This is the story of Margaret (Garabedian) DerManuelian. The story is transcribed from a video interview that took place in February of 1990. Her story takes her through the cities of Uzunoba Mezre, Sakrat, Palu, Kharpert, Haleb, Marseilles and finally to Providence, Rhode Island. The following is a list of the main people involved and their relationship to Margaret:
- Garabed Garabedian - Margaret's father
- Tarvez Garabedian - Margaret's mother
- Shooshan - Margaret's older sister
- Mariam - Margaret's older sister
- Hrepsime - Margaret's younger sister
- Marinos - Margaret's younger sister
- Giragos DerManuelian - Margaret's husband
- Mesrob DerManuelian - Giragos' father
- Khatchkatoun DerManuelian - Giragos' mother
- Manoog DerManuelian - Giragos' brother
- Baghdag DerManuelian - Giragos' brother
- Baghdig DerManuelian - Giragos' sister
- Agha - Margaret's master while in captivity
- Asadoor DerManuelian - Giragos' uncle
- Hairabed DerManuelian - Giragos' cousin
My name is George M. Aghjayan and Margaret is my grandmother. I interviewed Margaret and transcribed the story. Any errors are my own. I am very interested in anyone who knows the whereabouts of my grandmother's relatives. If you do, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am particularly interested in my grandfather's niece who still lives in Armenia (Khatchadourian is her married name, DerManuelian was her maiden name) and my grandmother's cousins Jivan and Hagop (unknown surname) who ended up in France.
This is the story of Margaret (Garabedian) Der Manuelian from the time of the Armenian Genocide to her arrival in the United States. Margaret was born in the village of Uzunoba Mezre in the kaza of Palu of the Diyarbaker vilayet. The village was located near the northeast banks of the Moorad River about midway between the cities of Kharpert and Palu. There were approximately ten Armenian families in the village and one church called St. Sarkis. To make the story more understandable in the future, I have decided to use names versus using relationships to me. Hence I use Margaret instead of Grandmother.
Margaret's memories of the genocide begin on the day the Turks rounded up the Armenian men to be massacred. The Turks came late in the afternoon as the sun was going down, she believes approximately 3:00 PM. Hand grenades were being thrown to frighten the people. Margaret's mother Tarvez gathered her children, Margaret (approximately 6 years old), Hripsime (approximately 3 years old) and Marinos (approximately 7 months old), and hid in a gully. The village was enclosed by hills. The Turks, riding horses and on foot, surrounded the village. The children were crying and her mother was trying to comfort them.
The whereabouts of Margaret's father Garabed was unknown at this time. Her older married sister Mariam (approximately 15 years old) was living in Sakrat, another village in the kaza of Palu. Another older married sister Shooshan (approximately 17 years old) was living in Uzunoba Mezre and was in the gully with Tarvez. Shooshan had no children and her husband was killed in the massacres.
Tarvez waited until dark and then led her children to a nearby vineyard. By this time they were hungry and thirsty. A brook provided water and the crushed stalks of wheat in bloom provided nourishment. Unbeknownst to them, Garabed was hiding on the other side of this same wheat field and vineyard. The Turks were looting all the Armenian homes, taking livestock and searching for any Armenians still alive. One Armenian man was shot in his home and the home was burnt to the ground.
After the commotion died down Tarvez led her family to the house of a Gypsy where they spent the rest of the night. The next day the gypsy took them to the house of the town Agha. They stayed in the Agha's cellar for a couple of weeks. After hiding in the fields for a couple of weeks, Garabed found his family at the Agha's house. With him was a man named Hagop and an elderly man. Hagop had hidden for three days by standing in water. His mother was contacted and she brought a dress to disguise him. The men stayed at the Agha's house for another couple of days. While they were there Hagop's wife had a baby. The baby could not be satisfied and cried continually.
While at the Agha's house Garabed told his wife Tarvez "Look at our beautiful baby (Marinos). She is so beautiful, yet so unfortunate. When I die you stay alive. If you live through this it will be a big story that will never die, no matter how many times it is told!"
While recounting this story, Margaret said the memories all come flooding back to her. She said that it sounds like a story but they lived the constant terror.
