“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
~ Adolph Hitler, August 22, 1939
She said she came into this world barefooted and would leave it the same way. Handing her shoes to her grandson, she met her death with countless other Armenians at the hands of Turks in 1915.
My father, Joseph, was that young boy.
The annihilation began on August 24, 1915 when 300 Armenian leaders, writers, educators, and professionals were rounded up, killed, and/or deported. 5,000 of the poorest were murdered in the streets and in their homes.
At just fourteen, promising to one day rescue them, my father bid his family goodbye and fled, alone and afraid. Somehow making his way to Marseilles, France, he boarded The Merion, the ship that would bring him to America.
He did not travel in first class, nor second or third. No, like most immigrants, he was crowded below deck in steerage, an area usually reserved for animals. Rank air, rotten food, starvation, filth, seasickness, and oh, the rats…
Those who died were “tossed overboard like fish.”
Unbearable and so many worries.
Although fluent in several languages, my father knew only two words in English: okay and shut up. Though the latter sounded much like the Turkish şarap, meaning wine, he thought, in English, it meant thank you. You can imagine…
Then finally the Statue of Liberty came into view and landing at Ellis Island. It would come to be known as the Isle of Tears, as thousands, unable to qualify, were chalked with a large X and sent back to their home countries.
He was not among them.
Wondering what he’d find in America, wondering if the streets were really paved in gold, Joseph Jezralian made his way out of Ellis Island and into the American Dream, eventually sending for the rest of his family…
Of the 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, up to 1.2 million were killed– massacred en mass, murdered individually, marched to death, and/or systematically mistreated.
Yet, not until April 24, 2021—106 years later—did an American president finally call what occurred genocide, the Armenian Genocide.
(Ten days after noting the forgotten Armenians, Hitler’s Nazis invaded Poland with lightning speed—blitzkrieg–and launched World War II.)
Said President Biden two years ago:
Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian Genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring.
Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.
The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago.
~ With gratitude and prayers, as history continues to repeat itself, Carol