Chitjian Family Bios
The Five Chitjian Brothers, Olympic Street, East Los Angeles. 1940’s
The Five Chitjian Brothers – 1950’s
Kaspar, Mihran and Hampartzoum, late 1970’s
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Chitjian Brothers in the 1940′;s
Searching For Solace
Chitjian Brothers at The Montebello Memorial
The eldest brother of Hampartzoum Chitjian
Bedros was the first of the Chitjian Family to come to America and had left Kharpert before the Genocide to avoid the draft at age 17. His mother became sick from the thought that she would never see her first son again. He was known to be quite poetic, having written many poems in his lifetime. His complete biography is available on page 22 of the PDF. Below is an example from one of his many poetic writings.
One of his letters
His Meal menu from 1921
This was written on the back of the menu
A Glimpse into Nishan’s Soul
Nishan’s mother died while giving birth to him. Nishan was the youngest brother of Hampartzoum Chitjian and was killed at the age of 5. Kerop witnessed his brother Nishan being stabbed in the stomach and thrown in the river by an Ottoman Turkish guard.
Margarite and Nishan: Who was Luckier?
Only from our collection of letters, we discovered “one” glimpse — an insight into Nishan’s soul. Squeezed in at the end of a long leter, on the margins, Nishan sent a song of cheer and comfort to his older brothers, Bedros and Mihran, who were sent to America to avoid the perils of the Turkish draft. He thanked his brothers for suggesting to his father to buy “sweets for the babies” from the “shoogah” (marketplace). None of the boys were privy of their father’s state of destitute and despair.
This image, found among Hampartzoum’s papers, is from the 1967 Weekly Reader and reflects the cheerfulness that Nishan embodied with his own poem of spring during a dark time.
“Every day to my window comes a bird,
Very, very cute, ingenious and masterful,
Who says to me through song,
‘Little boy, come with me and let’s go
And freely enjoy the forest,
And sing ‘tra, lay, lay,
Let everyone fly.’
I have lessons to learn, when I fully learn my lessons,
at that time there will be a chance for me to have fun,
and it is at that time we will go to the forest to really enjoy and sing.”
-Poem excerpted from Nishan’s addition to Letter #2, sent to his brothers in Chicago in 1914.
NISHAN MARDIROS CHITJIAN – by Sara Chitjian
Nishan, Mardiros’ sixth and last son, was born in 1909 under and “ill-omened cloud.” Shortly after his birth, he lost his grandfather, the “king” of the family, the one who instilled character-building advice with his fables, parables, and yarns at bedtime: an experience cherished by Hampartzoum throughout his life — an experience that Nishan never experienced due to all of the family’s tragedies that occurred in that “ill-fated year.”
The very next day, no sooner when they had buried his grandfather, his precious mother passed away. He never had a chance to know her, to receive her love, the love only a mother could give. His aunt, Aghavnie, his sister, Sultahn, and his brothers, Mihran, Hampartzoum, Kaspar, and Kerop who provided attention and love.
Ironically, Nishan was the most handsome…with his golden curly hair, sparkling black eyes against his light complexion. He had taken characteristics after his father, Mardiros. Ironically, it was Nishan who brought in “sunshine” for the rest of the family who were mourning the absence of their elder brother, Bedros, who was sent to America to avoid the Turkish draft in 1908; that same year, Zaruhy, his oldest sister, married and left to live with her in-laws; within a few months, his grandfather and mother die, within four years, Mihran was also sent to Chicago to avoid the Turkish draft…within those two years, Mihran and Nishan had developed a brotherly bond. This was evidenced in Mihran’s letters. All during this loss and grief within the family, there also was a foreboding cloud hovering over Perri.
Although the “Perritzeeneroon Meeatzial Meeotiun” brought in the new physical improvements with the schools furnishings, it also created discord within the village’s clergy and village “leaders.” With these changes, Mardiros faced a decline in his income (block-printing muslin), his concern for his family welfare weighed heavily on his mind — could he continue to afford to send his boys to school, could he pay off the fourteen dollar debt he incurred to send his two sons to Chicago. The serenity of his family’s lives was withering.
Thus, in the spring of 1915, a bleak sinister cloud hovered over Nishan once again! This time, by his own father! Without warning, but forcibly, he surrendered his four sons to the Turks in the Turkish Mektab in Perri. There was no explanation.
Within the next two months, Nishan experience the loss of his protection by his father and his brothers. There was no explanation for what was taking place! Bewilderment and fear waswelling up in Nishan’s soul! He tried to obey his older brothers’ plea that he not cry out “Papa!” seeking the protection of his father! His brothers had convinced him that he would receive a sharp slap across his face from a Turkish punk!