The Agha double-crossed them by revealing the men to other Turks. The three men were captured, tied up and led away. Before being led away Tarvez gave Garabed two gold coins for an emergency. As they were being led away Hagop was so scared he was tongue-tied. Finally Hagop asks the Agha "Agha they have tied us up, will they bring us back?". The Agha said yes, but he was lying. The men were led to the river and their throats were cut so bullets would be saved. The Agha later told Tarvez that some men were killed but he didn't know if Garabed had been one of them. Shooshan told Tarvez to stay there and she would take Margaret to see what happened. When Shooshan and Margaret went to the river they discovered the decapitated head of their father Garabed. His clothes were removed and the body was partially covered with sand, only the feet were showing. The two gold coins were naturally nowhere to be found. There were many other murdered Armenian men either with slit throats or decapitated. When Shooshan and Margaret went back they told Tarvez it was not Garabed but the other men who were killed. Margaret did not know if her mother knew the truth.
Tarvez decided they could not stay forever in the Agha's house. She led the children back to their house in the village. The house had been looted and the soil had been dug up in an attempt to find hidden money. There was no food left in the house. Tarvez, the children and Hagop's wife decided to go to Uzunoba to see what state the Armenians were in there. Hagop's wife, thinking they would be right back, decided to leave her newborn baby in the house. At this time they were not sure if this was an isolated massacre.
Margaret said that on the way Tarvez buried something under an apricot tree. Margaret does not know what it was and she never told her sister Mariam about the incident.
When they arrived in Uzunoba the Turks were collecting all the Armenian women and children in a large barn. That night the Turks came in one after another and took the young women to rape and molest. Tarvez had the youngest girls (Margaret, Hrepsime and Marinos) lay on top of Shooshan to hide her from the Turks. They stayed in the barn that night. All the women had diarrhea from the fear and terror.
The next morning the Turks gathered all the children that could walk and lined them up. The babies were left with their mothers. The Turks then picked the children they wanted for slaves. One Turk took Margaret, Hripsime and four other children. He then gave Hripsime to a Turkish woman and two of the other girls to someone else.
Hripsime ended up in the same village as her older sister Mariam (I believe it was Kharpert). While with the Turkish woman Hrepsime would cry and sing alot, constantly asking where her mother and father were. The Turkish women decided to give Hrepsime to the orphanage. Usually, the orphanages were a safe haven for the Armenian children. Sadly, for Hrepsime it turned out to be fatal. At the orphanage, one woman would be assigned to a group of children. Hrepsime was assigned to a woman who also had her own children to care for. The woman gave all the food to her own children while Hripsime died of starvation. All this was learned by Mariam and told to Margaret. Margaret also related that many of the Armenian babies were thrown in the Moorad River to drown.
While Margaret was being taken to her Turkish master's house she witnessed a Turkish man trying to abduct a young Armenian bride. The bride was screaming "NO, NO" and holding on to a fence post. Margaret, crying, had to walk by. The image of the young screaming bride will be with Margaret forever.
Tarvez, Shooshan and Marinos were taken on the forced deportation march and never seen or heard from again.
While Margaret was a slave, the Russians were conquering parts of the Ottoman Empire from the east during World War I. Another servant asked Margaret if the Russians came would she go. Margaret said only if her mother came too. Margaret was worried that if she went to Russia, her mother Tarvez would not be able to find her. Margaret didn't realize her mother was dead.
One day when Margaret was a servant for the Agha he told her to make some bread. It was during the Moslem Ramdela when they only eat at dawn. While Margaret was kneading the dough she saw baby mice in it. She knew if she threw the dough out that the Turks would beat her. So she kneaded the mice into the dough and fed the baked bread to the Turks.
The Agha had an Armenian mistress. One day Margaret was to bring something to the mistress. When she arrived some other servants told her not to go in because the Agha was there. Margaret went back and told the Agha's wife why she could not deliver the goods. When the Agha returned he kept saying how hungry he was. The Agha's wife asked him why he was so hungry since he just came from the mistress' house. He asked how she knew and she told him. The Agha then went and beat Margaret for telling.
