Sunday, April 26, 2015

Merjumek Kufte To Remember

Yesterday, Marash Girl's daughter arrived to commemorate the 100th Year Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by spending the afternoon with her mother making Merjumek Kufte, a family favorite since her (and her father's) childhood, a staple food dating back hundreds of years, no doubt . . . a meal that was available to the poor, both high in protein and high in nutrition . . . (See

Marash Girl: Merjumek Kufte Continues To The Next ...)

The assembled made the kufte together, with no recipe, with only the memory of the feel, the look, the smell, the taste . . . and it was the most perfect merjumek kufte. . . the most perfect remembrance . . . the most perfect proof that the Armenian people still survived and would survive for generations to come.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Survivor wants to forget Armenian genocide; daughter wants to remember

APRIL 24, 2015  Armenians gather in Boston to remember those who perished in the Genocide.
 Photo by Karoun Charkoudian
Survivor wants to forget Armenian genocide; daughter wants to remember
By Chrissie Long/Staff Writer
GateHouse News Service
Posted Sep 18, 2007 @ 12:43 PM Last update Sep 18, 2007 @ 06:52 PM
Newton —
The first thing Peter Bilezikian said as he fell into a padded chair in his Lowell Avenue living room was, “I forgot all about it. I don’t want to even talk about it, and I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to see it.”

The Newton resident has never been open about his childhood in the Armenian Genocide and, for his daughter, Bethel Charkoudian, who sat beside him, stories about the genocide always came in bits and pieces.
“I’d have to pick and pick and pick,” she said one afternoon as she played through one- minute sound bites of his stories she had recorded over the years. “It was always hard to get him to say anything.”
Now, more than 90 years later, he is one of the last remaining survivors of the genocide. His memories are slowly slipping away due to Alzheimer’s — and with it fades the collective memory of the massacres, soon to be buried in diaries and history books.
While Charkoudian is trying to hold onto her father’s memories, there are others who are trying to forget: the perpetrators, the Turkish government, are among them.
Fearing that it would alienate the Turkish government — which is in sharp denial that the killings were a genocide — the United States has not officially recognized the genocide of the Armenian people.
For the thousands of the Armenian-Americans who live in the United States, the denial of their past is something they have to live with every day.
“I feel betrayed by the United States government,” said Charkoudian, a Newton Corner
resident who now owns her own business selling out-of-print books. “To say that it didn’t happen is the ultimate betrayal. We have no history. All of our books and all of our people were destroyed.”
Charkoudian,like many sons and daughters of the genocide, desperately clings to any memories of Armenia, while her parents, and the world around them, are trying to forget.
The Armenian Genocide was the planned extermination of a race of people between 1915 and 1923. The Turks perceived the non-Muslim Armenian minority as better educated, wealthier people who lived in nicer neighborhoods. Out of jealousy or out of fear, the Young Turks government determined that the Armenian people needed to be destroyed.
Bilezikian was only 3 years old when the first neighborhoods of his hometown of Marash were emptied. His family’s vast orchards and vineyards were signed over to the Turks — along with anything else of value.
Men were conscripted into the army — taken away from their families, never to be seen again. They came for Bilezikian’s 9-year-old brother, but his mother told them, “He is just out of diapers, how can you take him into the army?”
Soldiers would march women and children on death marches through the desert until they died from exhaustion. Women were raped and unborn babies were ripped from their mothers’ wombs.
Bilezikian’s mother escaped the marches only by going into hiding every time the soldiers came through the neighborhood.
“My family was very fortunate,” said Charkoudian, Bilezikian’s eldest daughter. “They must have had a guardian angel.”
Bilezikian remembers the carts that came through the neighborhood to pick up the dead bodies. He remembers the children standing in the streets with bloated stomachs and stick-thin legs. Also etched in his memory are the people who had tongues sliced from their mouths because they were caught speaking Armenian.
But, he has left those memories in the past. Today, he walks through his house singing in Turkish and joking with his guests.
Hidden wounds
While Bilezikian has left his past behind him, he still bears the scars, one of which cuts through his scalp.

He couldn’t have been more than 7, his daughter said, when he stood before an Armenian woman asking for a piece of bread.
“You can’t have any,” she said. “This bread is for my children. They are hungry.” Just then, a bullet skimmed his scalp and pierced the woman in the forehead.
Bilezikian gathered up the bread and, when he was finished eating it, he wasn’t hungry for two days, he said.
“I asked him once, ‘Dad, why didn’t you feel compassion for that woman?’” Charkoudian said. “He responded, ‘If I felt compassion for everyone, I wouldn’t have survived.’”
Hunger also scarred my father, said Charkoudian. “He says that because he was hungry then, he doesn’t feel hunger anymore.”
Instead of going to school, Bilezikian would follow his brother to the mountains and shoot at the Turkish boys with old-fashioned slingshots.
“They would mimic the conflict in the mountains,” Charkoudian said.
An escape that came too late
Bilezikian’s father left for the United States in 1914 — just months before the genocide began. Sensing something was going to happen, he wanted to prepare a home in the Boston area to bring his family over.

