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Funeral of Arousiag Aghazarian, Genocide survivor

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  • Funeral of Arousiag Aghazarian, Genocide survivor

    I remember a few years ago, when I was in Montreal, I listened as she sang, over a telephone line and in a feint voice, a traditional Armenian song.

    Alan Hustak, The Gazette

    The Gazette (Montreal)
    September 14, 2007 Friday
    Final Edition

    A funeral will be held this morning for Arousiag Aghazarian, thought
    to be Montreal's oldest living survivor of the Armenian genocide.

    Although official birth records were destroyed during the First World
    War, she was officially said to be 104 when she died on Tuesday.

    "Nene" Aghazarian lived through a massacre committed by members
    of the Young Turks political party against Armenians in 1915, was
    married when she was about 13, and gave birth to the first of her
    six children when she was about 15 years old.

    "Some people escape tragic circumstances but allow their pain to
    consume them," said a granddaughter, Annette Aghazarian. "But she
    wasn't like that. She lived her life with a quiet dignity.

    "She lost her siblings and her father in the genocide and was haunted
    by horrific scenes she witnessed when she was still a child.

    "One in particular was seeing the decapitated head of a little girl
    with ribbons in her pony tail in a pile of body parts.

    "Nene often wondered why her life was spared when so many others
    were destroyed. She lost her sight about 15 years ago, but she never
    questioned God's will. But she couldn't help but ask why she survived
    while so many others didn't."

    Arousiag Yovanessian was born in Dortyol, Hatay, a seaport on the
    Mediterranean in what was then the Ottoman Empire. It would seem she
    was born in 1906, but an arbitrary birthdate of July 1, 1903, was
    stamped on her passport later when she left the short-lived Republic
    of Armenia.

    Her father was a farmer and her mother was a midwife who had a
    reputation as being a healer. She lost her father and most members
    of her family when Ottoman Turks embarked on a program of ethnic
    cleansing to rid the country of its Armenian minority. It has been
    estimated that one-and-a-half-million Armenians died as a result.

    Before the First World War began, an estimated 2 million Armenians
    lived in the Ottoman Empire. By 1923, only 500,000 remained.

    In 1919, Arousiag Yovanessian married restaurateur Giragos
    Aghazarian. The couple fled Turkey in 1921 when Turkish Muslims refused
    to recognize the newly created, primarily Christian, Armenian Republic,
    and renewed atrocities against Armenians.

    They moved first to Syria, then to Lebanon, then to Palestine. There
    her husband opened The Picadilly, a popular restaurant in Jerusalem's
    Armenian quarter. After Israel was created in 1947, they moved to
    the port city of Jaffa with their five sons and a daughter.

    Her husband died in 1960.

    In 1968, Aghazarian came to Canada to live with her only daughter,
    Takouhi. One of her sons, Hovaness, died in Brazil in 1973.

    She is survived by five children - Levon, Kevork, Noubar, Hampar and
    Takouhi - 13 grandchildren, 22-great-grandchildren, and one great,
    great grandchild.

    Her funeral is at 11 a.m. today at the church of St. Gregory the
    Illuminator, 615 Stuart St. in Outremont.
    Plenipotentiary meow!

  • #2

    By the way, there is a woman in Armenia named Verjine Svazlian who recorded the memories (and also the songs) of the genocide survivors. I just recently began to read Robert Fisk's book The Great War for Civilisation and her name was listed in the acknowledgments section.