Aurora Mardiganian: Armenian Heroine Remembered, Honored

Hayk Demoyan

ARLINGTON, Mass. — Starving, tortured and enslaved, she endured the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. One among tens and thousands, only 15-years-old, she survived to tell the story of her people and ravished homeland to the civilized world.

On March 8 at 3 p.m. in an illustrated lecture and presentation in English, Dr. Hayk Demoyan, director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (Tsitsernakaberd) in Yerevan, in light of newly discovered materials, will share for the first time with the Armenian American audience the story of Arshaluys Aurora Mardiganian.

Born Arshaluys Mardikian to the family of an Armenian financier in the ancient Armenian city of Chmshkadzag, named after the famous Byzantine Emperor John Tzimisces in 1901, is a symbol of survival of the Armenian people. She lived a tragic yet extraordinary life. Scarred both physically and emotionally, she mustered the courage and strength and persevered against all odds. Changing her name to Aurora Mardiganian to conceal her real identity and escape possible persecution by the Turks, she told her story and gave interviews. American papers wrote articles on her heart-wrenching odyssey, among them, Life Magazine, New York American and Los Angeles Examiner of the Hearst family newspapers, including 14 chapters from Sunday, August 18 to November 24, 1918.

Unlike many survivors of the Armenian Genocide who suppressed their memories, she was among the first to tell her story. Ravished Armenia: the Christian Girl, Who Survived the Great Massacres, based on the story of her life was published in 1918. It served as the basis of the script for the film “Auction of Souls” that was produced in 1919 and was first screened in London. Mardiganian not only shared her story with the world, but also courageously took a role in the movie, and even agreed to help promote the film at the expense of reliving the horrors of the Genocide. This took a toll on her which consumed her in the last years of her life.

Demoyan, director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, was born and raised in Gumri, Armenia. Demoyan studied history at Yerevan State University (YSU) from 1993 to 1998 with a concentration on ethnography. He received his master’s degree in 2001. He has taught courses on the history of neighbor countries of Armenia and served in the Caucasian Media Institute as regional expert. Demoyan represented the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia during the trial (2004-2006) of slain Armenian army officer Gurgen Margarian in Budapest. In November 2006, by presidential decree, he was appointed the director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, a position which he holds to this day. In 2012 he received his doctorate from the Institute of Oriental Studies and Institute of History of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences and wrote his thesis on “The Karabagh Conflict and Turkey: A Historical-Comparative Analysis.”

He is a member of the Yerevan City Council and since 2011 has served as the secretary of the Armenian Genocide 100th Anniversary Commemoration Committee. Demoyan is the author of several books and numerous articles on such topics as the Armenian Genocide, Turkish foreign policy and its involvement in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict (1991-1994).

Aurora Mardiganian is the personification of the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and what befell thousands of Armenian girls and women, in particular. An Armenian Anne Frank, she is the symbol of survival, resilience and perseverance of a nation, triumphing over death and evil. Her story is the story of thousands of orphaned Armenian girls upon whose shoulders an entire nation was resurrected from the ashes of the Genocide.

The event, open to the public, is organized by the Armenian Cultural Foundation and cosponsored by the National Armenian Association for Armenian Research and Armenian International Women’s Association. It is in commemoration of the Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Copies of Ravished Armenia published by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute will be available for sale. For more details please contact the ACF office.