Samuel Kadorian

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Samuel Kadorian shakes his head in frustration, sheepishly shrugs his shoulders and mutters "old age, old age," when he can't remember the maiden name of his beloved wife, Mary.

But sitting in his Sherman Oaks apartment, the 98-year-old vividly recalls a horrific memory from 1915, when he was just 8, and Armenians were rounded up in Turkey: A baby wouldn't stop crying, he said, so one Turkish soldier threw the infant up into the air and another caught the child on his bayonet.

Those memories will never be erased, said Kadorian, one of the last survivors of what is known as the Armenian Genocide - the organized killing of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey beginning in 1915.

"I can't take it out," said the frail man, pointing to his head. "I may forgive them, but forget - never, never, never."

For nearly 40 years, UCLA professor Richard Hovannisian has overseen a project - the largest oral history project in the Armenian community - to interview survivors and record stories like Kadorian's.


Kadorian's father was shot by the Turks and his two younger sisters and brother died of starvation. His mother survived and Kadorian lived because he hid under a pile of bodies, and forced himself not to cry so the Turks would not find him.

The atrocities he experienced at such a young age have taught him a simple lesson - be nice to people and treat them with respect.

"They say you should say these stories so such things don't happen again. But I'm sorry to say, things like killing, dying, it's going to continue until doomsday," he said.

"Why, why can't people get along with each other and be nice to each other? We don't learn and when something like this happens, we say that's them, the heck with them.

"But if it's them today, tomorrow it'll be us."

Excerpt from Tragic memories caught on tape (LA Daily News), by Naush Boghossian