Quietly, Nishan obeyed. But his fright and bewilderment escalated. Each day was getting scarier and threatening. Quietly, he obeyed: first Hampartzoum disappeared, then Kaspar no longer in sight. Meedayee Oomome, the district attorney in Perri, was the Turk who took Kaspar for his slave. He was also the same Turk who ordered the “remaining” boys not chosen by a Kurd or a Turk, nor reunited by a relative to be dumped into the river!
There was a long “sinister” and tiring trek to Pertak. The rough mountainous roads must have played havoc on his bare feet. Feet that were so small he had a difficult time keeping up with Kerop and the other larger boys. Sleeping on the bare ground in the dark wilderness was frightful. By the end of each day, his frail and exhausted body would rock him to sleep!
However, not knowing why and where they were going added to his anxiety. By the end of the fourth or fifth day, the “surviving” cluster of boys reached Pertahk. Nishan was compltely exhausted but worse, he was consumed with fear.
As Kerop, who knew no more than Nishan, Kerop’s endurance was much like Nishan’s. As soon as the group approached the hub of the village, there was a noisy confusion and anxiety: boys were sought out by waiting parents, neighbors, friends — anyone who could identify a boy would be free, rescued! The group was getting smaller and smaller. “Khosrov, Khosrov!” called Khosrov’s aunt, as he was soon hugged and whisked away. Kerop and Nishan clung tighter together. They would not be separated! Nishan’s worst fear took place, suddenly Kerop’s right grasp was yanked loose from him. Kerop was taken by a Turk! Glancing back, helplessly, Kerop saw the few younger and weaker boys left abandoned, all sobbing, “Papa, Mama…” In a split second, silence! One stab in the stomach and a sinister splash in the river…innocent souls could not be seen nor heard! Considered useless, he was one of many “orphans” like himself, ruthlessly dumped into the wrath of the rushing waters of the Euphrates. Only from our collection of letters, we discovered “one” glimpse — an insight into Nishan’s soul. Squeezed in at the end of a long leter, on the margins, Nishan sent a song of cheer and comfort to his older brothers, Bedros and Mihran, who were sent to America to avoid the perils of the Turkish draft. He thanked his brothers for suggesting to his father to buy “sweets for the babies” from the “shoogah” (marketplace). None of the boys were privy of their father’s state of destitute and despair. Khosrov Yerevanian.
Kerop Chitjian Bio Highlights
(Hampartzoum’s tallest brother)
Page 205 from “A Hair’s Breadth From Death”
Page 206 from “A Hair’s Breadth From Death”
Kerop’s Obituary by Hampartzoum
Kaspar Chitjian was Hampartzoum’s younger brother by 15 minutes. For the first 2 years Hampartzoum was nursed by an other mother because Kaspar was born with a kidney problem thus needing special attention from their mother. Kaspar stayed indoors much of the time due to his sickness while Hampartzoum played outside much of the time.
Since Kaspar was more fragile, Hampartzoum took the role of protecting him. From 1915 to 1920 Hampartzoum did his best to keep Kaspar safe while Hampartzoum “lived the life of a dog” roaming from village to village as an incognito Turk, looking for work and sleeping in barns.
Later in life while living in Los Angeles Kaspar was quite active in the church and thus quite popular.
Kaspar died with all his teeth while Hampartzoum lost most of his. Hampartzoum would often joke with Kaspar saying he had all his teeth because Kaspar was nursed by their mother while Hampartzoum was not.
This describes the moment when Hampartzoum was first separated from his brother Kasper during the onset of The Armenian Genocide.
Hampartzoum and Kaspar 1930’s in Mexico
Dreams Lost (excerpt from book)
Hampartzoum and Kaspar 1970’s in Los Angeles
Kaspar in his market
Family relations had its dynamics. This letter reveals Kaspar using a collection agency to get money from Hampartzoum.
The Year of Bereavement by Sara (Zaruhy) Chitjian
The Year of Bereavement
It was just a beautiful day in May 6, 1983. Hampartzoum had just returned home from his customary walk. He entered the den to assure Ovsanna, his wife, and daughter, Zaruhy that he had returned. Before he had time to sit down, the telephone rang. Zaruhy answered; it was Sam, Mihran’s son. She wondered what “good news could he have?”
Almost all of the “senior” Chitjian were gone. The twins Hampartzoum and Kaspar were the only remaining brothers out of five. Their generation coming to an end… The “Hye Tahd” was not yet resolved. This was a deep solemn concern for both brothers!
After 83 years, the twins once again became close, just as they were the first 14 years of their lives when they were inseparable. In 1915, suddenly they were brutally torn apart never to resume the relationship that they once cherished. But by age 80, once again they were reaching out to one another.
For the first time they actually celebrated their birthday together. For Hampartzoum this was a miracle; or was it a “Dream or Reality”? After living six years of a “dog’s life”, during the aftermath of the 1915 genocide, followed by losing your homeland, finding themselves in foreign countries, with foreign languages and customs, experiencing the effects of a Depression, world wars, etc., the burdens and responsibility of raising a family etc., in 1981, they were both still alive and with a relatively healthy mind and body — Hampartzoum considered this a miracle! Jealousy and animosities were long gone! Once again they began to seek each other out.
