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Queens Chronicle

Sadness remains for Armenians

Survivors of genocide recount atrocities by Ottoman Turks

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:30 am

Ninety-nine-year-old Azniv Guiragossian has a grief that has lasted 95 years.

“Life has been very hard. I think and I cry,” Guiragossian said. “Sometimes I go to bed, I’m thinking about my life. I open my eyes, it’s daylight.”

Guiragossian remembers and cries about her experiences at age four, walking through the Syrian desert with her mother and other women and children when the Ottoman Turks killed or deported Armenians between 1915 and 1923.

She witnessed her mother giving birth in the desert to a baby who died, the death of her mother months later, the near-execution of her father due to false criminal accusations and his death, soon after, from what his family believes was a stress-related illness caused by his ordeal.

It is believed that as many as 1.5 million Armenians, or 75 percent of the Armenian population at the time, were killed before, during and after World War I under the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, from 1915 to 1923. The events will be commemorated at a Times Square ceremony on Sunday, April 27 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The population was reduced to one-quarter of its original size through mass killings of its male population, and, for the women and children who were not immediately murdered, being driven to walk through mountains and into the Syrian desert, starved, deprived of water, raped and beaten.

Turkey now outlaws mention of what happened to the Armenians, saying, when it must, that the loss of life happened in the context of war and was not a deliberate attempt to eliminate a people.

Accounts from the time state otherwise. One well-known primary source is, “Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide,” by then-American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau.

Guiragossian and another survivor, Perouze Kalousdian, spoke with reporters last Saturday at their residence at the New York Armenian Home in Flushing, a private retirement facility founded in 1948.

Reminded by her daughter, Arpi Nardone, of something good, the four children she raised, Guiragossian said, “What do my children have to do with anything? I love my children.”

But for her, the hardship of the march and loss of her childhood home and family have never been overcome.

“I have had a very hard life because of these events,” she said. “I think and I cry,” Guiragossian repeated.

For Kalousdian, age 104, some details have blurred over the decades but the emotions remain sharp.

“They came to my house. My mother took me by the hand and led me. I don’t know where,” Kalousdian said.

She was four or five years old at the time, she said. “I know that I was crying and asking for food, that’s all I know.” Her mother told her, “We don’t have food.”

As for the men, Kalousdian said, “They took them from us and they never came back.” A few years ago, before some of her memories faded, she had told a story of Turks taking males over the age of 15, including her two uncles. They were tied up two-by-two and thrown over the bridge into the River Euphrates, she had said.

Kalousdian’s father escaped harm, she still remembers. “Before the war, my grandfather sent my father to America because he knew that something was going to happen.”

The family was reunited later.

The stories of these women are accounts of anger and lives colored, if not defined, by the horrors they witnessed and suffered just as their long lives on Earth were beginning.

“The Turks have done us a lot of harm. They took all of our homes and our belongings. We were living like animals. I hate them,” Kalousdian said.

Some Turks from the younger generation are said to be starting to question their government’s official position, especially those who obtain a higher education in other countries.

Historians consider the Armenian massacres to be the first modern systematic campaigns to eliminate an entire racial group and a model used by Adolf Hitler when he planned the Holocaust.

The generation that lived through the massacres is dying off, but the direct effects are being passed on to a new generation. Guiragossian’s children say that their mother’s experience had a strong effect on their lives.

“They call my mother a survivor and this is a double-edged sword because, what did you survive?” Shahen Guiragossian, Azniv’s son, said. “We had to live knowing those stories and knowing them from her. It left a scar.”

“She never had the mother’s love,” Arpi Nardone, Guiragossian’s daughter, said.

Nardone grew up hearing stories about how lonely, cold and hungry her mother had been on the march and its effect on her life, as well as her mother’s story of having been kidnapped and raised from age one to four by a Turkish family, found and returned to her primary family, only to be driven into the Syrian desert with other women and children without food or water.

She finished her youth at an orphanage after her mother died.

“At home every day, she would talk about it too much,” Nardone said. “It bothers me very much, it affected me very much.”

Nardone longs for recognition of the events that affected her entire family. “I’m almost jealous, envious of the Jews because they have been recognized,” Nardone said.