Hatred toward the Armenians wasn’t new. Bilezikian’s mother had witnessed the murder of both of her parents in 1895, while hiding in her sister’s closet. Her name, Bethel Charkoudian, matches the name of orphanage in which she grew up.
When the genocide began, Bilezikian’s father could no longer communicate with his wife or four children. They were left on their own to make it through the five-year extermination.
Bilezikian’s mother, who was able to escape persecution because she looked like a Turk, worked in a local hospital to feed her children.
One day, a wounded soldier came into the hospital wearing her mother in-law’s coat. When she asked him, “Where did you get that coat?”
He responded, “We threw this giavour (infidel) into the oven and kept the coat.”
Her mother in-law had disappeared on a trip to the bakery.
Unable to show her emotion, Bilezikian’s mother had to leave the room.
Bilezikian lost more than his grandmother in the eight-year genocide. His uncle and seven cousins were taken from their home and never returned.
“I can’t name them all,” he said. “There were so many of them [who died].” The genocide ended in 1923 and the remaining Armenians were evacuated.
Life in the United States
Bilezikian left with his mother and his siblings and boarded an Italian ship for the United States.

His family reconnected with his father in New York and they moved to Watertown, where Bilezikian eventually graduated from high school. He was offered a full scholarship to MIT, which he ultimately turned down in order to support his family.
He founded Newtonville Electrical Company with his brother, Paul, in 1933, servicing customers all over New England and eventually growing to have 14 employees.
Bilezikian moved to his home on Lowell Avenue in 1934. He married an Armenian- American and together they had three children.
“He came here because people here knew what he went through,” his daughter told a room full of Armenian-Americans during a recent Human Rights Commission meeting. Due to urgings from her and others, the Human Rights Commission recommended the mayor end the city’s relationship with No Place for Hate, whose parent organization refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
She said later, “Newton parents would tell their children, ‘Finish your meal, there are starving children in Armenia. People here understood where we came from. They were helpful and welcoming’.”

“They loved us,” Bilezikian added.
After his daughter had spoken, Bilezikian stood up — out of turn, but with no intention of waiting — and reminded the crowd that while the extermination was perpetrated by the Turkish government, many Turkish people fiercely protected their Armenian neighbors.

“If it weren’t for the Turkish people, every Armenian would have been killed,” he said. “Turkish people hided a great many people.”
A lasting memory
While Bilezikian has made a conscious effort to forget his past, his daughter will not.

“All of these stories peppered my childhood,” said Charkoudian, who records other Armenians’ oral history. “In fact, my name has allowed me never to forget. Whenever folks meet me, they ask me about my name — unusual, how did you get it? And so the genocide is often the second thing [after my name] that people know about me.”
The tapes of oral history Charkoudian has recorded over the years are punctuated with her father saying, “Why do you want to talk about it? We don’t like to remember bad things.”
Or, after a two-minute interview, “Well, you got a lot of information today. We’ll have to shut that off.”
But Charkoudian has continued her careful prodding, piecing together the snap shots of her past.
She said, Adolf Hitler once asked, ‘After all, who remembers the Armenians?’
Charkoudian is determined to remember. She wants her children to remember. But most of all, she wants the world to remember.
Chrissie Long can be reached at 
Armenian Flag at half mast in Boston's City Hall Plaza yesterday, the 100th year commemoration of the
Armenian Genocide.                                                                                      Photo by Karoun Charkoudian

Friday, April 24, 2015

WBUR's Tom Ashbrook, Eric Bogosian, Litty Mathew & Martin Haroutunian: The Armenian Genocide Story after 100 Years

This week Marash Girl went to the dental hygienist.  As the hygienist prepared her tools for the cleaning, she tried to make idle chit chat.  

Marash Girl had the Armenian Genocide on her mind, the relatives she had lost in that genocide, the loss of land, the murders of her great grandparents . . .  she won't go on . . . so Marash Girl cut through the idle chit chat and said to the hygienist, "This year is the 100th year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. It began 100 years ago on Friday, April 24th."

"Oh, yeah," answered the hygienist, as if genocide was an everyday occurrence, as if her patients always brought up the subject of genocide.  "There have been lots of genocides."

