Bibliothèque de l'Eglise apostolique arménienne - Paris - SAFARIAN , Israel     Retour à l'Index des auteurs en anglais    Accueil des catalogues en ligne

Bibliothèque de l'Église apostolique arménienne - Paris
15, rue Jean-Goujon - 75008 Paris || Père Jirayr Tashjian, Directeur
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Consultation sur place du mardi au jeudi, de 14 heures à 17 heures

( 1878 - 1969 )

Israel SAFARIAN --- Cliquer pour agrandir

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 Letters from Armenia to Israel Safarian
Titre : Letters from Armenia to Israel Safarian / auteur(s) : Israel SAFARIAN - Translated by Eugenie Shehirian, Foreword by Edward Safarian
Editeur : A. E. Safarian
Année : 2002
Imprimeur/Fabricant : Canada
Description : 15 x 21 cm, 88 pages, couverture illustrée en couleurs
Collection :
Notes :
Autres auteurs :
Sujets : Personal memories -- Safarian Israel (1878-1969)
ISBN : 0973073101
Lecture On-line : non disponible

Commentaire :


Israel Safarian left his native village in Turkey for Canada in 1907, where he lived until his death in 19(59. This book contains letters received by him, along with a few other persons, largely from relatives in Turkey.
My intention in publishing these letters is to commemorate the 95th anniversary of his entry to Canada in a way which will explain something of his life to his many relatives and friends. The letters may also have something to say to some who never knew him. Many who have fled from their countries of birth to one with far more security and promise will recognize something of themselves in these pages. Still others may understand better how fortunate they have been in the land of their birth. Israel Safarian's story was made even more poignant because his parents and much of the rest of his family perished in 1915 when the Turkish government brutally deported or murdered most of its citizens of Armenian ancestry.
The story told in the letters is largely that of relatives in the Armenian provinces of Turkey and cousins in Lebanon. Only one letter from Israel Safarian is included. What has survived in addition is a partial account of his escape from Turkey.
There is no need to summarize the letters or otherwise comment on them in any detail for they speak very clearly for themselves. Nor is it necessary to spell out in any detail the dramatic events which dominated the first two decades of the century, when most of these letters were written -events such as the end of the sultanate, the early promise and deadly betrayal of the Armenians by the Young Turks, Turkey's defeat in the first world war, the struggles inside Turkey and the resurgence of a new nationalism, and the brief restoration of an Armenian state independent of both Turkey and Russia. Information on these and other events of the period is readily available to those interested enough to inquire and open-minded enough to try to understand.1
Rather, these letters are about the everyday lives and hopes of ordinary people who perished or were scattered far and wide because of the 1915 deportations and their aftermath. What may be helpful to understanding the letters is a brief note on my parents' lives, particularly my father, to whom most of the letters are addressed.
Israel Safarian was born in about 1878 in the village of Kalan in the region of Goynoug (now Bingol), west of the city of Moush and southwest of the city of Erzurum.-
This was part of historic Armenia. Not far to the west, near Erzincan, was the western frontier of Urartu, a major power and one of the ancestral groups of Armenia. Not far to the east, the Armenian monarch Tiridates declared Armenia a Christian state early in the fourth century.
Israel's father was Garabed, hence he used the surname Garabedian for a few years in Canada before adopting his grandfather's name. His grandfather, Safar, was a prosperous farmer with extensive holdings of grain-growing land and sheep. Seizure of these lands by the Kurdish administrators of the region had left the family in difficult circumstances as the letters begin. Israel was married to Shamiran at an early age and had three daughters. He had an older brother, Abel, two younger brothers, Danel and Setrak, and a sister, Haiganoush. The household also included a number of in ~ laws.
In 1907 Israel and nine other men fled Turkey to Batum in Georgia then by various ports to Canada. The early part of the account of his escape has not been found. Some of his relatives described him as a restless person, unhappy with the growing poverty and persecution and determined to make a better life elsewhere for his family. A more immediate reason, according to his own account, was the increasing raids by Kurds on Armenian villages. On one such occasion some Kurds caught him away from his village, beat him and left him for dead.
