alright, so it’s the 100th anniversary of the armenian genocide, so i’m gonna tell you a little story.
i don’t know much about the armenian side of my family pre-1920s. all of my great-grandparents were genocide survivors who came to the united states as orphans, with little or no other family with them. understandably, none of them wanted to ever talk about what they’d seen. the only story i know is from my great-grandfather toros.
he was in grade school in 1915, living with his entire family in a rural area near lake van (now eastern turkey). one day, turkish soldiers came to his family’s home, and in that rush, he hid under some floorboards. he was the only person to make it out alive, and he had to listen while his entire family, parents and siblings, and probably grandparents and aunts and uncles, were tortured and murdered. his entire family.
but he got out. he came to detroit, and eventually started a small business and had a family. much later, after he’d died, my uncle did some digging and found out that he had changed his name when he arrived in the US – from pashalyan to what it is now.
my uncle didn’t know what our last name means because he can’t speak armenian, because his parents (my grandparents) made the conscious decision not to teach him or my dad how to speak it. being monolingual english speakers would help them in the future, they thought, and neither of them would have to face the embarrassment my grandpa did when he was told he was “too ethnic” to be promoted. so anyways, my uncle didn’t understand why it was significant that great-grandpa toros had changed our name.
when i was taking armenian language class two years ago, I found out that my last name means resurrection.
great-grandpa toros, after losing everything and everyone he had, came to a country whose language he possibly had never heard, and decided to change his last name to resurrection.
that’s the kind of strength i see in the armenian community. 100 years ago today, the ottoman turks tried to eradicate us and didn’t quite succeed. 100 years later, against the odds, we’re still here.