Ovsanna Piloyan Chitjian (1906 – 1998)

Ovsanna and Hampartzoum from 1930. Photo taken in Mexico before they migrated to U.S.

A Happy Ovsanna and Hampartzoum

Ovsanna and Hampartzoum from the 1960’s

Ovsanna tending to the garden in her Los Angeles backyard.

Hampartzoum kissing Ovsanna on their 55th anniversary

Ovsanna’s Memoir

Around age 10  – 12 Ovsanna worked on a loom then her mom decided that working as a seamstress would be a better job. So Ovsanna switched jobs and when she began, her feet could not yet touch the floor when sitting at a sewing machine.

A portrait of Ovsanna that Sara Likes

Ovsanna Apprentices with a Varbed (Seamstress)

Photo of Ovsanna when she was 10 years old and apprenticing with her Master Seamstress. From age 10 Ovsanna was making men’s suits. She would take measurements and make the patterns for the clients.

In 1965 The Chitjian’s would visit the master’s home which was now in Boston and they felt much compassion, many stories and feelings were exchanged – dreams or reality?

Ovsanna is the first person on the right.

Writing found on back of photograph

Ovsanna at The Factory “dikishkhana” in Malatya where she apprenticed as a seamstress.

The Great Eclipse of 1914

On June 8, 1914 a total solar eclipse occurred that was observed by people in many parts of the world including Ovsanna in Malatya and Hampartzoum in Perri. It was an ominous experience that felt like the wrath of God and a foretelling of The darkness of The Armenian Genocide that followed. Although they had not yet met each other, it is a singular experience for which they both shared and would not forget for the rest of their lives.

The Kepenekians

Ovsanna’s much older sister was Margarite (Piloyan) Kepenekian who had a son Sarkis who often played with Ovsanna in Malatya. The Kepenekian’s would eventually immigrate to Lyon France.

Page 336 from Hampartzoum’s memoir, “A Hair’s Breadth From Death”.

The Chitjian’s visiting the Kepenekian’s in France in the 1960’s.

Avedis and Sona Kepenekian Wedding Photo

Avedis as a child

Sarkis and Yeregnas Kepenekian Wedding Photo

Sarkis as a child

The Kepenekian Family in Malatya

George Kepenekian visiting with Sara, Ovsanna and Hampartzoum in Los Angeles

Visiting The Kepenekian Grave site in Lyon France

George (Kevork) is the son of Avedis

Satenig Verabian, Ovsanna’s best friend at Bonnie Beach

Satenig and Ovsanna were best friends in the 1930’s while Ovsanna and family lived at Bonnie Beach. Satenig never had her own children and treated Sara very well, bringing gifts on birthday’s, etc. The two woman would go downtown together to buy fabric as the two were well versed in sewing. They often would go to Montebello Park with the family and picnic on the weekends as they did in the old country.

Satenig was also one of Sara Chitjian’s family friends.

Satenig Verabian

Son, Aram. Her husband’s name was probably George, we called him Gulo. He was a Russahye and worked for the Russahye’s in the trash business. Satenig would not let him into the house until he had washed and changed (even to the point of cruelty). She would make omelets for Aram and spoiled and doted on him. He was an only child and she also wanted a daughter, which was obvious.

This was in the mid-1930s to 1940s.

Influence by Satenig

She came from Bulgaria, cousins of the Kharpertsi Tervisians. (the Tervisians were ten siblings, one of whom was mute. Judge Tervisian is from this family.) Satenig had a sister who stayed in Bulgaria, and she was very European.

We had birthday parties together in the neighborhood and all the children came. They lived on Ditman on the corner and we lived on Bonnie Beach on the middle of the block. There are photographs of this time. We were given gifts and I remember that I was given a wine-colored sweater and my mother gave it to my brother. There were many refreshments, even though there were hard times after the store had burned down. We went downtown in the streetcar on Whittier Blvd, both women wore hats and gloves. That was the last of the wearing of hats and gloves.

When at Whittier Blvd, my mother would take me and my brother down to the May Company’s elaborate Christmas showcase display, this was our treat. We would go to the toy department to see Santa Claus, we would come through a little tunnel and were handed a gift. My brother always had a “better” gift and I thought that even Santa Claus knew that my brother was better than I was. Later I found out that my mother paid 10 cents for my ticket to see Santa and that she paid 20 cents for my brother’s ticket. What was better might be subjective. If he got a football and I got crayons, I would like my 10 cent gift better anyway.

Then we moved to Whittier Blvd. They moved near to Stevenson Middle School. They had a dog. My mother and I walked to their house, long distance walking. While leaving, when we were going to walk home, I would get to pick a chocolate from the Whitman’s Sampler. My mother would choose and she would have a bite.

Satenig was also a seamstress and she and my mother would go downtown to the remnant stores.

Aram was the best man at Marty’s wedding. He had been living with his father since Satenig had died of cancer. His son married a Chinese woman and so did Marty’s son.

My mother was different while under Satenig’s friendship. I still have the red gloves and suspenders that Satenig gave me.