But now there were new obstacles to confront. Neither one could drive a distance of 30 or so miles; they lived about 30 miles apart. Thus there were more phone calls, holiday cards, etc. They cherished the few occasions when Zaruhy drove Hampartzoum to Kaspar’s market, where Kaspar had an office atop his storeroom. His desk was cluttered with letters that the brothers had written to each other during those “dog days.” Once again they began to yearn for the days in their “Yergeer” where life was so sweet! There was their father, mother brothers and sisters…
“Are you sitting?” Sam inquired once again over the phone. Hampartzoum didn’t know what he meant. What difference does it make if you were sitting or standing?
Sam continued without a change of voice, or a warning. In a flat voice he stated, “Kaspar is dead; he died this afternoon. The funeral will be…”
Hampartzoum could listen no more. The phone was dropped. Kaspar was buried on May 20, 1983. Hampartzoum wrote his twin’s obituary. He included in his coffin an envelope containing a bundle of fiberglass he had taken from the technology museum in Soviet Armenia, along with a few pebbles he had picked up from here and there in 1969 during his visit to our Hayrenik.
“This fiberglass yarn will lead you down a long, narrow highway with this sacred chip from Erepuni, and by rolling it over and over until you reach the summit of Mount Ararat and Massis. This will become much darker, larger than both Mount Ararat and Massis together! Take your revenge and hurl that huge, powerful, flaming missile upon Turkey. Don’t forget and remember that you were named Massis!
Then as you arise, take this news as a gift to your father and the 11/2 million martyrs!”
At some point, Hampartzoum resumed his daily afternoon walks. Now as he walked he had to reconcile with the loss of Kaspar; for 82 years he always regarded Kaspar as a part of his heart. He always felt that since they were born together they had a special connection… Hampartzoum was trying to get a grip on reality … His twin was now gone!
But within a day or two, during these walks, Hampartzoum began to notice a strange feeling… For a week or two he kept this to himself. But since it was affecting his behavior, he reluctantly confided with Ovsanna… He felt maybe she could explain the disturbance… She was a Protestant, as was her father, Sarkis.
Remembering the morning Sarkis died: he was sent to Hampartzoum’s ice cream parlor to bring back a bag of walnuts. As usual, when Sarkis went out for a stroll, he carried Mardig, who was 2 1/2 years old, and along the way he visited with his neighbors. On this particular day, as he walked and greeted his friends, he bid each one a final farewell; of course the neighbors didn’t quite understand what Sarkis meant. Hampartzoum noticed Sarkis looked tired. Thus, after giving him a bag of walnuts, he hired a cab and sent Sarkis home.
No sooner when Sarkis returned home, he laid down to rest! Within an hour he died…
Both Ovsanna and Hampartzoum had experienced this phenomenon… Now Hampartzoum was experiencing being haunted by a weird “vapor” circling over his right shoulder, whispering in his ear. Kaspar was beckoning Hampartzoum to join him!
Even though Ovsanna attempted to reassure him that it was just nonsense, she became disturbed; she did not want to lose him. She knew about the special attachment Hampartzoum had with Kaspar! And she was never ever able to explain her own father’s last day! Within a few days, they confided with Zaruhy. They knew she would laugh it off … She had never experienced such a phenomenon!
However, when Zaruhy heard this, without letting either one know, she too became concerned! She was furious that Kaspar could have a strong hold on her father! She always felt that Kaspar was jealous of her father’s successes… It wasn’t enough his son married an Armenian, while he gloated over the fact that Hampartzoum’s son married a non-Armenian. For Hampartzoum that was another form of genocide, the White Chart! That should have satisfied Kaspar; but, no, he wanted more… Since Hampartzoum was born first, he should have died first!
Both Ovsanna and Zaruhy tried to convince Hampartzoum that the disturbance was all nonsense! With one excuse or another they tried to keep Hampartzoum from taking his daily walk!!
Helping Kaspar Get Out of a difficult situation
Kaspar’s Letter of Demand for compensation.
Original Language letter translated in English
An interesting letter from Kaspar that he wrote to the commission of Abandoned Property in Zonguldak to ask for 7,500 Ottoman gold for the loss of property and family due to The Armenian Genocide.
The above letter is from Kaspar to his brothers in Los Angeles and demonstrates that there was an Armenian Union of Harpout that helped Armenians find relatives outside Turkey.
For Kaspar’s Funeral
Kaspar’s Obituary by Hampartzoum Chitjian
Kaspar’s Eulogy by Hampartzoum #1
Kaspar’s Eulogy by Hampartzoum #2
More About Kaspar