the lives of many children.

My grandfather was Karnig Kalpakian (Dr. John Karnig) and his father was Dr. Janik Kalpakian. In 1920, they escaped the killings in Marash, Turkey, that claimed the lives of my great grandmother Mary Mesrobian, as well as the lives of my great aunts Anais and Armenouhi. During the Ottoman Turks’ mass deportation of the Armenians, Mary Mesrobian’s entire family, with the exception of her brother Kevork, were deported “to the deserts of Arabia” (this is what my grandfather wrote in his letter to our family, but it was most likely Der Zor).

My grandfather and great grandfather were among the ‘lucky’ victims of the Ottoman Turks. Leaving everything behind, they survived. Starting off in a horse-drawn carriage to Aintab, Janik and Karnig set out on their journey to safer shores in America. From Aintab they traveled to Aleppo (Syria); then to Beirut (Lebanon), then on to Jerusalem, and finally to Alexandria, Egypt, where they waited to immigrate to America. In 1923, Karnig, together with his father, new stepmother and a new baby brother, finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York.

Mr. President, in my heart I believe this issue has broader importance than simply serving as a domestic political gesture to a small constituency. The world community is watching and waiting for our leadership regarding genocide. My mother asked why would I want to get involved in documenting the Armenian Genocide as a response to the recent Armenian-Turkish Protocols, when my efforts won’t change anything. But as Henri Frederic Amiel said, “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.”

Please take my letter under your personal consideration. It would be an honor to share more of my grandfather’s family history, as well as his achievements in, and contributions to, our great country.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sheri Sona Jordan
New York

My blog address is, https://armeniangenocideblog.wordpress.com


Do you owe your life to a relative who survived the Armenian Genocide?

November 12, 2009

I do:

My grandfather was Karnig Kalpakian (Dr. John Karnig) and his father was Dr. Janik Kalpakian. In 1920, they escaped the killings in Marash, Turkey, that claimed the lives of my great grandmother Mary Mesrobian, as well as the lives of my great aunts Anais and Armenouhi. During the Ottoman Turks’ mass deportation of the Armenians, Mary Mesrobian’s entire family, with the exception of her brother Kevork, were deported “to the deserts of Arabia” (as my grandfather wrote in his letter to our family).

Janik, a dentist, was the son of Dr. Aboujhon Kuzujian, a prominent medical doctor from Aintab who migrated to Marash. The family name was officially changed from Kuzujian to Kalpakleoglou or Karnoug (in Armenian) when my great-great grandfather received a Kalpak (Persian lamb hat) as an honor from the Sultan of Turkey. Dr. Kuzujian was recognized as a hero for saving the lives of children during an epidemic in Marash that took the lives of many children.

My grandfather and great grandfather were among the ‘lucky’ victims of the Ottoman Turks. Leaving everything behind, they survived. Starting off in a horse-drawn carriage to Aintab, Janik and Karnig set out on their journey to safer shores in America. From Aintab they traveled to Aleppo (Syria); then to Beirut (Lebanon), then on to Jerusalem, and finally to Alexandria, Egypt—where they waited to immigrate to America. In 1923, Karnig, together with his father, new stepmother and a new baby brother, finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York.

I promise to share much more of the details of Karnig’s story, but first I need your help:

Please forward this blog link to all Armenians you know:

https://armeniangenocideblog.wordpress.com

Help us respond to the Armenia-Turkey Protocols call for an investigation into our history. We need your family names, stories, pictures, oral personal histories and video testimonials. We are also seeking translators and research assistants to help us with this worldwide Armenian Genocide documentation effort.

Please enter your comments (through the comment link below) or send an email to: armeniangenocide@ymail.com.

Thank you!


Do you find the Armenian Genocide too upsetting to talk about?

October 6, 2009

When I told my mother that I started a blog to contribute to the dialogue about the Armenian Genocide, she asked me, “why?” She said every time she thinks about what happened to her father she gets upset. I know there are many people who feel the way my mother feels. But, does that mean we should never talk about it?

While we don’t talk about it, Turkey is talking about it — continuing to assert it wasn’t the G word. Shouldn’t we talk about it? Isn’t it past time that we stood up to Turkey for our grandparents? And, give our voices to tell their stories? Don’t we owe them that?

My grandfather was one of my heroes and my greatest role model. His name was Karnig. He was just a boy when his mother and sisters were massacred in their town of Marash. My grandfather escaped the same fate because he was in the wrong place at the right time. For the next few years, he and his dad would share the collective odyssey of the ‘lucky’ Armenians who made their way from their homeland to distant lands all over the globe. Before he died, Karnig wrote a letter to our family telling us what happened to his family during the Armenian Genocide and how he managed to survive.

I am determined to tell my grandfather’s history. I cannot remain silent when I hear any person or government deny the truth about the atrocities committed upon millions of innocent Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. It is past the time for every Armenian and Turk to see history as it was. This step is critical if our people and nations wish to go forward on the path toward a future peace.


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