I have never marched for the Armenian Genocide. Truthfully that many people in one place terrifies me. I don’t attend many events because most of the time I can’t understand them, as I don’t speak Armenian, much to other’s dismay.
That doesn’t make me any less of an advocate. Just because I am not physically protesting doesn’t mean I don’t care about the cause. Just because I don’t speak the language doesn’t mean I don’t care about being Armenian. I decided to advocate in a different way.
I advocate by sharing my family’s story, the atrocities and struggles they went through to come to America.
My great grandfather, Siragan Aprahamian, was never seen again after being forced to join the Turkish army. His wife, Ardem Aprahamian, knew she had two choices for her and her three children – to die or to survive.
She put her daughters, Rose, Alice, and Mary, in the homes of three separate greek homes. This saved the three daughters, and allowed Ardem to hide in the basement of a church until the genocide was over.
Once the genocide was over, Ardem emerged from the basement and knew she needed to reclaim her husband’s three apartment units and farm. Ardem was very well educated and could read and write in English. This was because both her mother and herself were college educated, a rarity for most women during that time. Because of this, she was able to take back the property with little resistance.
With a place to bring them back to, Ardem went to get her daughters. The older two daughters were given back with no problems. When her mother returned for the third daughter, the Greek family had their son run with Mary into a farm. Ardem went to the police and got back her daughter, and even though it left her daughter terrified and crying, she was able to reclaim her.
Her mother sold the farm and rented out the apartments before leaving for Constantinople and later for an old and broken down Turkish war ship. Unfortunately for them, Mary was heartbroken to leave her family and cried the entire way, leaving her eyes red, a sign of pink eye. In those days, pink eye was cause to be sent back.
Ardem though was not about to be sent back after the long journey and all of the work it took to get them there. While still on the journey, she taught her daughters to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in English. While examining their eyes in Ellis Island, dressed up in matching sailor dresses Ardem made, they began singing and won over the examiners.
Although back in the Middle East, families made sure to reclaim their culture, including their religion and customs, in America it was quite the opposite. It was necessary to adopt the American culture and to blend in as much as possible.
Even with their hardships, they knew the importance of their family and staying true to themselves.
Alice was my grandmother. Her courage was apparent through her life. Through all of the struggles she went through, she thrived. She is my strength.
Through all that she had gone through, she never felt bitter. Not towards Turkish people, not towards other religions, not towards anyone. I think that is something we all need to begin to adapt. No matter what has happened, we need to take our pain and transition it into positivity, working to help others that are in the same position Armenians were in 100 years ago.