By Jack Danielian
It is so difficult to accept the loss of Dr. Martin Deranian. He was a close and enduring friend of mine. After 40 years of deep talk about Armenians and the Armenian Genocide, our relationship opened up difficult areas layer by layer of our inner responses to the family trauma we inherited. Over many years we began to see the true intergenerational repercussions of Genocide. Martin, my friend, you never gave up on yourself or on me. How can I thank you?
Martin and I had many commonalities in our personalities and our cultural backgrounds. We were both products of proud residents of Hussenig, people who had deep roots in their soil and treasured their village life. The following (Deranian, 1994) are an Elegy and Lamentation by Hussenig survivors:
Alas, my beautiful village is now in ruins,
And I am deprived of seeing it ever again.
I have shouldered the burden of old age,
As I sit beneath the sky of a foreign land,
I sing your praises each day with gladness.
I only wish I had a handful of your soil.
I remember thee day and night.
I will give all that I have for the sight of your mountains.
There is no other place like it anywhere in the world.
Hussenig is the name of my birthplace.
I do not have a precious gift to offer thee,
Except to keep your glorious memory alive in me.
These memories drawn from an abyss speak to an incalculable loss. The abyss could not be assimilated. Martin and I could do nothing but stand by and try to touch it. Yet, taking it in bit by bit we opened ourselves to the chaotic void it created for our ancestors and of course in the process exposed ourselves emotionally to the vulnerabilities laid bare. Such is the intergenerational nature of Genocide.
I have only shared with you a few treasured interactions with Martin over 40 years. But Dr. H. Martin Deranian was a true gift to all Armenians (and of course to non-Armenians) as well. He was a pioneer in his investigations of valuable Armenian history as it interacted with the Western world. He brought President Calvin Coolidge & The Armenian Orphan Rug to worldwide attention in 2013 and 2014.
Martin was a courageous man. For most of us watching his ever-deepening involvement with the Armenian Genocide, his most incredible undertaking was plunging headlong into his dear mother Varter’s unfathomable suffering in Anatolia. I will not go into the suffering of Varter in this remembrance except to say that her Anatolian oppressors engaged in heartbreaking treachery to force Varter’s children to be abandoned in a dry well. Of course these were Martin’s half-siblings as well. In 1980 Dr. Deranian published in Ararat Quarterly the full harrowing tale of “The Wailing Well” and the piece was republished in 1994 by the Armenian Heritage Press.
The story of Varter also became the centerpiece of a play by Martin’s long-time friend, playwright Joyce Van Dyke, first produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in association with Suffolk University. The utterly personal nature of the play is brought home by Joyce calling Dr. Deranian the “godfather of the play” and by the fact that Joyce herself is a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, her grandmother a witness to the massacres, and Varter’s life-validating friend.
(Jack Danielian PhD, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst and dean of the American Institute for Psychoanalysis.)