It would have done her well to listen to WBUR yesterday morning when Tom Ashbrook (On Point) discussed the Armenian Genocide with writers Eric Bogosian and Litty Mathew, and musician Martin Haroutunian . . . It's still not too late!  Here's the link for the hygienist and any of the rest of you who missed the show.

Thanks to WBUR's Bruce Gellerman ( for this morning's  coverage
 of the Armenian Genocide and the Armenians in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Remembering The Armenian Genocide 100 Years Ago Holds Special Significance In Watertown

God protect the Armenians demonstrating today in Taksim Square, Istanbul Turkey.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Has Finally Sprung in Newton Corner

Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) has conquered its blanket of brown announcing that spring has finally sprung in Newton Corner,  one week later than last year!
                                                                                                                       Photos by Marash Girl

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Talk on Armenian Identities at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Three Apples Fell from Heaven: An Exploration of Armenian Identities
 in the Ottoman and Post-Ottoman World

Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Prof., Department of History, Lafayette College
A 17th-century Armenian (Dis)Placement: 
Deacon Mikayel of Kaffa/Միքայէլ Կաֆֆացի (d.c. 1670)
 and his Armenian and Turkish Texts

Nora Lessersohn, History and CMES, Harvard University
Sources of Ownership, Forces of Dispossession: 
The Memoir of Hovhannes Cherishian/Յովհաննէս Չիրիշեան 
of Marash (1886-1967)

Lerna Ekmekcioglu, McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History, MIT
Speaking Feminist while Armenian in Post-Genocide Turkey: 
Hayganush Mark/Հայկանոյշ Մառք (1885-1966)

Cemal Kafadar,Moderator
Vehbi Koc Professor of Turkish Studies, 
Department of History, Harvard University

During this 100 year remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. on a rainy Monday afternoon at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University (Marash Boy's old stomping grounds), scholars presented three different "apples" on Armenian life in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.

Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Lafayette College, spoke of A 17th-century Armenian (Dis)Placement: Deacon Mikayel of Kaffa/Միքայէլ Կաֆֆացի (d.c. 1670) and his Armenian and Turkish Texts. Prof. Goshgarian discussed the ways in which Armeno-Turkish (Turkish written in Armenian letters) was used in the City of Kaffa in the 17th Century. In fact, she noted, Armeno-Turkish can be found as early as the 13th century, continuing in the lyric tradition through to the 20th century.  She found significance in the fact that most Armenian dictionaries were multi-lingual.

Her presentation hit home for Marash Girl.  Having grown up in an Armenian family where Turkish was spoken unabashedly, Marash Girl was delighted to hear that Armeno-Turkish (Turkish written in Armenian letters), went far beyond the Armeno-Turkish in Marash Girl's church hymnals and Marash Boy's grandmother's Bible . . . that the use of Armeno-Turkish goes as far back as the 13th century.  Marash Girl had not known of the word to describe this mixture -- "macaronic" --  a Latin word meaning a mixture of two languages!  And that this mix, according to Professor Goshgarian,  "reflects the relationship between faith and identity", a fact that Marash Girl, in her life, had certainly experienced both audibly as well as in print. The hymnal she had used growing up -- Spiritual Hymns of Worship (compiled, translated and edited by E. E. Elmajian in 1938), a hymnal which printed the lyrics of the hymns in English, in Armenian (Armenian letters) and in Turkish (Armenian letters) -- was used every Sunday in the United Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church of Watertown, Massachusetts, the church in which her Uncle, Rev. Vartan Bilezikian, was the pastor.  Prof. Goshgarian had described on Monday's rainy afternoon the reality in which Marash Girl had been raised. 

Nora Lessersohn, speaking about her grandfather's memoirs, The Memoir of Hovhannes Cherishian, opened her talk by describing her grandfather as a cobbler from Marash.  Marash Boy nearly leaped out of his seat (luckily he was seated in the front row) when he heard the words that described his own father, Nishan Charkoudian, who was a cobbler from Marash.  Lessersohn gave her audience an insight into her grandfather's world, her grandfather  who was born in Marash in 1867 and who left Marash following after the retreating French army (with many of Marash Boy's and Marash Girl's relatives) in a snowstorm  early in 1920.

