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Entries in Family History (1)


SURVIVING ARMENIA: A Conversation with My Father (2)


Keri's Great Grandfather, "The Invisible Man" is pictured third from left with dark hair, moustache and black suit.

Read the introduction to the series.

Read part 1 of "A Conversation with my Father."

As the towns were being disrupted and people were forced to move, Minas, my grandmother’s father, just happened to be working in Constantinople. When word of the Genocide arrived, he quickly prepared to return to his village, against the recommendations of his Turkish employers who knew it was not safe for him to travel outside of Constantinople.

His family, however, was already gone.

It was a blessing that Minas was fluent in Turkish for when he returned to Tchingeler, he was able to monitor his family’s caravan, as well as the rest of the village’s caravans from afar from the local highlands. Dressed incognito as a Turk, he was also able to occasionally interact with his family discreetly, bringing them food and other supplies. Along the way, Varsenig’s parents traded their silk rugs for rugs made of horsehair, a more suitable material with which to make tents.

The Turks took the villagers south and six months later they had arrived in Damascus. Having been deprived of food and water during the march through the desert, many Armenians perished before they arrived, including Martha, Minas’s wife and their son Diran. They both died of dysentery. Dysentery was the cause of death for many Armenians who took part in what became known as the “Death Marches.”


It is interesting and quite morbid to note that many Armenians, like my grandmother’s family, who were subjected to “Death Marches” during the final episodes of the Genocide, had a better chance of survival than other Armenians who had suffered different fates, or who had stayed behind in their villages. Even the Turks had gotten tired of the killings in the desert, and the death rate during the last of the death marches had slowed considerably before they finally ended.

In Damascus, there was a return to some resemblance of sanity and safety in the living conditions. Minas with his two children, Varsenig and Vramshabouh managed to survive there until the end of the War.

As WWI came to a close, Minas thought the best plan for his family would be to travel to Constantinople. There, he at least would have a job and a way to support his two children. Plus the chances that Constantinople would be safe for Armenians was great because of the European presence in that city.

Unfortunately, their family’s bad luck had not yet ended. After traveling and settling in Constantinople, Minas suffered a gunshot wound to his leg while trying to break up a fight between two of his Armenian friends. No one knows what the fight was even about, but Minas died in a Constantinople hospital, apparently of blood poisoning.

Now orphaned, Varsenig and Vramshabouh were eventually shipped to two different Armenian orphanages, Varsenig to Paris, France and Vramshabouh to Cyprus, Greece. Eventually the siblings were reunited in France but my father was unclear of the logistics of this reunion and how it may have come about. He believes it was through the workings of the Armenian Red Cross.

Luckily, Varsenig and Vramshabouh had relatives in France and were eventually reunited with them. My father is unsure if these relatives were also refugees from Tchingeler, but it would seem to make sense that they were. They were probably travelling from Damascus to France.

I already knew the answer to the next question, but I asked my father, anyway, as I had never heard his version of the answer: Why was our family not living in France, if all of my grandmother’s relatives ended up there? How did his mother end up in New York? Well, that brings us to my father’s father, Mihran Topouzian who was from the “city” of Bardizag also located in the western aspect of the Ottoman Empire.

This will be part of the next story. . .

 Read the Introduction to the series & Part 1 of "A Conversation with My Father."