By Dr. Carolann S. Najarian
It took years for me to find the courage to listen to my father’s voice as he recorded it on 20 or more cassette tapes telling the stories of his village, Sheykh Hadji in Kharpert, his family’s escape in 1915, and resettlement in New York City. He had just retired and my mother’s sister, Hasmieg, suggested he record his memoirs. It would not only give him something to do, but something that had meaning for him and for our family.
And so Dad undertook the task and worked on his recordings over the next five years. The more he dictated the more he became involved in the project. He researched the era of his birth and the genocide, he talked to friends and relatives about their experiences, and he resurrected the stories — some of which he had told us, but many of which were still buried in his memory, now to come out and be pieced together. At one point on the tapes he observed that working on his life story must be similar to undergoing psychoanalysis. He worked away day after day. The years passed, he became ill and died in 1979.
I put the tapes in a case and placed them in the back of a closet with the intention of transcribing them in the next year or two. But, I could not bring myself to listen to them, thinking that hearing his voice would put me into an emotionally tailspin which I didn’t want to face. Thus, I carefully stored them in a case and put them away, until now.
Now, more then 30 years later, with the centennial of the Armenian Genocide approaching, I decided it was time to listen to my father’s voice as he was a Genocide survivor and his story needed to be heard. I placed the first cassette in the tape deck, adjusted the audio and the distinctive timber of my father’s voice came over the speaker. Instead of the waterfall of tears I expected, I felt a great peace, and wonderful sense of happiness — just as I did when he was alive. His voice was so like him — alive, warm, and without doubt able to command the listener’s attention even all these years later.