Armen Chakmakjian

1.5 Million

In Armenia, history on April 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Today, April 24, 2014, Armenians all over the world remember a tragedy that befell our Ottoman Armenian ancestors 99 years ago.  That tragedy was so horrific to the world that a new word, genocide, was created to describe what the Young Turk regime perpetrated.  The Ottoman Armenian population was decimated by killings and deportations into the Syrian desert. It was not uncommon that most of those who survived were orphans.  Sometimes they were saved by Turks.  Many of them were saved by Near East Relief.  

In the next few lines I’m going to describe how an American of Armenian descent happened to come into the world:

My maternal great-grandfather had come to America in the early part of the 1900’s as many did, working in the factories in Worcester.  When the bad reports started coming back from his village, he went back to his family only to be killed on arrival. My mother’s grandmother carried her young child on her shoulders across a field of dead bodies during a particular massacre in this time in Sepastia. That child’s older siblings were sent into the mountains by their mother in hopes that they might survive what was happening in the town.  They died of starvation in the hills, as far as we know.  My great-grandmother married a Turk who took pity on her.  We believe he died during this time.  She and her son ended up in being rounded up for deportation and were in line to get on trains to be taken to Syria.  Her sister also had married a prominent Turkish gendarme, and that man went to the station and found my great-grandmother and my grandfather and pulled them out of line.  This act of mercy did not go unpunished.  He was killed by the authorities for this act.  Somehow both sisters escaped further retribution and ended up in Istanbul.  My grandfather married, had children, one of which was my mother, and in 1962 at 23 years old, she came to America to visit relatives during one of many Turkish military coups.  During that time in the US she met my father and they married. When I was 6 (going on 7) during the summer of 1971, we went to Istanbul and I met my grandfather for the only time.  They lived on Beyoglu Tarlabasi Cadessi.   I think is called Beyoglu Bulevari now.  He died there in 1980 of natural causes.


On my father’s side the story is different. My great-grandfather Chakmakjian was a community leader in Adana and owned a vineyard, called “Depebagh”. His wife, my great-grandmother, had died a few years before of natural causes. Chakmakjian was killed by a band of Turks during the 1908-9 purge in Adana. This act was witnessed by his son. The orphaned children were deported. My grandfather found himself at a Silesian orphanage/monastery in Lebanon. During that time he almost became a Catholic priest, but declined orders. He later found himself a customs officer in British Palestine and was married to a woman who also happened to have been an Armenian orphan. They had several children together 5 of which survived into adulthood, one of which was my father. My father was born in Jerusalem, and grew up in Bethlehem, Beit Jamal and Ramleh. He witnessed my grandfather try to provide for the family as neither a Jew, Arab or Brit in this chaotic time. They together witnessed the 1936 arab uprising, the 1939-1947 Jewish insurgency, the 1948 partition and they escaped into Jordan that same year. A Jordanian sheik and my grandfather went into business together, and my father’s family went to King Abdullah’s funeral as guests of the sheik. In 1955 my father and uncle were conscripted into the Jordanian army, probably in preparation for the 1956 war. When they came back from boot camp, they had lost so much weight that my grandmother turned to my grandfather and said that her sons were going to be killed if they went again. They petitioned to come to the United States and with some intervention from Cardinal Aghajanian they were able to come to the United States on an Egyptian cargo ship in 1956. The family moved to Bridgeport, CT. My parents met and married in 1962. I was born in 1964. I did know my paternal grandfather and he died of natural causes in 1970.


Just think, versions of this story are recounted by families today in Syria, France, Argentina, Massachusetts, California, Racine WI, Florida, Washington DC, Bulgaria, Armenia, Lebanon, UK, Australia…


How did Armenians get to all those places?


Why am I here?


Why do I exist at all?


Turkey failed, Armenia Lives.
  1. Reblogged this on The Urtaru Chronicles and commented:

    I wrote this 51 weeks ago on the occasion of the 99th commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Justice is a relentless force.

  2. […] genocide did.  Orphans.  Hundreds of orphans.  Thousands of orphans. I tell part of that story in another post. This is the story of how that survivor and his family made their circuitous journey through the […]

  3. […] posted on The Urtaru Chronicles:At the moment, April 24, 2014, Armenians everywhere in the world keep in mind a tragedy that befell […]

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