Armenian Genocide Survivors Tell Their Personal Stories at New York Armenian Home

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By Taleen Babayan

FLUSHING, N.Y. — Three Armenian Genocide survivors recounted their stories of survival at the New York Armenian Home in Flushing, Queens on Sunday afternoon March 21.

While almost a century has passed, Charlotte Kechejian, Oronik Eminian and Arsalo Dadir, residents of the Armenian Home, vividly remembered their tragic past and told their stories to various reporters representing the New York Times, NY1 television channel, Queens Gazette and Queens Tribune.

Born in Nikhda in 1912, 97-year-old Charlotte Kechejian credited her mother in helping her survive the death marches through the Der Zor desert during the Armenian Genocide. Barely 6-years-old, Kechejian’s father was killed during the Genocide. “I asked my mother if my father had left because I had done something wrong,” recalled Kechejian, an only child. She remembers walking endlessly through the desert, thirsty for water and hungry for food. “My mother kept saying that we just had to walk a little more, but that ‘little more’ never ended.”

At the age of 10, Kechejian and her mother moved to New York with the help of an uncle who had already settled in the US. She spoke highly of her mother’s strength to move to a new country barely speaking English and earn a living for her family as a seamstress. Her mother, who insisted that her daughter earn her high school diploma, eventually opened her own grocery store on 33rd Street in Manhattan, and with her daughter’s permission remarried.

“We went through a lot,” said Kechejian, “but we’re still alive.”

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 While many survivors’ only scars are emotional, this is not true for 97-year-old Onorik Eminian, who repeatedly pointed to the scar on her forehead, the result of being hit on the head with a rifle butt by a Turkish soldier. Eminian, born in Izmir, witnessed the death of her parents, sister and two brothers who were tortured and then killed by the Turks.

At the age of 8, the Red Cross placed her in an orphanage and she later made her way to Greece and then to the US in 1930 with her grandmother. She lived in Astoria until she moved to the New York Armenian Home a few years ago.

 Born in Shabin Karahisar in 1913, Arsaloys Dadir’s father was killed by the Young Turks when he was 25 years old. Her uncle, a doctor, was one of the 300 martyrs killed on April 24, 1915 when Armenian leaders, including members of the Turkish Parliament were rounded up and murdered.

Dadir remembers hundreds of bodies piled on top of each other. Luckily, her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were able to seek refuge with a wealthy Turkish family. Despite her own family’s wealth, they lost all of their money and land during the genocide. The family eventually moved to Constantinople, where Dadir married and raised two children, moving to the US later in life.

All three survivors are scheduled to be present in Times Square for the 95th Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square, organized by the Mid-Atlantic Chapters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, which will take place on Sunday, April 25 from 2-4 p.m.

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