Mary Kalashian and Marion Der Kazarian
Kalashian and Der Kazarian Story
[NOTE: I have edited out parts of this article which are not part of the survivor stories directly. You will see a ... where text is removed. -Raffi]
Armenian genocide leaves tales of horror
Sunday, April 19, 1998
By Richard Duckett Telegram & Gazette Staff
Armenian genocide leaves tales of horror
WORCESTER-- "It is so clear, right in front of my eyes," said Mary Kalashian.
"Very vividly I remember it," added Marion Der Kazarian. "Everything."
The memories of the two longtime friends, who have lived in Worcester for many years, go back to the spring of 1915, when they were children in the Turkish Armenia of the Ottoman Empire. And when they start to recall what happened there, their voices tremble.
The Ottoman Empire had joined the side of Germany in World War I, and fighting had exploded. Longstanding tensions between Turkey and its Armenian citizens were also about to erupt, and violence was going to come to the small town of Ashodovan, where Der Kazarian's father, Haroutune Harootunian, was a priest.
On the evening of May 21, 1915, Harootunian was reading from the family Bible.
"All of a sudden the door broke. Five or six soldiers rushed in. They took my father, dragged him out like a criminal," Der Kazarian said, her voice reflecting the pain and hurt of a tragic memory that has come back to haunt her every day since.
Der Kazarian said her youngest sister, Rose, "ran after him crying, and calling his name: 'Daddy, Daddy, don't go'...
"He gave her his cigarette case and askedher to look after it while he was gone. He said, 'Take it. I'll be back soon.' "
He was just minutes away from being executed by the banks of the Euphrates River, along with the other Armenian men of Ashodavan who had been rounded up.
In the small town of Tadem, Kalashian's mother, Elsie Dadian, had sensed that something bad was about to happen.
"My mother was pretty bright -- she couldsee," Kalashian said.
Kalashian's father was in America, working hard with the intention of soon being able to send for the family. An uncle,Paul Goshgarian, had tried life in America but didn't like it. He kept aneye on the family in Tadem following his return. Now, Elsie Dadian was trying to look out for him.
"She told my uncle, 'Something big is coming. We don't understand it yet,' " Kalashian recalled.
Dadian advised him to take refuge in the nearby mountains.
Goshgarian didn't heed the advice. He and the other men from the town who would be executed were led away in chains by the Turkish soldiers. Later, the authorities told the women and children remaining to come out of their homes that evening because there was going to be a big earthquake.
"My mother said, 'Don't believe what you hear. There is no such thing. But there's something cooking,' " Kalashian said. The family fled.
Those who stayed were to die, Kalashian said.
Der Kazarian has written a book about her experiences. "Sacrifice and Redemption" is published by Baikar Publications of Watertown. "The Turkish government denies it happened. I'm telling this story so that everyone will hear of it," she said.
Then there is the firsthand account that Barsamian's Armenian grandmother passed along to him. She had lived in the western part of Turkey, in a town called Adapazar, about 30 miles from Istanbul. One thing that has been proved false is the contention that Armenians in western Turkey were left alone, said Barsamian, a Wellesley-based lawyer who is originally from Worcester.
"They wanted to deport my family," he said. "They sent them down through Syria. So that totally destroys this argument. The idea was to march them around the desert in the hopes they would perish." Der Kazarian said that also was the fate planned for the women and children remaining in her town after the men had been executed. "When we went out, the crowd was screaming and yelling. The soldiers were telling them to be quiet. They said, 'We're going to take you out for two weeks. We're going to take you to a safe place,' " she said. Not long into their march, they stopped by the banks of the Euphrates.
"All of a sudden there were cries," shesaid. "We saw blood coming down the river. And clothing." Among the clothing floating downstream were the blood-stained priestly robes of Der Kazarian's father. But she and the rest of the family would be saved.
A man had warned her father in 1914 that something terrible was about to happen. As a precaution, the family split up, with her mother taking three of the children to a nearby city while Der Kazarian, Rose and two nieces stayed with their father.
Seeing the four children in the caravan being marched southward, the man who had warned her father intervened and brought them under his protection. Der Kazarian, her sister and the nieces would later meet up with the three other children.
The man was Khali Effendi, a Turkish army officer married to an Armenian.
After finally making it to America in the early 1920s, both Der Kazarian and Kalashian settled in Worcester with their families.
Some of the earliest Armenian settlers in this country had come to the city, where at the end of the 19th century they found work in the mills. Worcester is the home of the first Protestant Armenian Church in the Western Hemisphere, the Armenian Church of the Martyrs, and was also the first parish of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America, the Armenian Church of Our Savior.
The Armenian Church of the Martyrs and the Armenian Church of Our Savior are sponsors of today's commemoration, along with Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Worcester and St. Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church in Whitinsville.
Linda Bogosian, one of the organizers, saidthat there are about 50 survivors of the 1915-23 killings living in the local community. A few prefer to keep their memories and thoughts about what they went through to themselves. "Some don't like to talk to about it,"
Bogosian said. Many are frail these days and have difficulty getting about. But even if they can't make it to today's event, they will still be remembered and applauded.
Bogosian and other volunteers recently visited survivors in their homes or in nursing homes and took their photographs. A big display of the pictures will be on hand at the commemoration.
"We want to be sure to honor all of them," Bogosian said. "They're very special."
C 1998 Worcester Telegram & Gazette