WATERTOWN — Adrienne Alexanian will present her father Yervant Edward Alexanian’s memoir, Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army, on May 18, at 7:30 p.m., at the Armenian Museum of America, 65 Main St., Watertown. The program is sponsored by the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian Cultural Foundation, the Armenian General Benevolent Union New England District, the Armenian Museum of America, Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).
Forced into Genocide was published this year by Transaction Publishers and features an introduction by Prof. Sergio LaPorta of Fresno State and a foreword by renowned genocide expert Prof. Israel Charny. Adrienne Alexanian, who served as the editor of her father’s previously untranslated and unpublished memoir, is a 2010 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal and an educator. Forced into Genocide will be available for purchase the night of the program.
This memoir recalls Yervant Alexanian’s death-defying experiences in the center of the Armenian Genocide. Born in Sivas (Sebastia), Yervant Alexanian survived the Hamidean Massacres of the 1890s. Like other Armenians of his generation, he was an eyewitness to the massacre and dislocation of his family and fellow countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Alexanian was conscripted into the Turkish army—but unlike others so conscripted, he survived.
Alexanian was forced to become an onlooker while he watched the atrocities unfold. His story of resourceful action and fateful turns is a suspenseful “insider’s account” of a Genocide survivor. From his singular position, Alexanian was able to document the tragedy of his people in his journals and diaries, but he also offers us a behind-the-scenes look into the motivations and actions of Turkish military officials as they committed the atrocities. His story continues after the war as we follow the trail of his journey through Europe and finally to America, where he found solace and was able to start anew with fellow survivors.
No comparable account exists in the literature of the Armenian Genocide. This edition, translated from Alexanian’s hand-written Armenian-language chronicle, includes never-before-seen documents and photos that the author preserved. Through his eyes we relive the astonishing cruelty of the Genocide’s perpetrators — but also rare, unexpected acts of humanity between victim and oppressor.
Prof. Taner Akçam writes of Forced into Genocide that it “reading about Yervant’s story is an inescapable part of understanding the another kind of suffering; suffering of survivors.” Dr. Vartan Gregorian states that the book “lovingly memorializes the fate of a family and a community, and adds yet another incredible chapter to the history of the Genocide. This book is moving, uplifting, and richly detailed, and is a gift to the Armenian community and, indeed, humanity.”