Lerna Ekmekçioglu, McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History at MIT, approached the podium clutching a book in her hand, a book that had been given to her by a colleague in Istanbul.  Hayganush Mark: Geank'n u Kortses (1954), a book about the life and work of the woman who inspired Ekmekcioglu's  life: Hayganush Mark (1883-1966), the founder of the Armenian feminist movement in Turkey. A writer and editor in her own right, Hayganoush Mark married the publisher Vahan Toshigian in 1907. In 1919, Mark began writing and editing  Hay Gin (pronounced Hi Geen in Armenian which means "Armenian Woman"), a periodical for women that was published from 1919 to 1933 in Istanbul.  Ekmekçioglu notes that  Hay Gin, Mark's publication, was allowed to continue uninterrupted in Istanbul, Turkey, because Mark was a woman and the periodical was written by and for women,  thus posing no threat to the Turkish authorities.  
Photos by Marash Girl

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Armenian Wannabes

But then there were those of us who WANTED to look Armenian, speak Armenian . . . however, we did NOT look Armenian because we were Marashtsi (and Aintepsi) -- with mothers that had light brown hair (witness Peter going around singing I dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair) and very light skin, fathers that had blue eyes and white skin and blonde hair (later light grey). . . brothers and sisters with blonde hair and blue eyes . . . and those of us who were Protestant and not Armenian Apostolic, who wanted desperately to look Armenian but to no avail, who spoke only English (the kindergarten and first grade teachers having told our parents that they should only speak English to us) . . . .

When folks asked Marash Girl what nationality she was (folks used to do that in the old days), she would answer Armenian.  "Funny, " they would say.  "You don't look Armenian."

And then the woman who asked Marash Girl what nationality her last name signified.

Marash Girl answered, "Armenian".

"Oh, I know.  Turkish, right?" replied the woman proudly.

Wow!  Somewhere, somehow the Armenian PR folks didn't quite make the grade!
Hopefully by today, everyone knows the difference.  If you don't, please comment below and Marash Girl will set you straight.

But, then, that was in the early 1960's, when Marash Girl studied the Armenian language at Harvard University under Dr. Avedis Sanjian, and learned how to read and write Armenian with Bob Mirak.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Who says that genocide defines Armenians?

Who says that genocide defines Armenians? (See New York Times, Sunday Review, April 19, 2015)

And who lets genocide define them anyway?

Many of us Armenians in the 1950's through to the mid 1960's, both young and old, were "Yankee wannabes", intent on being accepted by the majority culture, wanting to leave the world of being "foreign", speaking with accents, speaking anything but English (God foribid it should be Turkish) -- wanting to leave that world behind us.

It wasn't until Black became Beautiful that Being Armenian became Beautiful -- and granted, only for some.  But there were still those of us who had to lighten our hair, straighten our noses, and  . . . God forbid any Armenian man should sport a beard! Oh, and let's not forget changing our names from such names as Hatzakordzian to Baker or Chamourjian to Mud! 

Love "Turkish" music?  Better not!  Dance "Turkish" style?  God forbid!  Hey, wait a minute.  That was our culture, and our music.  We from Eastern Anatolia, from Marash, Harput, Zeitoun, Aintep -- we loved our culture, our music, our language -- the preachers in our churches spoke Armenian, English, and Turkish, our hymnals were written in Armenian, English, and Turkish (Armenian writing) . . . BUT when our parents and grandparents tried to tell their stories of survival . . . yes, survival from a genocide planned by the Turkish government against its Armenian population . .  they  (our parents and grandparents, not the Turks) were told, mortzir, unut, forget it!

Marash Girl learned of this in the late 1960's, early 1970's, when she initiated an oral history project under the auspices of what was then the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.  She with a group of young Armenian men and women, set out to record the stories of the survivors -- those Armenians who had been lucky enough to leave their homeland alive . . . who had been lucky enough to survive the genocide -- who had been lucky enough to come to the United States -- folks who had never told their stories.  Why?  Because (1) they didn't want to cause suffering to their children or (2) (and this was the more common reason) because they wanted to tell their stories, but they were told to forget about it  -- you're in the United States -- we don't want to hear it -- told this by the younger generation who were intent on becoming American -- if not full-blooded, at least full-spirited -- Americans with no past, with a clean slate, with no dark history to deal with. (Yes, Marash Girl knows she should never end a sentence with a preposition, but what the heck!)

Oh, and just in case someone wants label to Marash Girl a Patriot, let her herewith wish you all a Happy Patriot's Day on Marathon Monday in Boston, Massachusetts!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

That's life!

A good friend passed away 1.5 years ago and has left a bit of a hole in my life, but that’s life, as we used to say.  In fact, in junior high school, there was never any sympathy.  This is the way it would go if we complained.

--That's life!

--What’s life?

--A magazine.

--How much does it cost?

--25 cents.

--25 cents?!!!

--That’s life.

--What’s life.

--A magazine.

--How much does it cost . . . . . . . 

