I Am A Survivor


gen18 genocide9  gen17  gen16 gen20Photos taken from part of a collection of media coverage of Hamidian massacres, the Adana massacre and the Genocide, researched and assembled by curator and author Dr. Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute in Yerevan, Armenia.

On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government began rounding up and murdering leading Armenian politicians, businessmen and intellectuals, followed by a systematic extermination of all Armenians living in Anatolian Turkey. By 1918, one and a half million Armenians had perished at the hands of Ottoman and Turkish military and paramilitary armed forces through atrocities intentionally inflicted to eliminate the demographic presence of Armenians in Turkey. In the process, tens of thousands became homeless and stateless refugees while the population of historic Armenia at the Eastern extremity of Anatolia was wiped off the map. One hundred years later, Turkey continues to deny the Armenians their just claim to the truth of a Genocide perpetrated, backed by a U.S. government that continues to condone Turkey for the purpose of political gain.

Victoria’s Story
Somehow, I survived. I survived the march. With every blast of dry wind that blew across the hardened sand of the desert, uncovered bones littered the ground we walked on. I survived, like many of us, orphaned, alone, with only a distant memory of my parents’ faces. I lived in an orphanage. We spread ourselves across countries and continents. I came to feel that I was a nothing in this world, and, at the age of 7, I felt old and worn out. Eventually, I was adopted by Vartouhi Morak. They were kind. They too had a past like mine. But this became a home where memories were not welcome, a home with an unspoken past. I was told to believe that I was too young to understand, and that the only thing that mattered was that we were all very lucky to be alive and together again. While I grew up, I was to remain secretly tormented by my painful memories. When I tried to break the silence, I was always quickly reminded how lucky I was, far luckier than most. We became a family of strangers. We were so deeply hurt in our minds, hearts and souls that we were unable to speak as to what happened. We were silenced by the horror, and guilt set in with the silence because we had no words to describe the atrocities. Guilt, the embodiment of anger directed toward ourselves. It was the penance paid for the “gift” of survival. How could I overcome guilt, humiliation, shame? How could I shut away a time and pretend to assert a different identity? How could I cut out those precious years of childhood that left a wound too deep to mend and maintain a continuity between what was and what is? How could I reassert my dignity? Sure, we went on to live our lives, raising children and making good in the countries that took us in while playing political soccer with our people. Through the years, after having begged silently for a touch of humanity, I softened to kindness of family I created.

Yervant’s Story(Victoria’s son)
I was the offspring of a guilt ridden family that was the victim of a genocide the world ignored. I grew up in a country that had welcomed my parents and I became a citizen of that country. Yet I did not belong in the way other cultures did. It was a struggle to watch my parents make ends meet and speak in hushed silence of selective memories. I carried with me the “shame” of suppression by governments who refused to acknowledge the tragedy of the first Genocide of the Century. Despite historical records and warnings by foreign government, the world suffered yet another genocide in the Holocaust.
Fifty years. My parents spent 50 years hungering for an ear to hear the truth for our outrage and anger until we finally began to proclaim to the world that this horrendous act had taken place. Some of us took it upon ourselves to “right” the wrong, to pay for the loss of life of so many of our parent’s families, but our voices and actions only cut through our own skin and we remained scarred like that hollow place that outrage and anger carved in our hearts. Our actions and reactions proved that it was not death that we feared, but the fear of life without hope, without a dream, without an Armenian identity. It wasn’t the suffering and the torture that we feared. We feared a world without justice. For too long the moral balance of the universe had been swayed.

Hrant’s Story (Yervant’s son)
My family and I had to move. We, like many Armenians were displaced from our adopted countries. The Middle East was in turmoil and the world saw the fall of communism. Our Armenia and our church opened her doors to all her descendants. I’m not ashamed to say that the tears began to flow and I welcomed them. In the face of our struggles of the past 75 years we rose again. We made a new life for ourselves, adapting, yet preserving the riches of our culture. Our Armenian traits came out once again. We were resilient. We had adaptability. We were tenacious and we took initiatives as proud contributors to the countries we served. We were task oriented, hardworking with strong family values. We believed in giving our children the best so that they could become proud foreign nationals with an even prouder Armenian name. We couldn’t be weak or uncertain. Because if we were, then we would only be dragging ourselves back into the desert of the past. We became stronger individually and collectively as Armenians. Meanwhile our horrendous history of Genocide continued to be the playground of shortsighted politicians whose only concern was to please their constituencies, even if it took the distortion of our nation’s documented past.

