The Armenian Genocide: Der-Haroutunian and Dermenjian
This is the story of my parents in their own words. There are many more stories published in books similar to my parents story. My parents survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and they raised eight children and they all got married and have children and grandchildren but one and a half million Armenians did not survive. In memory of all the Armenians who died during the genocide, a church was built in Dayr az-Zawr, Syria. Every year on April 24 Armenians all over the world remember the genocide and pray for those who died.
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.
My Mother, Berjouhi Dermenjian, told us the following story:
I am one of the ten children in Dermenjian family. I have five brothers and four sisters. We were all born in Marash. My mother's name is Mariam and my father's name is Kevork.
My oldest brother, Avedis, left to Argentina during the exodus. My brother Haroutun died in Marash. The French were in control of Marash at the time and my brother's job was to go to the front line and pick up the mail. One night when he went to pick up the mail, somebody opened fire on him and he was shot and fell on the ground; he was hiding in the ditch on the side of the road. We all had taken refuge in the church and were hiding from the Turks. Someone came to the church and told us that my brother got shot and was on the side of the road. My younger brother Sdepan went to find him. As he was looking for my brother, he kept calling his name "Haroutun, Haroutun where are you?" Then he heard a voice saying "I am here brother and I am hurt." Sdepan carried Haroutun and brought him to the church where my sister Lutfia and all of us tried to care for him. We only had alcohol to clean his wounds. After few days his wounds got infected and he died in the church. My brother Paren was about 5 years old at the time and I was about 7 years old.
The Armenians heard the rumor that the French were pulling out of Marash. The Turks collected all the Armenians and we started marching in the snow and cold. My father was very rich and had money. My brother Sdepan, who was married at the time and had a son, bought a donkey and put me and his son Levon on the donkey; he told me to follow the Armenians and go wherever they were going and that he would find us later on. Levon was a baby at the time. In the middle of the night when the French were leaving on their horses, my brother Sdepan followed them and went to Aleppo and escaped the massacre.
On the way while all the Armenians were marching, the Turks took me off the donkey and gave Levon to me and told me to walk. I was about 7 years old at the time. I couldn't carry Levon, I put Levon on the side of the road and started walking by myself not knowing where I was going, seperated from the rest of the family members. I remember all the children on the side of the road where mothers had left them behind, because they couldn't carry their babies. I can never forget the memory of those children crying and crawling all over the dirt road. When one of my brothers found me later, he asked where Levon was and I told him what happened. Of course he was very upset but he understood what had happened. The next day there was another caravan of Armenians coming on the same road. They saw this little baby on the road crying and they picked him up because they recognized that he was the son of Sdepan and brought him with them. When we saw Levon, we were all happy to have him back with us.
The march (deportation) was on and we were all following the caravan until we reached the Euphrates river. On the way the Turkish soldiers raped and killed Armenian girls. They killed anybody who did not follow orders from the gendarmes. In Aleppo, Sdepan heard the rumor that all the Armenians that were in the caravan going to the Euphrates were being taken to Dayr az-Zawr (also spelled as Deir ez-Zor) and were being massacred, molested and slaughtered before being thrown in the Euphrates river. Sdepan payed sympathetic Syrian Moslems a sum of gold to come and find us. Those Moslems crossed the Euphrates river and searched for us. They found us and took us with fishing boats, crossed the Euphrates river then we went to Aleppo where my brother was waiting. I can't forget the trip on the Euphrates river. The river was red with Armenian blood. They had killed Armenians and thrown their bodies on the river. Bodies were floating down the Euphrates on both sides of our boat. This is the memory I have of the deportation and the Euphrates river. Until today I cry when I remember those days. I pray that my children and grandchildren will not see war. My father and mother died on the way from cold and sickness.
My sister Haygouhi who was educated and was a teacher, went to Beirut to teach in an orphanage called Birds Nest. When I was about 9 years old, I went to that orphanage for about 3 years while my sister was teaching. After the three years, my sister Haygouhi went to Jerusalem and settled there and had a son, Hagop. My sister Haygouhi died in Jerusalem. My sister Lutfia lived in Aleppo and worked in a German factory. They payed her one loaf of bread for her day's work. She ate half of the loaf and gave the other half to my brother Paren. Lutfia went to the United States, married her husband from the Chorbagian family and has two sons. She died after giving birth to her second son.
When my sister Haygouhi left to Jerusalem, I returned to Aleppo and stayed with my brother. Finally I got married to your father Boghos Der-Haroutunian and went to Iskandaroun and had seven of my children in Iskandaroun. In 1939 the family moved to Beirut and I had two more children, Mathias who died of diarrhea, and my daughter Khatoun Hilda who was born after WWII after my son Mathias died.
In memory of my mother and father I have a web site dedicated to them. The web site is about Armenian Embroidery and the Genocide. The name of the web site is http://armenianembroidery.tripod.com. Also, my husband and I have a family foundation in the name of our parents to be used for children in need. The foundation's name is Ladah Foundation and it is a tax-exempt foundation. You can read about the foundation and Armenian embroidery on my web site.
Anybody who knows anything about my grandparents, please contact me at mailto:email@example.com. I am preparing a Family Tree and will appreciate any information that will help me complete my project.
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