Aghavnie Chitjian Boloudian

Aghavnie Chitjian Boloudian is Hampartzoum’s fraternal Aunt from his father’s side who remained in Turkey during the Armenian Genocide and had married Ago-Ebo’s son named Levon.

Aghavnie, Levon, and their family in the 1930s.

Aghavnie and Levon, front left, in 1959.

Name of the victim/survivor in your family:

Aghavnie Chitjian Boloud

Approximate Age of the woman during the massacres:

20

Marital status at the time of Genocide? Children?

Married and converted at the time of the Genocide

Village/town she came from:

Born in Ismael (Kharpert), lived in Perri (Kharpert).

How many members in her family died from the massacre? What relation?

Aghavnie lived with her brother and his family. Her brother, his wife, along with three of their children were killed.

Who in her family survived:

Five of her nephews survived, but Aghavnie was the only member of the extended family to convert and stay in Perri.

How did she survive? And if not what was the victim’s story?

Aghavnie was the youngest child of Toros Chitjian and Zaruhy Mishmeeshian Chitjian born circa 1895 in Ismael (Kharpert).

In 1903 the family moved to the village of Perri (Kharpert) near Dersim. All generations lived together.

In 1915 her brother Mardiros, jailed for three weeks, announced that Aghavnie is going to marry Ago Ibo’s son. Mardiros gathered his six sons and walked towards the “mektab,” turning them over to the authorities for their safety. Mardiros and the rest of his family did not survive.

Ago Ibo, Hagop Boloudian who changed his name to Boloud Ebrahim, converted to Islam after the 1896 massacres, though still maintaining his family’s ethnic identity. As a choreeban, he traveled in and out of Dersim and was abreast of the political situations. It was important for Ago Ibo’s family, despite the fact that they were “converted,” to keep their family Armenian.

Aghavnie and Levon married. Her name was changed to Hadiga and Levon was soon drafted into the army. She was left to her own resources to provide food. Her nephew Hampartzoum, returned to Perri in 1917 to find survivors. When Aghavnie saw him, she exclaimed, “Why did you come? I am hungry, you are hungry!” Apologizing, she informed him that ever morning and noon she went out scouring the mountainsides seeking wild grass, bohloreeg yonchah. That was her only source of food except for the meager milk her emaciated cow gave.

Hampartzoum was sometimes able to collect raw grain and would take it to Perri, a two-three day’s journey. Sharing the grain with Aghavnie was the only way he could help. In 1918, Hampartzoum tried to convince Aghavnie to escape out of Kharpert, with the help of Americans. Aghavnie had just had a baby boy. “I can’t leave, this is my home.”

In 1959, nephew Mihran Chitjian visited Perri, Aghavnie now was a grandmother. There was a relatively small cluster of Armenian families still there in 1959.

Story relayed and written by:

Zaruhy Sara Chitjian, great niece of Aghavnie and daughter of Hampartzoum Mardiros Chitjian. These photos are available in digital format.

Mihran Chitjian returns to Perri  in 1959 for the first time since the Armenian Genocide to meet Arghaveni

Mihran’s return to Perri profoundly effected him in ways that he did not expect.

Mihran with Doctor and Nurse in Kharpert

Hospital in Kharpert

Mihran Chitjian (Hampartzoum’s brother) returns to Perri in 1959 to visit Aghavnie (his aunt on the father’s side) and her family. In 1915 Mihran was living in Chicago with his cousins so they had not experienced the Armenian Genocide first hand. He had traveled to America by ship for a fee of $30 that bought him a space in the dark lower level of the ship.

The photo above shows Mihran with the doctor and Nurse who took care of him for 6 months in the Kharpert Hospital. He had collapsed upon his first return to Perri (since before the Armenian Genocide). Even though he had been warned from Hampartzoum’s letter of what to expect, he could not imagine the devastation to his homeland and it traumatized him deeply.

Hampartzoum’s Letter To Mihran

To my Brother Who is Five Years Older than I,

On the Occasion of His Return to the Fatherland.

Happy Journey, Brother, Mihran

May God guide you with grace on your journey of tribulation, and return you alive and well back to your family, children, brothers and all your friends.

The place you will be going to is your own [rightful] country, where your ancestors and you were born, and which currently is full of poisonous thorns, and which complains about and reproaches [fmds fault with] those children who were born there and have abandoned her.

Let us remember our precious, sacrosanct father’s [merciful] song: Resound, lyre, and let the whole world hear about the unfortunate Armenian’s Black Pain. Sing and lament, that if our children forget about so much blood and so much evil, may the whole world dishonor the Anne­nians. Walk, brother, towards Yergeer, where black and ominous clouds have gathered upon the Armenian canopy of heaven.

