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.”