I was born on August 28th, 1912, the youngest of the six children. My father was a respected, successful trade route merchant in Aintab [Celicia], Turkey and my family
consisted of six children and my parents. We were a very pious, Christian family, proud and patriotic in our Armenian heritage.
Yet we were second-class citizens in Turkey. As Armenian Christians, we had three choices to exist, change our religion to Muslim and denounce are Armenian nationality, give heavy taxes, or to die by the Ottoman Turks. We Armenians chose to die in order to keep our noble, wonderful Christian religion
Because my father owned land, barns and stone buildings we were able to fight from the homestead against the initial attacks against the Armenians. In April 1915, while the Young Turks were drafting all of the men into Army work-camps, he was able to remain with his family. However, soon the order to deportation arrived and we had to gather whatever we could carry upon our donkey and begin the marches to unknown destinations, ultimately the Syrian Desert. My brother and myself were too young to walk the death march, so the donkey with 2 boxes on both sides carried us through many villages and towns until the last stop before Der Zor.*
My mother was ever a diplomat, had befriended our Turkish neighbors in Aintab by bringing them gifts and Armenian delicacies. Because of her efforts, in Meskene the town right before Der Zor, the neighbor’s husband, a high ranking military official was shocked to see us. He obtained a permit and saved us from going through Der Zor where multitudes perished. Aunts, uncles, friends and all were killed, shot, buried, and kidnapped. Some of them on the way drowned in the Euphrates River.
Our survival later took us to Aleppo, Syria where my father continued his merchant business. After graduating high school, I moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to study at the American University and became a Midwife, and an educator. I married and raised a family of my own in Beirut. In 1980, my late husband was called to be a Reverend in Worcester, MA, my children had already moved here and settled with families of their own. We immigrated to this noble country, and became citizens in 1985. My children and 6 grandchildren are all university educated. I now reside in Mahwah, New Jersey, where I am a proud parishioner at the Armenian Presbyterian Church.
The horrors of 1915 are yet to be recognized and acknowledged by Turkey to have been acts of Genocide. The horrors inflicted upon my people did not crush our spirit or make us forget our faith and national identity. However, as a survivor, I do wish to see justice.
* Der Zor, Syria was designated as the destination point and final killing spot of the Armenian deportees. Those who survived the death marches were brought to Der Zor and murdered. Since 1990 a Memorial Site has been constructed beside the mass graves.
This interview was filmed by 3Generations at her home in New Jersey in December 2008. With special thanks to Karine Birazian and the Armenian National Committee of America.