The Agha used to sleep upstairs and the mistress would go to him there. The Agha's wife found out and waited for her. When the mistress went up the stairs, the Agha's wife hit her with a stick and she fell down the stairs. Even after this incident the mistress stayed with the Agha. The Agha put a ladder against the house for the mistress to climb and not be seen.
In approximately 1922, seven years after Margaret's abduction, her older sister Mariam located her. Mariam told Margaret who she was and that she would help Margaret escape to Kharpert with the assistance of their cousin Hagop. By now Margaret could not even understand Armenian. The wife of Margaret's Turkish master (I will use Agha from now on in reference to him and Agha's wife for her) told a Gypsy to take Margaret to Hagop's house and then return quickly before the Agha came home. The Gypsy did bring Margaret to Hagop's house. The Agha, upon his return, found Margaret gone and went to Hagop's house to find her. Hagop told the Agha that Margaret was not there. Margaret was hiding in a back room while all this was happening. The Agha then went to Hagop's Turkish neighbor and had him swear on his marriage to notify the Agha if Margaret went to Hagop's house. That night Margaret and Hagop's younger sister were laughing and giggling in bed. Hagop told them to be quiet or they would be caught. All of a sudden someone started to bang on the door. It was the Agha trying to find Margaret. While Margaret and her cousin attempted to escape out a back door, Hagop tells the Agha she is not there. But the house was surrounded. Margaret started to cry and said she did not want to go back to the Agha. The Turkish neighbor told Margaret not to worry because he made the Agha promise on his marriage not to beat her. The neighbor also said that if she returned with the Agha, Margaret would then be able to leave with Mariam.
When Margaret returned to Agha's house she slept in the Agha's wife's room. The Agha's wife was afraid Margaret would tell the Agha about his wife's involvement in the attempted escape. But Margaret, even as a youngster, did not tell.
The next day the Agha asked Margaret why she wanted to escape. He said his son, who Margaret used to take care of, missed her. The Agha said he took good care of her, when in fact Margaret would be without shoes all year. When Margaret's feet would peel she would tell the Agha's wife to give the skin to the Agha to make shoes from. Margaret told the Agha "You can do what you will, even kill me, but I will always try to escape and find my sister!"
Mariam went to have her fortune told by a Gypsy. The Gypsy told her that a very mean person was holding a close relative. If Mariam was to save her she should bring a black donkey to eat and the Agha will turn into an ass. Margaret says the Agha did in fact begin to act like a jackass. He would cry and do nothing.
The Agha had a son in school in another village and he used to send food to him. Another servant of the Agha was going to take Margaret to Mariam's and food to the son. When they were leaving the Agha began to cry because he was letting her go. While they were walking Margaret would look back to make sure the Agha was not following.
After a ways they stopped to eat. They took the food from the package meant for the Agha's son. They ate well that day. They traveled on to Kharpert. As they neared the city a boy who worked in a bakery recognized Margaret. He was all excited and ran up to greet them. He then led them to Mariam's house. Mariam had gone to another Turk's house. She was trying to get information on whether Margaret had been beaten when she was returned to the Agha. Two sisters living upstairs from Mariam took the two girls in and fed them. Mariam was thrilled when she returned and found Margaret had escaped to her.
Later, the Agha went to Kharpert to convince Margaret to return with him. He said he would do this and that for her if she returned. She would have a good life. Margaret said NO. Kharpert, being somewhat of a major city, was a safe area and the Agha could not force her to go back. By this time the killings had pretty much stopped in the major cities, but not necessarily in the small villages away from any government officials.
Another Armenian woman, who was a servant to the Agha, also escaped to Kharpert. The Agha found her in Syria and convinced her to return with him. She agreed to return and on the journey back the Agha killed her.
It was probably late 1922 or early 1923 before Margaret escaped from the Agha for good. Later in 1923 she would marry Giragos DerManuelian and it was 1928 when she finally arrived in the United States. It took approximately two months for her to escape from the Agha.
In Kharpert, Mariam used to make comforters from lambs wool. Margaret used to work in a bakery. Margaret would be able to take two pieces home each day. They also received the liver of a steer from a man and lived on that all winter (1922 - 1923?). They were very poor and didn't have anything.
