About The Memoir
The memoir “A Hair’s Breadth from Death” was originally sprung when Sara Chitjian noticed immediately after her mothers passing that she was forgetting her recipes. She realizes that if she was beginning to forget the recipes that she would also forget her father’s stories. Therefore within a few weeks she asked her father if he would be willing to go over all his stories while she took notes so that she would not forget. From that day forward, it took 5 years working every day compiling Hampartzoum Chitjian’s stories that would eventually and without intention become the book entitled by Hampartzoum, “A Hair’s Breadth from Death”.
A Hair’s Breadth from Death has been translated in 10 languages, all of which are available as a digital download thru this site. This book is an extraordinarily detailed and deeply moving account of Hampartzoum Chitjian’s journey of survival as a young man who experienced the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.
How The Memoir Was Born
In 1999 shortly after I lost my mother and was forgetting her recipes in my mind, I realized that I could lose my father’s saga which I had internalized throughout my sixty years. My dad was now 98 and I was fearing that I could forget within a very short time. Thus, one day I asked if he had the will to dictate his story.
We both knew why didn’t I do this earlier when he was in his eighties, when he was looking for someone to listen to his story. I feel we both felt that I couldn’t do it. Looking back, I’m sure he wanted it in a novel form. That I am sure I couldn’t do. Thus, we had both hoped there would be someone who could.
Now as I felt I could be losing all that I cherished in my mind, all I wanted was the actual facts. That is what I did not want to forget. His history is the forefront of my history. I definitely feel that his story is the first chapter of my story.
Hopefully, as this project grows, I feel there should be succeeding chapters, perhaps the last chapter should be title (if we preserve) “Ararat Mer neh!” Ararat is ours…once again.
If you don’t seek, you won’t achieve.
I was able to do this with the help of Seta Maronyan. At first, we hired her to help me out while I went out for the shopping, leaving my dad alone. Once we decided to go with the book, I realized Seta could record exactly as my dad spoke. This way, we could keep his Kharpertzee dialect. Immediately we recognized that there might be a problem with the Eastern and Western dialects. Fortunately by now, Seta had the opportunity to read my dad’s script with him. That was a significant advantage. It is very difficult for today’s scholars to be capable of reading the script of the previous genrations. Regardless of how neatly it is written, I’m sure this is an ongoing problem for our scholars. Thus, as we finished with the book, we went directly into the letters: 280 letters, 500 pages. That was followed by my dad’s papers. He wrote throughout the years. Unfortunately, the collection that was preserved is a small portion of the total. We mostly have photocopies…luckily these were made.
By the year 2003, we were reflecting on our previous work, hoping this project will provide insight into the early years of 1900 and the Armenians on their 3,000 year homeland.
This saga continues as the political and national changes continue to modify Anatolia.
In 2012 I began to prepare the second edition of my father’s memoirs. For years I had several ideas: was I to go page by page looking for possible grammatical errors, as the book had been published hastily so that my dad could see the results – that I knew he wanted, thus, the haste. Or, would I include pertinent information in particular sections not previously included, etc, etc. It was only in the first part of 2013 that I decided to make an addendum. Informative information connecting my father’s experience with other Perritzees who had similar individual experiences. Different people, similar experiences, same place, same time.
During the past fourteen years, I attempted to collect photos of the people who were mentioned in the book, both on my father’s side and my mother’s. It was my father’s request that I include her story. He loved her dearly and he had great respect for her father, Sarkis Piloyan. – Zaruhy Sara Chitjian
Hampartzoum Presented With Printed Copy of Memoir
Hampartzoum Chitjian’s memoir evolved unintentionally during his last five years so that his daughter would never forget. He passed away before seeing his book go into publication. However just before he died he was presented with the first printed prototype of what the book would look like as seen in these teo photographs.
Forward by Ara Arabyan
Excerpt From Book
Examples of the first draft from the memoirs.
Sara would often sit with her father and write down the stories as he would tell them.
Name Index for The Memoir
Map of Kharpert
The Maps from the book are used by those returning to their ancestral villages.
Here is an email from a person using a map from the book to locate his ancestral village
Highlights From The Chitjian Collection
Below are unpublished notes that were intended for the books 2nd edition which included information and insights acquired thru out the years.