The Armenian massacre was smaller than the Holocaust, she noted,“but with the same pain.”

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • Ergun KIRLIKOVALI posted at 6:36 pm on Wed, Oct 29, 2014.

    Ergun KIRLIKOVALI Posts: 1


    I am the son of Turkish survivors from both paternal and maternal sides. My father was the sole survivor of the village of KIRLIKOVA (in today's Northern Greece) where the entire Turkish population of the village and the four neighboring Turkish villages were exterminated by Bulgarian and Greek irregulars, helped by Armenian cadets armed with Russian Mosin weapons (for a photo, click here: www.ethocide.com.) So where is my pain and suffering in the above article?

    Where is the pain of the descendants of 519,000 Turks who met their tragic ends at the hands of Armenian terrorist gangs like Dashnaks, Hunchaks, Armenakans, Ramgavar, Nemesis, and more? If you have not heard of these words before, that shows that you are only exposed to the Armenian side of the story, totally missing the other half.

    Armenians are not telling the public the whole story; they never did. Armenians are only broadcasting their suffering, magnified with embellishments, deceptions, and forgeries, but maintaining radio silence when it comes to Armenian terrorism,
    Armenian revolts, Armenian treason, Armenian territorial demands, and the
    resulting Turkish deaths and suffering, such as mine. While I do not wish to
    minimize Armenian suffering, I reject all biased attempts to label of the 1915
    events genocide, as Armenian Genocide is a long discredited political claim,
    not a court-proven fact like the Jewish Holocaust. There is no court verdict, that says that Armenian-Turkish conflict is a genocide. Armenians insist that it is
    genocide and compare it to Holocaust to gain "credibility by
    association." It would be an insult to the silent memory of six million
    Jews who were murdered by the German Nazis just because they were Jews, if
    Armenian insurgency, terrorism, treason and their consqeuncies (TERESET) were to be included (to the total exclusion of Turkish suffering and losses at the
    hands of Armenian insurgents.)

    The three main Armenian "proofs", namely the memoirs of Naim Bey (shown
    to be crude fakes,) the courts martial of 1920 occupied Istanbul (Kangaroo
    courts whose papers mysteriously got "lost",) and the role of special
    organization (proven to be irrelevant,) were all debunked and discredited by a
    formidable array of world renown historians like Bernard Lewis of Princeton,
    Stanford Shaw of UCLA, Edward J. Erickson, Guenter Lewy, Justin McCarthy, Michael Gunter, Andrew Mango, Roderick Davison, and others--too many to list here. Turkey's archives have been open since mid 1980s and more than 100 countries have already sent their scholars there, except, ironically, Armenia. Armenian archives are still closed to research, except a few partisan scholars subscribing to the official Armenian narrative. So what are Armenians hiding and why are they so scared of researching the Turkish archives?

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated in its Dec 17, 2013 verdict on Perincek vs Switzerland that "[t]he existence of a 'genocide', which was a precisely defined legal concept, was not easy to prove". The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) added: "doubted that there could be a general consensus… given that historical research was, by definition, open to discussion and a matter of debate, without necessarily giving rise to final conclusions or to the assertion of objective and absolute truths". Thus, the ECHR created a legal precedent of inadmissibility of any comparison between the Holocaust and the Armenian claims; the latter lacks what the former clearly has: concrete historical
    facts, clear legal basis, and existence of the "acts had been found by an international court to be clearly established".

    A Christian missionary, George M. Lamsa, put it succinctly in his book The Secret of the Near East, (The Ideal Press, Philadelphia 1923, p 133: )

    "…In some towns containing ten Armenian houses and thirty Turkish houses, it was reported that 40,000 people were killed, about 10,000 women were taken to the harem, and thousands of children
    left destitute; and the city university destroyed, and the bishop killed. It is a well- known fact that even in the last war the native Christians, despite the Turkish cautions, armed themselves and fought on the side of the Allies. In these conflicts, they were not idle, but they were well supplied with artillery, machine guns and inflicted heavy losses on their enemies…."

    Isn't it time to let facts speak for themselves?