Margaret's future husband, Giragos DerManuelian, was born in Sakrat. The village of Sakrat was also in the kaza of Palu. His mother, Khatchkatoon, survived the massacres and then died of illness in the aftermath. Giragos ended up in an orphanage. Giragos' brother, Manoog, was killed after the massacres while fighting as an Armenian guerilla. They were ambushing a group of Turks when he was killed. Manoog's wife and daughter went to Russian Armenia. Giragos' niece, Khatchkatoon, is still living in Armenia. Giragos's other brother and sister, Baghdad and Baghdid, were killed in the massacre. Giragos' father, Mesrob, came to the United States in 1907 and returned to Turkey around 1912. He was killed during the Genocide.
While in Kharpert, Giragos' brother Manoog went to Mariam's house to visit and upon seeing Margaret said what a nice girl for his brother. A few days later Giragos showed up with a bag of clothes and sack of chickens. He asked to stay with Margaret and Mariam. Mariam said there wasn't any room. They didn't know where he went but once in a while he would go and visit them. After a while Margaret and Giragos were married in Kharpert. Giragos was working odd jobs (fixing roofs) to earn a living. Giragos had an uncle Asadoor who lived in the United States. Asadoor told Giragos to go to Haleb (Aleppo), Syria and from there he would be able to help them come to America.
Giragos and Margaret went to Haleb and Giragos, with his cousin Hairabed (Asadoor's son), still did odd jobs to survive. While in Haleb, Margaret and Giragos had a son named Mesrob, in honor of Giragos' father. Asadoor helped Hairabed and Giragos come to Providence, Rhode Island. Mariam, Margaret and Mesrob stayed behind in Haleb till approximately 1926. At this time, Giragos told Margaret to go to France because other families from Palu were there. He sent money for Mariam, Margaret and Mesrob to go to France.
Mariam and Margaret stayed in Marseilles while they were in France. The people Giragos knew found Mariam and Margaret a room in the Hotel Asaz. While in France Mariam worked in the fields while Margaret watched Mesrob.
Because Asadoor was sick, Giragos was delayed in going to France until after Asadoor's death. Since Giragos had entered the United States as a single young son of Asadoor's, he had to remarry Margaret in France and say Mesrob was born out of wedlock. Margaret and Giragos were married in France in 1927. Mesrob was automatically a United States citizen by virtue of being Giragos' son.
In the 1920's glacoma was a major problem for immigrants arriving to the United States from the Middle East. Doctors had to certify a person's eyes clear before entering the United States. If the eyes were not clear the person was classified as "no bono". Naturally corruption was rampant and doctors would claim someone "no bono" to collect money for treatment. A doctor told Margaret that she had not seen him in a month and now her eyes were "no bono". Now Giragos had to go to the United States with only Mesrob and leave Margaret behind. At the port of departure Margaret was crying and crying when finally a ticket agent asked her what the problem was. Upon Margaret's explanation the ticket agent gave her a ticket, saying she would not be back.
Mariam stayed behind. Later, Margaret and Giragos found Stepan Mesrobian who went to France and married Mariam.
The boat went from Marseilles to New York City. Margaret and Giragos got off and visited people from Sakrat. Then they took a boat to Fall River and a train to Providence, Rhode Island. The boat had stopped in Ellis Island but Margaret and Giragos did not have to disembark.
When Margaret and Giragos arrived in Providence they stayed with Diroohi, Asadoor's second wife. They did not get along with Diroohi and she asked them to leave her house. Friends helped Margaret and Giragos until they were able to support themselves.
The marriage of Giragos and Margaret was destiny. When Margaret was a little girl, her father Garabed took her to stay with her sister Mariam in Sakrat. Mariam's first husband had come to the United States to work and she was all-alone. When Garabed and Margaret arrived in Sakrat on a donkey, all the woman came to greet them. Giragos' mother said that Margaret was such a nice girl she would be perfect for her son Giragos.
Margaret's cousin Hagop had a brother Jivan and they live in Marseilles, France.