And that’s the way it went, around and around and around.  That's life. . . Remember?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Photo of Zeitoun, Marash, c. 1973

Zeytun (Süleymanlı) - 1973 Photo from Kahraman Marash Facebook Page.  

"All these houses were demolished to make way for a new parking lot between 2000 - 2005 for a resort and camping area. These houses were not at the center. These are part of Zeytun and called ILICA (Thermal Spring )) About 10 km far away from Zeytun . . . " Have any of you been there? Can anyone corroborate this information?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Missionaries write to Constantinople on May 12, 1924

This envelope was sent from the American Mission in Marash to 
Rev. Charles T. Riggs, head of the Bible House in Istanbul on May 12, 1924.
Too bad we can't see what they had to say in 1924!

Appreciation from Marash Girl to Kahrahman Marash Facebook page for the image and
 to Osman Koker for his assistance!.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WBUR's Robin Young (Here and Now) interviews Fatma Muge Cocek, Turkish scholar and professor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan.

Turkish Professor Concludes There Was An Armenian Genocide

Robin Young of WBUR's Here and Now yesterday interviewed Fatma Muge Cocek, Turkish scholar and professor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan.  To listen to the interview, click the white arrow that is in the blue square above.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Can Seagulls Read?

       This seagull affects an inability to read 
as it turns its back on man's law, and awaits its evening meal in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
Photo by Marash Girl

Sunday, April 12, 2015

And on a lighter note . . .

                             If you're not from Massachusetts, you may not understand the language . . .

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

This billboard was observed yesterday on the New Jersey Turnpike, 
near Newark Airport!

" I have placed my death-head formations in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"  Adolph Hitler.  Quoted by Kevork B. Bardakjian in Hitler and the Armenian Genocide (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Zoryan Institute, 1985), when Adolph Hitler refers to the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1922 as he plans the Jewish Holocaust.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When the Armenians had been driven out . . .

More from Yashar Kemal's MEMED, MY HAWK, Chapter 18:

The village of Kardut is situated on the banks of the River Jeyhan.  Before the village, the river spreads out in the plain . . . Wherever it goes it deposits silt, and that is why the Chukurova is more fertile here than in other places.  The soil around Karadut village is worth a fortune.

The last farm Ali Safa Bey had wrested from its owner was on the border of Karadut.  More than half the land of the farm had already come to him when the Armenians had been driven out.  The rest he had obtained from the villagers of Karadut by force or by guile. . . .

"When the Armenians had been driven out . . . ",  not to put too fine a point on it!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

You should have seen Marash . . .

"Well, did you like the town? asked Corporal Hassan."

"It's very big," replied Memed.  "Such huge houses.  Like palaces . . . "

Corporal Hasan laughed.  "You should see Marash!  There they have a covered market full of colored lights.  Everything is shining bright, enough to dazzle you.  In one corner the cloth merchants, in another the saddlers, and then the coppersmiths . . . How can I describe it?  It's a paradise, Marash, a hundred times bigger than this."

From Yashar Kemal's MEMED, MY HAWK, a historical novel set in the Chukorova early in the 20th Century just after the Kemalists took over and after the Armenians were forced out of their homeland.  A fascinating read. . .

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Take heart!

"There is always dawn on the other side of the mountain."

Kurdish Proverb quoted in MEMED, MY HAWK by Yashar Kemal

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Grandma Yepros and the Missionaries

Why Grandpa Moses was in the United States is a long story, a story for a future blog post.  But the fact that he was in the United States, initially working in the granite quarries of Vermont, then in the shoe factories of Massachusetts, made it possible for him to prepare the way for his family to come to the United States.  Once he was here, his return to his homeland was prevented by the outbreak of World War I and the planned genocide of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire by the newly in power Young Turks.  How could he help his family?  

Grandpa Moses decided to send money to the family via the Protestant missionaries, the missionaries based in Boston, Massachusetts.

As the story was told to Marash Girl, the Protestant missionaries in Marash received the money that Grandpa Moses sent to help his family -- Grandma Yepros, Auntie Rosie, Uncle Paul, Auntie Gulenia and Marash Girl's father Peter.

Grandma Yepros was penniless, doing whatever she could to feed her family, and often going hungry herself so that there would be enough food for her children.  As Marash Girl has written elsewhere in this blog, Grandma Yepros worked in the hospital, she had her family weaving cloth . . . but none the less, they could barely manage to feed themselves in this time of war and devastation.

One day, Grandma Yepros received word from the missionaries that they would like to come to visit. Grandma Yepros, wanting to honor the missionaries, went to her neighbors and borrowed clothes for herself and her children so that they would not appear to be ragged upon the missionaries' visit . . . borrowed food so that the table would be overflowing in honor of the missionaries' visit . . . 