Israel's hope was to get a stake in Canada, then to get his family out of Turkey. He became a Canadian citizen as soon as possible, in 1912. Unfortunately, both his health and his finances went badly for a time. Only his brother Danel came to join him before 1915, and he himself never returned, even briefly, to the land of his birth. His long absence from his family, along with their difficult economic situation and some problems of communication, was painful for all concerned. The letter of September 10, 1913 makes this very clear. He would have been caught in the massacres of 1915 if he had returned to his family in response to the urgent pleas in that letter and elsewhere.
Israel's parents, wife and children, and his brother Setrak were among the many relatives and friends who perished in the genocidal deportations and massacres which began in 1915. For some years he had hoped that his daughter Zivart had been taken to Armenia by relatives and also that Setrak had survived, but inquiries over the years failed to confirm this. Abel and his son Missak escaped to Istanbul, where Abel remarried. Israel arranged for them to come to Canada. While waiting for their immigration papers in Marseilles, Abel and his family became acquainted with the Simonian family. One of their daughters, Yerchanig (Annie) became Israel's wife in 1923.
Yerchanig Simonian was born in Yozkot, a city near Ankara. Her parents, her sister and she were spared the worst horrors of the war and post~war period thanks to a Turkish family in Ankara, which hid them in their home for four years at great risk to all concerned. To support themselves, Yerchanig and her mother prepared fine textiles which her sister, Takouhi, disguised as a boy, delivered to customers, using the proceeds to buy food and supplies. In 1921 they managed to reach Marseilles. My grandmother, my aunt and her husband came to Canada in the early 1950s. Aunt Takouhi died in 1996, still the poised person she must have been in her teens when she served as the family's lifeline to the world outside the house in Ankara.
The letters from Israel's village end in 1913. In 1937 there is a letter from his nieces Ovsanna and Ankin Mekhitarian in Lebanon. Startlingly, in 1940 there is a letter from his sister Haiganoush, who is married to a Turk. After the second world war, there are letters from both Ankin and Haiganoush bringing information about the fate of some of the relatives and friends.
My sisters, Lily and Leola, and I grew up in Toronto in what was a typically Canadian-Armenian household. We spoke Armenian at home, and the Armenian culture, broadly defined, was never far from our minds there. My father was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) for over 60 years and both he and my mother were members of the Armenian Relief Society from the 1920s on. At times, especially in the 1930s, life was very difficult for them and those of similar backgrounds whom we knew well, yet the strong impression anyone would have had was of people who had settled gratefully into a promising and new life. Some relatives had survived, there was a small but tightly-knit group of people of Armenian background, and there was a variety of friends (mainly of Scottish and Balkan origins in our Cabbagetown neighbourhood) both among first-generation Canadians and those who had arrived earlier. My father was an outgoing person with a fine sense of humour who read widely. He liked nothing better than to discuss political issues which he saw largely as moral questions, whether with respect to Armenia or otherwise. Our family's penchant for helping newcomers of Armenian background to find housing and jobs, and to cope in the new society, was well known and appreciated.
Yet the fact is that my sisters and I knew little until much later of the personal details of the tragedies in their lives. He told me some family history in detail prior to a visit I made to Soviet Armenia in 1966, in the hope that I could trace a daughter and a brother he believed had escaped there half a century earlier. My aunt Takouhi, always forthright, told us some details as did Abel's daughter Viola. My father told part of his story to my wife, Joan, not long before his death. He also told her of the nightmares he had long suffered as the enormity of those early years refused to be silenced. He died in 1969. The same day my mother suffered a stroke: she had been ill for years and knew nothing of his passing. She died a week later. Shortly after, these letters and some other materials came into my possession. A close family friend, Eugenie Shehirian, kindly translated them and helped in many other ways. I am grateful to her, and to Joan and Paul Safarian for their help with the manuscript and its publication. The responsibility for any errors is mine alone.
For me the ultimate message of these letters is hopeful, a story of survival and renewal in the face of terrible odds. I hope others find them so.
Edward (Vrej) Safarian January, 2002

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