Michael Hagopian conducted almost all of the interviews in the Armenian Genocide Testimony collection. After he died in December 2010, the Armenian Film Foundation received a request to interview Almas Boghosian, in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. Her granddaughter Taline had interviewed her in 2000, but her family wanted Almas to be interviewed again for this collection. I called a cameraman I knew from my previous work with the BBC and we went to Almas’ house, and met Almas’ grandson Bruce Boghosian and his wife, Laura.
Almas was in good spirits, although she had a cough and her hearing aid battery was weak. So I had to speak loudly during the interview. Afterwards, Bruce and Laura told me the 2000 interview was more complete, although in comparing the two interview transcripts, the story is essentially the same.
Almas was born in Hussenig, a village in the Kharpert region of Turkey in either 1906 or 1907. In 1915 Almas, her mother and two sisters, were marched towards the Syrian Desert. When her mother was very weak, she gave Almas to a Turkish shopkeeper, who lived in Suar, not far from Der Zoir city. Almas says she lived a couple of years with this family.
Almas had a two-year old sister who died on her mother’s back, on the death march. Another sister, Maritza, begged to survive. She visited Almas while she was living with the Turkish family. Maritza told Almas that their mother died within a day of giving Almas away to the Turkish family.
In the 2000 interview, Almas says, “Every day my sister was sitting there looking at our house, hungry, nothing to eat. Once in a while I took her something to eat. One morning, I got up. I didn’t see her. I asked a kid, ‘was there a girl there?’ They say that they put about 10 to 20 kids in a boat, and right in the middle of the river they turned the boat over. And one was my sister, my older sister.”
The government decreed that anyone who had an Armenian child had to give that child to the state. Almas was taken to Aleppo (Halebo). Any child who wasn’t adopted would be taken out in a boat, Almas said, and thrown in the water and Almas saw this actually happen. “They tipped the thing and they all die there.”
She says that the older son of her adopted father came to the house one day and saw a five-year-old Armenian child begging near the house. “He carried the kid in his hand and throw him in the water.”
She describes the knives and daggers used by the Turks. “Most of the time those daggers that that they have it, long daggers, knife …. when massacre go, they start killing with that dagger. The women saying, ‘please kill me with bullet.’ Bullet. ‘Bullet cost money, this is free.’” That was the Turkish answer.
I asked her about a comment she made in her 2000 interview, that while in Der Zor, “We were playing with heads, as balls.” “Yeah, well, as I say, I could make bigger story of my life. And the orphanage and the Turkish house and the massacre.”
While Almas was at the orphanage, a woman recognized her because of a scar on her face, which many Hussenig children had. It’s possible that this was a mark left behind by disease – we don’t know. She contacted Almas’ aunt in America. Money was sent -- and Almas came to America in 1922, on the ship Britannica, landing in Providence, Rhode Island.
When the interview finished, Mark told me he didn’t know anything like this had happened. He was very moved by Almas’ story. He thanked me for being a part of recording it. I was grateful, too – that Almas could share her story with us, and that I could hear it. She died one year later, in July 9, 2012.
Author: Dr. Carla Garapedian has led the project to digitize the Armenian genocide testimonies from
The Armenian Film Foundation. She is a filmmaker and former anchor for BBC World news.