Carol Aslanian: “My mother told me about the Armenian Genocide, just as she was about to die”

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with AGBU Central Board member Carol Aslanian. Her pain, sorrow and struggle are endless. Her parents were eyewitnesses of the crime that the Ottoman Empire perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915 and were luckily saved from the Turkish askyars’ yataghan…

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Aslanian, let’s start by getting to know you.

Carol Aslanian: My pleasure. I was born in New Hampshire, Massachusetts. I lived there for 15 years.

I graduated from Syracuse University of New York, continued my studies at Cornell University and obtained my Master of Arts from the University of Harvard.

After finishing my studies, I started working as an elementary schoolteacher. Later, I returned to the University of Harvard. For 7 years, I conducted research on how children learn, what impact parents have on the learning process and more. I loved my job.

Later, I moved to New York where I met my future husband who was working in New York. I started working at the National Institute of Education where my colleagues and I were trying to understand what we could do to make sure children received high-quality education. To get the answers to this and several other questions, we started collaborating with schools in the area and helped raise the quality of education.

Then, I continued with College Board and worked on a project that was called lifelong education. In the 1980s, the prevailing majority of youth were continuing their education after 25, or were just starting to think about education.

After a while, I opened my own company that would conduct market studies for education.

Since 1996, I have been a member of the AGBU Central Board. The members and I try to introduce the youth of Armenia to the idea of receiving high-quality education.

Hayern Aysor: I know you are an inheritor of Armenian Genocide survivors. Tell us the story of your family that escaped the Armenian Genocide.

C. A.: First, allow me to introduce my parents. My father, Samson Baghdasarian, and my mother, Armenouhi Ablaharian, were born in the city of Bitlis of Western Armenia. I remember more from my mother because I was only five years old when my father passed away.

Yes, you are right. My parents were eyewitnesses of that horrible crime. I would like to share my mother’s story.

When the Genocide began, my mother was eight years old. She would tell me that the Turks surprisingly invaded their home and forcefully pushed my father and uncles out of the house, taking them in an unknown direction. After a couple of days, they came back for the women.

Panicked, my grandmother took the four children and tried to escape, but failed. She met a Turkish soldier and begged him to take her daughter, Armenouhi and leave her in the house of missionaries located nearby and promised that if he handed her daughter over to the missionaries, she would tell him where the gold and money was in the house. That’s how my mother was luckily saved, but my grandmother and the other children continued the road to migration.

My mother stayed at an orphanage with 20 other children. Can you imagine? The missionaries hadn’t let the Turks approach the house. Russian troops were making sure the children were safe. My mother spent seven years at that orphanage in Alexandropol.

True, the missionaries did everything they could for the children’s welfare, but there were days when the children were sick, cold and hungry.

It seems as though God showed my mother the light and signs of hope and salvation amid that chaos. When she was 15, she finds her uncle, who helps transfer the lonely girl to Istanbul.

My grandmother and two children are saved from the Armenian massacre, but unfortunately, the smallest child dies under brutal conditions.

Later, my mother meets my father and gets married at 17.

After getting married, they move to Massachusetts and start trading. My parents had four children, including three girls and one boy.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Aslanian, could you tell us when you learned about the Armenian Genocide?

C. A.: My mother would never talk about the Armenian Genocide. She always kept silent.

Perhaps it was because there were only four Armenian families living in our residential district, and there were no Armenian churches or other institutions. Basically, we were detached from the Armenian environment.

My mother told me about the Armenian Genocide, just as she was about to die. After hearing about the horrible crime, I was astounded and speechless.

She was a very strong woman. Without complaining, she had taken on the burden of raising children and taking care of a family. We are more than grateful to our mother who, in spite of the difficult conditions, made sure we received an education and raised us to become literate people.

It was her discipline that helped me get married to an Armenian man in a foreign environment where there were practically no Armenians.

Hayern Aysor: What do you have to say about the Armenians? What kind of people are we?

C. A.: We are very kind, sincere and heartfelt. I admire the Armenians’ talent and intelligence. Overall, I love being in Armenia. I have been to almost all the sites worth seeing. The taste of Armenian food is remarkable, and I love the Armenian dolma the most.

At home, my husband mainly prepares Armenian dishes for us since I spend most of my day at work. I also try to do my best to provide my daughters and grandchildren with an Armenian upbringing. I always tell them about the Armenians, what kind of a nation we are and what trials and tribulations we have undergone.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Aslanian, you participated in the 88th AGBU General Assembly. What are your impressions?

C. A.: First, I must say that I attach importance to such meetings. They provide us with the opportunity to meet new people and exchange ideas. Everything was well organized. The speeches were constructive and meaningful. The speakers reflected on human resources, which I positively assessed. After this assembly, I became convinced once again of how smart Armenians are. We simply have to use our resources correctly.

Through our efforts, we have to do everything possible for the benefit of Armenia. I am especially concerned about raising the level of education of youth in Armenia. I am also concerned about the emigration and the low birth rate.

We have to develop and implement different kinds of programs to raise the quality of education of Armenian youth. We are currently testing the education-economy partnership to try to understand what achievements can be made as a result of improving the system of education.

Among the many issues discussed during the assembly was the issue on the application of new technologies, which I also approved.

Hayern Aysor: What do you think will be the next milestone for the struggle for the Armenian Cause after April 24th, the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide?

C. A.: I definitely attach importance to the implementation of various pan-Armenian events and initiatives and more commemorative events. Even if we don’t achieve the desired outcome, this is still an unprecedented opportunity for us to let the world know about our claims once again.

Unfortunately, I won’t be in Armenia on April 24th. On April 21, there will be a concert dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Paris as part of the 100 Lives Program, and I will be attending that concert. I will also be participating in other events organized by the AGBU for the commemoration of the innocent martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

Translation from English to Armenian by Nune Kirakosyan

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