Genocide Survivors Remember their Tragic Stories of Survival


Arshaloys Dadir telling her story, with Aggie Ellian (left), executive director of the Armenian Home and Armenian Home Board Member Dzaghig Callian (right)

By Taleen Babayan

FLUSHING, N.Y. — While almost 100 years have passed since the Armenian Genocide, the memories of the horrific massacres remain vivid in the minds of three genocide survivors who told their stories at the New York Armenian Home in Flushing, Queens on Sunday, March 27.

Arsaloys Dadir, Perouz Kalousdian and Charlotte Kechejian, residents of the Armenian Home, recounted their escape from the genocide to reporters representing local New York media organizations. While their stories seemed to have a common thread of suffering and survival, each lived different lives, hailing from different parts of Anatolia before the onset of the genocide.

The last memory 99-year-old Charlotte Kechejian has of her father is of him trying to hug her before being taken away by the Turkish soldiers during the Armenian Genocide. Forced to walk through the Der Zor desert during the death marches, she remembers how hungry and thirsty she was, gaining strength from her mother, whom she credits for their survival.

“I was hungry and not well-treated,” said Kechejian, born in Nikhda. “I didn’t know where we were going.”

Making their way to the US via Beirut, Kechejian and her mother moved to New York where her mother made a living by working as a seamstress. Her mother, who insisted that her daughter earn her high school diploma, eventually opened her own grocery store on 33rd Street in Manhattan, and with her daughter’s permission, remarried.

Arsaloys Dadir’s father was also killed during the Genocide. “They tied my father’s hands together, took him in the backyard and shot him,” recalled 98-year-old Dadir, who was born in Shabin Karahisar.

Dadir, her mother and siblings survived with the help of their Turkish neighbors who hid them in chicken coops.

“We walked and we walked and saw dead bodies on the roadside,” said Dadir. Born into a wealthy family, their money and land was taken from them during the Genocide. The surviving members of the family moved to Constantinople, where Dadir married and raised two children, and eventually moved to the United States.

The oldest survivor of the group, 101-year-old Perouz Kalousdian, was born in Palu, and witnessed her father being taken away by Turkish soldiers when she was just 6.

“We had nothing to eat,” said Kalousdian. “They kicked us out of our home.” Her mother put her in an American orphanage in Kharpert where she learned to sew, a skill that would serve her well later in her life. Eventually reuniting with her mother, they moved to the US when Kalousdian was 14.

All three survivors will be present for the 96th Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square, which will take place on Sunday, May 1, 2-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.april24nyc.com.