Boghos Der Haroutunian
This is the story of my parents in their own words. -Hilda Ladah
My father, Boghos Der-Haroutunian, told us the following story:
I am one of four children in the family. I have two brothers and one sister. We were all born in Marash. My mother's name was Khatoun. I hardly remember my father, except the way the Turks killed him in our courtyard. Some of the neighborhood Turks came to our house and dragged my father out to the courtyard by force and, for no reason, they crushed his head with big stones in front of all of us. This is the memory I have of my father, it hurts to remember and makes me cry until today.
My mother suffered a lot, trying to raise us without my father. We worked hard and continued my father's business and did well. In 1915, the Turks collected the Armenians and made them march in groups towards an unknown location, and massacred them. This was the beginning of the Armenian Genocide.
We left everything behind, our land, our homes and all of our belongings. The weather was very cold and there was snow on the way. Armenians died. Some froze and some died because they were weak, tired and couldn't handle the burden of the trip to nowhere. During the exodus, the Turks killed the Armenians who were strong because they didn't want the strong or the educated to survive. There was killing, torture, looting, rape and beating on the way; they didn't care whom they killed. There was no food to eat or water to drink on the way. If there was any, we had to pay dearly for it. Those of us who survived, did so by miracle. My older brother's wife died on the way but left behind two children who survived. I was married at the time and had one child, a daughter. My wife died on the way and I had to leave my daughter on the side of the road, like many parents did, because we could hardly carry ourselves and could not care for the children; with very little food and water, everybody was getting weak and tired. I can't remember how many days we walked but finally we arrived in Syria. I survived the exodus and settled in Iskandaroun after the Turks and the Germans were defeated and Iskandaroun was under French rule. I established a business and started working in Iskandaroun.
In Iskandaroun, my brother and I established two factories, one was an Arak factory and the other a food supermarket. I did very well and remarried to Berjouhi Dermenjian and had seven more children, four daughters and three sons. I built my home and lived comfortably in Iskandaroun. I sent my children to schools, first to New School and then to Noubarian School.
In 1939, when the French moved out of Iskandaroun and turned the area over to the Turks; the Armenians were scared of more massacres by the Turks. Armenians left their homes and belongings one more time and took whatever they could with them and went farther south into Syria, some to Lebanon and some to the U.S. or wherever they could find security and start a new life. We came to Beirut and settled here.
In Beirut, I started my supermarket business again. I did very well, and provided food for my family. When WWII started, things got pretty bad again. They (this time the French) confiscated everything I had in my supermarket, without compensation. They took all the rice, flour and anything else they could take, to feed their army. Again, we all survived, except one of my sons Mathias, who was born in Beirut but died after he was sick with diarrhea. My daughter Khatoun Hilda was born in Beirut. She was named after my mother, that's why I always call her my mother.