Grandparent's Wedding Photo

My grandparents, 1920
My grandparents, 1920

My grandmother, (Arousiag Demirjian), was 16 years old in this photo and at 11 was the only member of her family to survive the Armenian Genocide. 

After the murder of her father in 1915 by the Ottoman Turks, my grandmother, her mother, and her younger siblings were ordered by the government to be “relocated.” They were sent into the Syrian desert on a 300 mile death march, during which she had to help bury each of her remaining relatives. They were among the 1.5 million who were exterminated during the genocide. My grandmother was miraculously aided by an Arabic family who smuggled her past the Turkish guards onto a boat over the Euphrates River. After two years with this family, she traveled to an Armenian orphanage near Beirut where she became a teacher. 

My grandfather and his two brothers, already in the U.S. having left ahead of the genocide in 1912, worked to raise $700 to bring their mother and three aunts to the U.S. and find him a bride! My grandmother was recommended by the priest at the orphanage who wanted her to have a better life in the U.S. She enjoyed teaching and asked, “Can I return if I don’t like it?” They were married in 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio. 

My grandmother was and is truly an inspiration to her entire family, always praying and grateful to God for saving her. Always loving, forgiving, and supportive of all. This photo is a reminder of how fortunate we all are and how any obstacle we experience will never be even close to those she overcame.  

Place(s): Kharpert, Turkey and Beirut
Year: 1920

– Ara Bagdasarian

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant