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Nevart Karagozian

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Daily Review Online, CA
Nov 3 2007

On 100th birthday, woman remembers her struggles

Armenian immigrant celebrates life, mourns lost family members

Article Last Updated: 11/03/2007 02:40:22 AM PDT

The Janjigian household in Saratoga is abuzz with preparations and the arrival of family for a 100th birthday celebration.

Laughter and lively conversation, in voices young and old, flow through the open door leading to the neat garden where Nevart Karagozian sits quietly, even though she is the focus of the excitement.

Karagozian, an Armenian who came to America when she was 12, is celebrating her 100th birthday the next day.

"Oh my. Big party," she says when her daughter Florence Janjigian reminds her about the impending celebration. Asked how it feels to be 100 years old, she says in accented English, "Same as yesterday. No different," and chuckles.

But Karagozian's early days were quite different from the comfort and security she has enjoyed in recent decades. And the birthday celebration is clouded by memories of a ravaged homeland and the lingering desire for justice.

Karagozian is one of the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who fled their homeland in the wake of the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago. And she is among those who hope their new country ' America ' will formally recognize the mass slaughter of their ancestors as genocide.

Janjigian is sad that the vote on the resolution has been postponed. There are few survivors of that era remaining and she fears soon there will be no eyewitnesses left.

When her grand daughter asks Karagozian about Turkey denying the genocide, Karagozian leans forward on her wheelchair and says animatedly, "If they say it didn't exist, where are my mother and father and brother and sister? I have been in it. Outside I laugh, inside I am crying."

Seated on a step beside her mother, Janjigian opens a plastic bag. Inside are framed pictures of her mother's childhood days. Karagozian cradles the pictures in her wrinkled hands and points out her father, mother, older sister and baby brother, who she says were killed or got lost during the genocide. A tear rolls down her cheek.

"She just went back 95 years," Janjigian says.

Karagozian's daughter, grandchildren and great-granddaughter surround her as she looks at the sepia-toned pictures.

Around them, the garden pool is being cleaned of fallen leaves and chairs are being arranged for the party next day. And a cake with a hundred candles is on its way.