Nairie’s Story (Hrant’s daughter)
I am a survivor and victor. I am alive and I am here working with this generation of Armenians and our friends toward a forward march for truth and justice. We need not prove that there actually was a Genocide. There is so much documentation and volumes of memoirs that there cannot be any more denial. The voices of 1.5 million are no longer silenced. They are being heard with all our voices, and the truth, in one way or another is coming out. Armenians are not so powerless after all. We have the power of testimony and witness, the power of voice, the power of presence, the power of struggle, the power of righteousness, and the power of a people who refuse to die. We bounce back with the resilience of our women and the resourcefulness of our men. We are durable. We possess the creativity of Aivazovky and Pinajian, Saroyan, Balakian, Bohjalian, Dink, Khachaturian, Hovhaness, Karsh and Garabedian, and so many others; the clever riches’ of Gulbenkian, Manougian, Hoplamazyan, Kerkorian and the like; the wisdom of Garsoian, Hovhanisian, Injejikian, Babikian, and more; the loyalty of Sarafian Jehl; the agility of Agassi, Movsisyan, Goulian, Mirzoyan, Darchinyan, Eskandarian, Parseghian and the like; the scientific of Bagian, Acopian, Sahagian ,Keonjian, Mikoyan to name a few; the fired forces of Speier, Krekorian, Philibosian, Apkarian, Poochigian, Deukmejian, Eshoo, Tevrizian, Hampartsumian and oh, so many more; the imagination of Egoyan and Mamoulian, Sarafian and Garnikyan, Bagdasarian, Keshishian, Zailian, and on and on; the voices of Aznavour, Cher, Tankian, Esperian and the like; we even have the vanity of the Kardashians. We have it all in academia, journalism, music, arts and entertainment, in fashion, in business, in banking, the law and politics, in the sciences, the sports, the military. We have served well the countries of our choices. Now, here we are at 100 years and our plight has just become stronger, our recognition firmer. I appreciate that dozens of countries have acknowledged the Genocide; that the majority of states, that the House of Representatives, that the US Government and that several International organization have passed resolutions and issued proclamations in recognition of the Genocide, but until Turkey is held to the same standards of unacceptability of modern day genocides, I cannot find my peace.
Yet, anger no longer consumes me and my generation. My personal and collective history empowers me and those who come after me to leave our mark to insure that never again a people must suffer while the world watches with eyes wide shut.

Recognition of the Genocide by Turkey, responsible for the deliberate and systematic extermination of my ancestors committed with the sole intent to destroy my race, is an obligation that if not done on her own MUST be mandated by a brave US government that is not so short sighted to live in fear of her constituents. Retribution through recognition is the least of reckoning!

I am confident. I am revived. I am proud.  I am a survivor. I am Armenian.

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6 Responses to I Am A Survivor

  1. Lucy says:

    So proud to be Armenian.And to be one of the Rays of a Sun called HAY.


  2. yeran says:

    I am a survivor, I am proud to be Armenian, and I can vouch I honorably carried my Armenianness in the adoptive countries I was born and lived in. Also, I am eternally grateful to those that dared to speak at the time of the Genocide and provided the first eyewitness testimonies- like Morgenthau and Wegner; to those that extended a helping hand – like Near East Relief; to the countries that welcomed the helpless survivors and gave them a chance to soon stand on their own two feet; to benefactors like Krikor and Garabed Melkonian, the creators of my alma mater Melkonian Educational Institute, which started as an orphanage for the young victims of the Genocide and soon came to be the best school in the diaspora, providing it with educators, publishers, artists, scientists, businessmen, respectable individuals; to the countries that have officially recognized the Genocide; and to those that still dare to speak, despite denial by Turkey and those that benefit by supporting her. As the poet Baruyr Sevag said, “We are few, but we are Armenian … we exist, we will exist, and still multiply”.


  3. Couldn’t have said it better Yeran. Our gratitude to all who kept our bodies, our minds, our faiths and spirit alive. We are touched by their humanity and carry their swords and shields proudly.


  4. colette says:

    “We have the power of testimony and witness, the power of voice, the power of presence, the power of struggle, the power of righteousness, and the power of a people who refuse to die.” Thank you Silva for this beautiful and heartfelt essay.


    • Thanks Colette. This is the story of every survivor spanning one hundred years. Sometimes I wish we could have come together as a race collectively ten years ago to have reached this unity and exposure sooner. But I guess it is now that we have the power.


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