As the 20th century’s first mass slaughter of civilians slips from the memory of a world grown accustomed to atrocity, the Armenians’ resolve to remember grows stronger.
This article originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee’s Forum section on April 24, 1988.
By J.D. Lasica
It was a remarkable gathering. Salpi Ghazarian, a 32-year-old Armenian activist, studied the strong, lined faces of the men and women who sat before her in the slat-wood chairs of Sacramento’s St. James Church on a recent Sunday afternoon.
Yervant Ohanesian, 92, and his wife, Vart, 83, were here. Many years ago they had separately survived the forced march across the barren Syrian sands that Armenians came to know as the Desert of Death.
Aghasi Ivazian, 77, sat close by. As a boy of 4, during his family’s flight from the massacres in Armenia, he escaped an ambush by Ottoman Turk soldiers when a Russian Cossack on horseback spirited him from the battle site.
And Blanche Kasparian, 81, had come, too. She tearfully recalls the day during the government-ordered evacuation of her home town that her mother took her aside, made the sign of the cross and said, “Honey, remember, whatever they do to us, don’t ever forget who we are.” The 9-year-old girl and her mother survived the deportation, but their Armenian village was reduced to nothing.