When Mariam and the Collegians came, the Giamgochians, and Yefkine came, everything changed. It was less formal, no more birthday parties, more competitive. More people visited at the Vista Street house in the 1950s, and in a way it was more of a social life. Even my dad would come home and wash and play scamble with the other couples, instead of going to paint one of his apartments. It seemed the happiest of the times in the sense that they had their own thing to do and I was studying and involved at UCLA. I had my freedom and separation.

The Minasian Family, The Three Sisters

Mayor of Malatya 1915

The Minasian Family was from the same village as Ovsanna. The mayor of the village in 1915 made a promise to the mother of her three girls that if she left them with him he would make sure nothing would happen to them. He would choose one of them for his Turkish son. She would bear a child for the man and then the sisters would eventually leave Turkey however she was forced to leave the son behind with the Turkish father.

Eventually two of the sisters would reunite with Ovsanna Chitjian in Los Angeles where they would live the rest of their lives. The third sister would end up in South America where there exists an Armenian community.

Ovsanna Piloyan’s Father Sarkis was from Chunkush

Photos of Chunkush by Joyce Peloian

View of Chunkush from the Piloyan property

Piloyan property in Chunkush

Remains of Armenian Catholic Church in Chunkush

Inside St. Garabed

These ravines in Chunkush were used by Ottoman Turks to dump Armenian bodies dead or alive during the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

The Story of ChunKush

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Betrayal of The Hovnannian Brothers

Ovsanna Chitjian’s mother’s maiden name was Hovnannian from Malatya. She had two brothers who were renowned builders and were in the middle of constructing a hospital commissioned by the Germans. Both were given “official assurance”  they and their families would be sparred if they completed the project and no harm would come to their family members including children. As soon as the hospital was completed all 18 members of the Hovnannian family were slaughtered along with the other martyrs of Malatya. Not one member between the two families was sparred, small children and all. That hospital however eventually converted to a protestant orphanage as the number of Armenian orphans began to escalate.

Although Ovsanna Chitjian never knew her grandmother, Ovsanna remembers playing with Aharon and Hagop (the two Hovnannian brothers). Her most memorable moments were spent at their house. When ever there was pleasurable festivities, it would be found at their house.

“Mahmentz doonuh katzee. Mahmentz doonuh dehsa.” (“I went to my grandmother’s house. I saw it at my grandmother’s house.”) Those were Ovsanna’s cherished memories at the age of six.

When Ovsanna lost Aharon and Hagop, her two kehrees (maternal uncles), and their families, eiteen members in all, the life she once cherished was gone. The Piloyan family never got over the fact that the Turkish government had fooled and tricked the two brothers… An other cruel hoax.

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Malatia: My Mothers’ Birthplace

Original text by Hampartzoum

Translated Text

Shoes from Malatya

In the 1916 photo presented on the left, Ovsanna is wearing  red shoes which were made in Malatya. When her family escaped to Mexico Ovsanna’s brother used her red shoes as a pattern to create shoes that he sold in Mexico City. This is a good example of the cultural influences that immigrants had on the new cultures they moved to. On an interesting side note Leon Trotsky, the exiled Russian revolutionary was making waves in Mexico and effects Hampartzoum’s Shoe Store. To read more about this story, visit page 309 in his memoir, A Hair’s Breadth From death”.

writing on back of photo dated 1916, Malatya

Sara’s cousin Ara Piloyan owned a Shoe store in Mexico City. After Hampartzoum sold his Paleteria ( Ice Scream shop) he also opened a shoe store.

Ovsanna’s oldest Brother Setrag Piloyan

Setrag with with daughter Lily and two sons, East Coast, circa 1930. Setrag immigrated to The United States sooner than many, first landing in Fresno. He would settle on the East Coast where he raised his family. Setrag visited the Family when Ovsanna and Hampartzoum just arrived in Los Angeles. Ovsanna enjoyed her brother. To learn more about Sarkis (Ovsanna’s other brother), read Ovsanna’s memoir.

Ovsanna Would Sing This Song

When Ovsanna thought she was alone sitting happily at her sewing machine, she would sing this song. Sara thought that she could then feel a sadness overcome her mother’s voice, perhaps in her mind reminiscing of the old country when she was a child working for her Sewing master in Malatya.

Each time Ovsanna would get to the part of the song that sings by and by, Sara remembers that it would create a piercing sensation within Sara that was ironically upsetting and melancholic because she knew her mother was yearning for something.

Hampartzoum Writes Ovsanna’s Obituary

Hampartzoum read the obituary that he wrote for Ovsanna at her funeral. Sara always wondered why he wrote an obituary that seemed somewhat impersonal and included other people. It was only later that Sara realized that since her father was so close with Ovsanna that he was likely not able to find the words to express such emotions at the time of her death.

A Name to Pine For

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Hampartzoum’s original hand written obituary

In Rememberence

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The Last Photo of Ovsanna Chitjian

From the wedding of Aram Vorabian’s son. Aram was a childhood friend of Sara’s.