And so the missionaries visited and were delighted to see how well Grandma Yepros was doing in the midst of the chaos.  They decided not to mention the money Grandpa Moses had sent.  They (thought that they) knew that other families needed it far more than Grandma Yepros and her family.  And so the missionaries, after visiting with Grandma Yepros, decided to give the money that Grandpa Moses had sent for his family. . . decided to give that money to families that were more in need.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stuck? No problem!

With all the hustle bustle preparing for her Easter celebration, Marash Girl found herself with two glass bowls, bowls exactly the same size, one stuck inside the other.  No problem.  She knew exactly what to do to separate them.  Do you?

Marash Boy, observing the problem, was in a quandary.  "How are you going to separate them," he asked Marash Girl.  

"Oh, simple.  When I was a kid" Marash Girl replied, "we used to stack glasses of the same size, two at a time, into each other on the shelves in order to make space, as we had little shelf room in our kitchen.  (Not that we have any shelf room in our kitchen today, she noted.)  That would often leave us with one glass stuck inside the other.  When we expressed concern, my mother would laugh and simply put cold water with ice inside the topmost glass, and set the bottom glass in hot water.  Soon enough we could separate the two glasses.  Cold contracts, heat expands, right?  Didn't you ever do that when you were a kid in your house?"

With a wry smile, science whiz Marash Boy commented, "Our glasses never got stuck."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Christ is Risen!

Քրիստոս հարեաւ ի  մեռելոց:

  Krisdos haryav ee merelotz!   Christ has risen and conquered death.

Page from an Armenian Illuminated Manuscript

Օրհնեալ է  Հարություն Քրիստոսի:

Orhnyal e haroutioun Krisdosi!   Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Text for photo pictured below.

Seen behind the bells and long roof of the building is the first Protestant church of Aintep, Turkey. Marash Girl can't figure out what building it is; can you? Could Grandma Yester (Bosnian) Vartanian and Grandpa Garabed Vartanian have attended this church on the Easter Sundays of the early 1900's?

The First Protestant Church in Aintab, Turkey

"Arkada çanı görülen ve uzun çatısı olan bina Antep birinci protestan kilisesi..."
Could Grandma Yester (Bosnian) Vartanian and Grandpa Garabed Vartanian have attended this church on the Easter Sundays of the early 1900's?

Thanks to Robin Thompson of Aintab, Turkey, for this vintage postcard  of Aintab, Turkey, and 
to the Aintab Armenian Cultural Association of L.A.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A blessed Good Friday to all.

Blessings to all on this Good Friday, and peace to all  who have begun to prepare the meal for the Easter celebration.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Have you gathered your onion skins yet?

Better hurry!  There won't be many onion skins sitting on the bottom of the onion bins as Easter is approaching.  Folks who are in the know dye their eggs with the all natural dye made from boiling onion skins and then boiling the eggs in that same water with the onion skins (still in the water).  The onion skins cushion the eggs and prevent them from cracking, and further decorate the eggs by mottling the surface of the egg shells.
Marash Girl rustles through the onion bins at Trader Joe's searching out the  already
loosed onion skins prepararing to celebrate Armenian Easter.   Photo by Marash Boy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What if you were happy?

At the end of his life  . . . or rather all his life . . . Peter Bilezikian looked at life philosophically.  Nearing the end of his life, when he was less careful about what he said to folks, a friend's wife died.  Peter consoled him:  "Aren't you glad that you're sad?  Because what if you were happy?"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Gold Coins and God's wrath

After all was said and done . . . well, actually, not all . . . nearly all of the Armenians were gone from Marash . . . they had either been slaughtered, followed after the French who were sneaking out of the city unbeknownst to most (although most froze to death in a snowstorm that hit a day outside of the city), forced on the death march to Der Zor (a march which few survived) . . . but Grandma Yepros was still in Marash, in hiding, with her little sister Mary and her four children, a mother with no income and no adult male member present in the household, a single mother trying to feed and protect her family.  As Peter remembered the experience, in order to leave Marash and the newly established Republic of Turkey for the protection of the new French mandate of Syria, Grandma Yepros had to pay Turkish officials  5 gold coins (presumably to relinquish title to any of her properties in Marash) in order to acquire an  exit visa. She approached the Protestant missionaries in Marash and borrowed the five gold coins which she then took to the Turkish official who would provide her with an "exit visa". The Turkish official told her that the exit document would be ready the following day.  When she approached the official that very next day and asked for her "exit visa", the official told her that she had never paid him the five gold pieces.  Yepros, devastated, went to the Protestant missionaries again to borrow 5 more gold pieces in order to pay the Turkish official yet again for an exit document.  After paying the official for the second time five gold pieces and receiving her exit visa, she walked some distance from the Turkish offices,   removed her black shesh from her head, raised it to the heavens and looked up.  "Allah, ben yardum et! Lord you see what this man has done.  I cannot do anything about this, but you can."

