Microcapsule of History the Size of a Postcard


By Arto Manoukian

MONTREAL — The granddaughter of an Armenian family which survived the Genocide recently came across a box of memorabilia from a survivor grandfather.

Mary Alice Selyian is the granddaughter of Megerditch Selyian, then of Boston, who received a postcard from his brother, Haroutyoun Selyian of Ismid, Turkey (Izmit, a city in Turkey, located in the Sea of Marmara, about 100 kilometers east of Istanbul).

On one side of this postcard, there was the image of a young woman sitting among ruins. This picture was familiar. It was an allegorical representation of the city of Ani,  “Ani Kaghak Nesder Goula” (The city of Ani has sat down and is crying).  On the back of this card there were printed words in various languages: French- Liberté, Égalite, Justice, Fraternité,  repeated in Arabic and Armenian. Expressions in Armenian meaning Open letter- Long live the Constitution in Armenian and Arabic letters which were used at the time in Ottoman Turkey, are also remarkable for that tumultuous period. ‘’Long live the constitution’’ was there as a slogan of solidarity for the constitution that was to be the protector of minorities’ rights; a message printed on a postcard printed/sold in Turkey and sent all around the world.

On its back, the postcard had a handwritten message in Armenian by Haroutyounto his brother Megerdich Selyian. He talks about the formation of dark clouds over Turkey and discourages the return of his brother. He also mentions the existence of external and internal wolf packs presenting a threat to the Giaours (meaning “infidel”, an offensive term, a slur, historically used in the Ottoman Empire for Christians – Armenians).

In succinct words, Haroutioun was communicating to his brother the social turmoil in their country which was happening in the aftermath of the New Political Leadership.  Was it a coincidence that six months after this postcard was written, the Massacres of Adana started in the Week of Holy Easter- April 1909.Imagine for a moment, that this simple postcard of Haroutyoun is considered a vivid proof of the sad turn of events more than a century ago.

The historical influence of this arguably postcard urges us to ask imperative questions. How many of such proofs are kept hidden in our vaults? How many of them are lost forever? How many will soon be inadvertently lost? or How many of such proofs are falling in Turkish hands, to be obliterated and to be destroyed?

I urge the readers of this article, to make an effort in preserving such patrimony from oblivion. Dig them out, digitalize them, write the story and attach it to the relic and finally make them public, so that future generations become aware of our history.

For their preservation, such documents, photos, cards, diplomas, contracts, deeds, etc. are to be donated to institutions which are devoted in preserving them for posterity. While you keep the digital versions for your family, you should send the originals to institutions such as the Genocide museum in Yerevan or to Project SAVE in Boston.