Summon your Armenian courage. I know, you will see a great number of bones of our martyrs – perhaps millions of them. But you walk on. Know that my soul is with you, day and night.

Walk and pass through mountains and valleys, fields and forests. Be afraid of nei­ther savage beasts nor poisonous snakes; they possess more mercy than the bloodsucking Turk.

Let no difficulty, no danger, cause you to surrender hope. You will reach the place where there are millions of unburied corpses. Walk on, and you shall see, in front of you, the fields of Kharpert and the mountains and valleys of Derseem, over which mounds of bones have accumu­lated. They are the bones of Armenians.

Now, measure your steps, brother, [and] be careful, lest you step on one or another of these bones. They may be the bones of your father, mother, brother, sister, or perhaps one of your best friends. No matter who’s they are, remember that they are the bones of Armenians.

Stop and listen. Do you hear the vague voices from the ether that are reaching your

ears? Those are the voices and songs of the unburied bones. Each has its own heart-wrenching _story to tell. It is your duty to register that history as an Armenian possession [legacy]. With that obligation, walk upon your tormented world.

As darkness arrives, brother, sit down and rest a while, and also listen; you shall hear the howling of starving jackals. Those [howlings] are the flesh-eating Turkish land­marks!

Your destination ends here. You have reached your birthplace, your home. It is painful, after your departure of fifty years ago; even the mountains of your village are in black mourn­ing. The owls of darkness mourn over the ruins of your homeland. Let all of that not push you into despair. Those ruins are not new. They are neither the first nor would be the last. If you

don’t awaken a sense of revenge within your children and grandchildren against that barbaric nation, so that when someone steals one chicken from us, we shall pilJage his whole house.

Do you see the silvery sunrise above the summit of ancient Ararat? It is announcing the birth of the world of the Fatherland, the heavenly, paradise land of Armenia. Hasten to cross the border to the world of light, the Armenian world.

The Fatherland awaits you with open arms. Throw yourself into her bosom. Love your nation and Fatherland,

And her desirable language.

Your brother, Hampartzoum.

Having lived a dog’s life for six years, full of grief, Hampartzoum.

June 30 – 1959 [From Chicago] [To Los Angeles)

Hampartzoum Chitjian

Mihran’s Reply Letter To Hampartzoum

Dear brother Hampartzoum,

I am sure you, are impatiently waiting for my letter. I am truthfully feeling guilty that I haven’t even written one letter so far. But of course, in my letters to Kaspar, I have always writ­ten about you and have sent you my longing regards.

Hampartzoum, when I got to Perri, I froze on the spot near Gamar Fountain, because I could see the market place from there. I remembered the past. It’s as if everybody from. all sides began to complain, and they did not give me the chance to breathe.

When I started to walk slowly, slowly, Turkish and Kurdish people surrounded me. My eyes teared up. Tears began to flow. I tried to restrain myself, but to what use? “What hap­pened, why are you crying?” they asked. I replied that I didn’t know. But a great number of them who knew what had happened; said to me, “Don’t cry, let God punish those who commit­ted it.”

And in this way they surrounded me for about half an hour in the marketplace. From there I began to walk towards our house. When I reached the house of Ghazookhdjee A vedis, I stopped there too. It was in a state of semi ruin.787 And from there they didn’t let me go to our house. My cousin took me to their house. 788 My aunt grabbed me by the hand and wanted me to rest. After sitting down for a little while, I again wanted to visit our house, but they didn’t let me, because I was very upset.

. On the second day, my Cousin and I went to our house, which I found in a state of ruin. You could barely recognize it. When I looked around here and there, I saw that our tonir was still there. That tonir cracked my heart in two. It’s as if cold water was poured over me. I caressed the sides of the tonir with my hands. I sat down and cried.

The next door neighbor saw it and asked what the reason was. My Cousin recounted by saying that “this location was at one time his home and now he has found only the tonir, and that’s why he is crying.” And this woman along with her children walked out of there with me, saying “God won’t let the perpetrators go unpunished.” And this is what took place on the first day or two.

I went to the school’s cathedral. I could not find any traces of the prelacy. There was nothing there to see. In any case, I just could not bear to look at these scenes. I wish I had never seen them. Those who come to look at these scenes should have a heart of stone, which I don’t. That’s how it was.

I don’t even want to write because I am getting upset again. Therefore, finishing up, I’m dying to return back and see my brothers again. Therefore, my longing regards to Ovsanna, and Zarug, and Mardig. I miss you all. I kiss you all on the cheek.

Your brother, Mihran Chitjian

Photos Taken by Mihran Chitjian in 1959 during his first return to Perri since the Armenian Genocide