The very next day, the family set out for Aleppo, Peter riding on a “jackass” (as he often laughingly related). Days later, upon the family's arrival in Aleppo, Grandma Yepros learned that the Turkish official who had cheated her out of five gold pieces, that very official had dropped dead on the very same day that she had paid him five gold pieces for the second time, the day that she had raised her shesh over her head, looking up to the sky to ask for God's justice.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday in Newton Corner

 Congregants gather in the Great Hall of Grace Episcopal Church awaiting the blessing of the palms.

Above, congregants of Grace Episcopal Church parade through Farlow Park, Newton Corner, chanting "Hosannah in the highest" and waving palm fronds in remembrance of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

N.B.  Marash Boy's often referred to folks walking around "Alleluiah gibi" (as if they were singing Hallelujah), not "Hosannah".  Although much is lost in translation, Marash Girl figured out yesterday to what Marash Boy's grandmother was referring!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Interview with Filmmaker Roger Hagopian on his film, Memories of Marash

M.G. I hear that you were asked to submit your Special 2015 Edition Memories of Marash to a Film Festival in Providence.

R.H. Yes.  I’m so pleased. Dorothy Martiesian of The Daughters of Vartan arranged for my film, Memories of Marash, to be shown at the Southeast New England Arts and Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island, as this year is the 100th year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

M.G. Where and when will that festival be held?

R.H. The Southeast New England Arts and Film Festival will be held at the  Columbus Theatre at 270 Broadway in Providence, R.I., on Monday, April 20 at 7 PM.  Their contact #  is 401-203-7363.
I will be attending the SENE Film Festival in order to speak after the showing of my film, Memories of Marash: The Legacy of a Lost Armenian Community (2015).  This documentary film traces the ancient history of the city of Marash,  the massacres of  the late 1800’s, and the final expulsion and genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1923; the film tells the story of the lost Armenian community of Marash. Interviews with survivors and their descendants supported by historical film and photographs combine  to portray the tale of the vibrant Armenian community that once existed in Marash and is now forever a memory. In 2015, I remastered  
MEMORIES OF MARASH to wide screen with high resolution photography and animated maps.  

M.G. When did you first begin making documentaries?

R.H. My first film, Journey along the Middlesex Canal, was completed in 1996.  (As I’ve always been interested in railroads, I became fascinated by canals because in America, canals were the predecessor to railroads. You may not realize that the Middlesex Canal was  the first major artificial waterway — completed in 1803 — in the United States.)   This film has been shown at the Lowell National Park Visitor Center, on local TV stations, at public libraries, and can currently be seen on the Middlesex Canal Association website.  The Canal That Bisected Boston, a film I made in 2010, has been shown at various historical societies as well as the West End Museum in Boston, the Middlesex Canal Museum, and the Charlestown Historical Society, to name a few. 

M.G. You’re a history buff, are you?  

R.H. Yes, I’m especially interested in early transportation and American history.  The Armenian focus came later.  My father was a survivor of the Armenian genocide; I’ve known that since I was a teenager, but I did not seriously research  family history until I was about 49 years old. 

M.G. How old are you now?  

R.H. 66. Ironically, what turned out to be the first action of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottomans occurred in Zeitoun on April 10, 1915 — that is the month and day of my birthday.  

M.G.  That’s tough. On a happier note, how were you introduced to filmmaking?

R. H. My wife Linda cut out an ad in the newspaper which announced that Lexington Cable TV was offering film-making courses for free.  I took my video camera, and began volunteer work there and I was able to sign up for editing time in the studio.  I could produce my own film on any subject I wished.  That’s when I made a video of my father’s story: Journey of an Armenian Family (1999)  It took about a year to put that together. I showed that in many Armenian and non-Armenian venues.  (Senior Centers, Newton Public Library, NAASR)  The film begins in my dad's fishing village Avantz (outside of the City of Van) in historic Armenia (which was at that time a part of Ottoman Turkey).   I can remember being down the Cape, putting a microphone in front of my father as we sat by the lake.

M.G. What inspired you to make the film Memories of Marash

R.H. I wanted to cover my mother’s family’s experiences in historic Armenia;  during the Armenian Genocide, my great grandparents were beheaded in front of their children. I wanted the world to know the truth. 

