About The Letter Collection
This collection of Letters is a first person historic account of events that took place before, during and after the Armenian Genocide. They give invaluable insights into what was happening to the brothers and their struggles to survive. This collection is not complete in that we know there were other letters that were never saved. Fortunately it was Howard Chitjian, the son of Bedros, who was concerned enough to save this collection of letters. We are aware that Kaspar also had a collection of letters that were unfortunately all thrown away after he died. The mailman saw them strewn all over the parking lot of Kaspar’s market and thought this must be a mistake and tried to pick up what he could.
These photos are of Hampartzoum Chitjian looking thru the letter collection at 99 years of age, three years before he passed away.
This collection of about 300 letters were written in 1914-15 and 1919-1997 and belonged to Hampartzoum Mardiros Chitjian, a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He was born in May of 1901, in Ismail, Western Armenia, and passed away on May 25, 2003, in Los Angeles, California, the United States.
The major portion of the letters in this unique and rare collection was personally passed on to Hampartzoum by his elder brother Bedros’ son Levon. They did not contain any envelopes. We don’t know why the envelopes were not saved. To these were added letters already in Ham- partzoum’s possession.
The letters were kept by Mardiros Toros Chitjian’s five sons: Bedros, Mihran, Kaspar, Hampartzoum, and Kerop Chitjian. But we are not yet certain which brother collected them all together before they reached Hampartzoum’s hand. According to the testimony of Hampartzoum Chitjian and her daughter Zaruhy Chitjian, they had seen a large number of letters on Kaspar Chitjian’s desk at his store. We think that the letters gathered here are only a portion and not the whole. We don’t know how, or most importantly, for what reason some of these letters were kept and brought together. From the content of the letters we can see that the letters collected and kept in this group do not present all the letters that the brothers wrote to each other. In our opin- ion, these letters must have been collected for a specific reason, because many of them are re- plies to each other.
A third of the letters in this collection were written in Ottoman Turkish. Those who had survived certain death by the skin of their teeth had taken on Turkish names and lived as “Turks.” Despite this, they still lived in fear in horror. As a result, they wrote their letters in Turkish, or gave them to others to write in Turkish, so that they do not get caught. Fear reigned supreme in Turkey. All the letters leaving the country had to pass through the censor. Thus they were unable to convey the true conditions in which they were living.
This collection contains correspondences written from 1914-1923 between Mardiros Chitjian, the five Chitjian Brothers, relatives, friends, classmates, neighbors, and fellow villag- ers. The overall number of letters contained is about 300. 215 of them are in Armenian and the rest in Turkish.
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