Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marashtzi or odar?

In the 1920's and 1930's, when my father was growing up in Watertown, Massachusetts, Armenians identified themselves by their towns of origin.  To be Marashtzi was paramount!  Because my father was fair (blue eyes, blonde hair, light skin), spoke English without an accent, and had many friends in the American community, folks would warn his mother Epros that for sure, he would marry an American.  Epros would always respond in Armenian (she knew no English): Don't worry. Peter knows what he's about. In 1939, my father became engaged. When he shared his good news with his  compatriots at a meeting of the Union of Marash Armenians,  (and my father loved to tell this story), a fellow Marashtzi inquiring about Peter's fiancee, asked, Is she Marashtzi or odar?  My father, given that choice, had to tell the truth.

Peter:   She's odar.
Compatriot:  Is she Italiatzi?
Peter: No. 
Compatriot: Amerriigatzi?
Peter: No. 
Compatriot: Irreesh? 
Peter: No
Compatriot: Eengleesh?
Peter: No
Compatriot: Grriik?
Peter: No
Compatriot: Vell, godammit, vhat ees she?
Peter: Aintabsi!

My father married my mother, Jennie (Lucille Mae) Vartanian,  on January 15, 1940.  On that day,  as the time of the wedding approached, it became clear that Peter's family  would have to move the location of the wedding celebration from the little Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church in Watertown where they had planned to hold the ceremony,  to a church large enough to accommodate the Boston and Watertown Marashtzi and Aintabtsi communities who, invited or not, flocked to the church to celebrate their wedding.  Peter had, after all, married an Armenian girl.

Marashtzi = Armenian from Marash or whose family originates in Marash (city in Eastern Anatolia, rival to Aintab)
Odar = "Non-Armenian" or Foreigner
Italiatizi = Italian
Amerrigatzi = American
Irreesh = Irish
Eengleesh = English
Grriik= Greek
Aintabtsi=Armenian from Aintab or whose family originates in Aintab (city in Eastern Anatolia, rival to Marash)

1 comment:

  1. We still have this caling ,marashtzi,sisetzi... here in Lebanon.My wife is sisetzi and we always tell the story (That they put one sisetzi and a snake into a bag,the snake run away,by saying the sisetzi abused me)LOL.
    Garo Derounian