M.G. Oh, no.  Just like my great grandparents! Let’s move on . . . Have any of your films ever been entered into a film festival in the past? 

R.H. Yes.  Destination Watertown:  The Armenians of Hood Rubber was shown at the ARPA International Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2010.  This film describes employment at the Hood Rubber Factory as being the draw for  Armenian immigrants to settle in Watertown.

M.G.  Switching gears a bit here, I wonder when you first became aware of the fact that you were Armenian?  What was it like being an Armenian growing up in the diverse community of the Dorchester section of Boston?  

R.H. I was just another ethnic kid with friends who were Jewish, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, Irish, Italians . . .

M.G. Have you ever met any Turks?  

R.H. I didn’t start meeting Turks until I got involved in activities regarding Armenian history and the Armenian genocide.  

M.G. How did you meet them then?  

R.H. It began with Professor Taner Akcam, Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University . . . probably the first Turk that I ever talked to about the Armenian genocide.  

M.G. Has your film been shown in Turkey?  

R.H. Harry Parsekian brought a copy of "Memories of Marash" to the Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul and Osman Koker, editor of the book ARMENIANS IN TURKEY 100 YEARS AGO purchased a copy of "Memories of Marash" when he was in Watertown several years ago; he recently told  Marash Girl that he just loved the film!

M.G. What are your plans, if any, for future films?  

R.H. I want to record the story of the destruction of four Massachusetts towns: when the Quabbin Reservoir was constructed in the 1930’s, the folks living in the communities in Massachusetts’ Swift River Valley  were forced to leave — their homes and their land were taken by eminent domain in order for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to  create  the reservoir which provides drinking water for Metropolitan Boston.  Being an Armenian, I could identify with their experience of loss and displacement.

M.G. How can we purchase a copy of the Special 2015 Edition DVD of Memories of Marash?  

R.H. Just call me, Roger Hagopian. at 781-861-7868 or, for further information, email

Peter Bilezikian (1912-2010), a survivor of the Armenian genocide, whips it up with filmmaker Roger Hagopian (at right) on Feb. 10, 2008, during the  yearly gathering of the Watertown Chapter of the Union of Marash Armenians. Peter Bilezikian is featured in the film MEMORIES OF MARASH.  Photo by Marash Girl

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Courage to Survive

You may wonder what in the world you are looking at!  Any guesses?  

Soon after spring arrived -- 5 days later, to be exact -- these little plants, and Marash Girl has yet to figure out what they are, made their way up through the dark and the cold of a half a foot of snow to bare their limbs to the sunshine.  

Would that we could follow their example!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sell-Out Crowd Greets Author Chris Bohjalian at Watertown Free Public Library

Joe Rossi (right) greets author Chris Bohjalian (left)  who holds a copy of his book,      
The Sandcastle Girls
Ten-time New York Times best-selling author Chris Bohjalian and author of  The Sandcastle Girls appeared yesterday evening at the Watertown Free Public Library as part of Watertown's commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  A sell-out crowd awaited him.  Unfortunately there was no room "in the inn", as it were, for those (like Marash Girl and her escort) who had not purchased tickets ($5/person) ahead of time, and even tickets for standing room only were sold out.  

Nonetheless, Marash Girl and her escort arrived early enough to greet Chris Bohjalian as he approached the crowds gathering around the doors of the lecture hall (a rather small lecture hall, at that, for such a prominent figure) and Chris was gracious enough to allow a photo to be taken before he greeted the throngs who were there to hear him speak.
Chris Bohjalian inscribes and signs a copy of his novel, Sandcastle Girls.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An Alderman by any other name . . .

Marash Girl received the following email today from Newton's Alderwoman (formerly known as Alderman) Emily Norton.

Call Me Councilor… City Councilor.  I am pleased to report that by a vote of 19-5, the Board of Aldermen voted last week to amend the City Charter to change our titles from “Alderman” to “City Councilor.” We also scrubbed the charter of other gendered references, such as changing “Chairman” to “Chair” and “School Committeemen” to “School Committee members.” The measure now must be filed by our State representatives and passed by the Legislature as a home rule petition.

Marash Girl has many questions.  
1)  What shall we do with the word "human"?

2)  Juliet (in Shakeseare's ROMEO & JULIET) states, 

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet. . ." 

or not, as the case may be. . . 

3) Do we really need gender references scrubbed?  Marash Girl kind of likes being known as Marash Girl and not Marash Writer or Marash Person or Marash Descendant or Marash Adult or Marash Writer or Marash Chamur . . . You get the point.

Your thoughts?