Kaloosdian Hits Home with ‘Tadem’ Book

By Tom
Vartabedian

August 20,
2015

BELMONT, MA
– Somehow, a photo of Robert Aram Kaloosdian standing before Mount Ararat
answers a definable cause.

‘Tadem,’ the
focal point of Atty. Robert Aram Kaloosdian’s next book.

It’s as if
he were built into the infrastructure, following a lifetime of public service
to the Greater Boston Armenian community and the diaspora at large.

He’s
practiced law for more than 50 years and has devoted much of his life to the
recognition and study of the Armenian Genocide.

Add the fact
he was founding chairman of the Armenian National Institute and a founder of
the Armenian National Assembly, and you may not have even scratched the
surface. Maybe touched it.

Of
particular note in this Centennial year, Kaloosdian participated in defending a
school curriculum guide against genocide deniers in federal court. If it wasn’t
the genocide, it’s been his connections with Armenian independence, the
Apostolic Church of America and many, many ties with the political elite both
here and in Washington.

Finally,
after all these years, go ahead and add “author” to his resume. His one and
only book is a remarkable and proud testament to his father’s village in
Ottoman Turkey, called Tadem.

It’s a place
that bore the brunt of massacre and hardship during the 1915 assault by the
Ottoman gendarmes. The book has been a mission in waiting, ever since
Kaloosdian’s younger days. He wanted to share the truth with his world, but
more important, to give closure to that moment in his dad’s history and the 270
others who were butchered inside this locality.

“It is
difficult to understand the extent of the horror that befell such a small
farming village by not only its government but also by its neighbors and
friends who unquestionably obeyed their government and religious leaders,”
Kaloosdian points out.

In all, 250
Armenian homes were burned, leaving another 100 wounded. His two trips to Tadem
have remained etched in his mind. Pathetic yet poignant.

A
grandfather of five, Kaloosdian documented the collective memory of anyone and
everyone he could reach who lived in this specific region.

“The example
that Tadem presents teaches us what a destructive weapon religious hatred and
prejudice can be,” he says. “The destruction of a people does not rely on
orders coming from a central authority.”

In his
research, Kaloosdian discovers there were people who jumped at the opportunity
to terrorize and murder the Armenians of Tadem. He found the origin of the
“Armenian problem” not to be the sultan alone—but, rather, the locals who were
given positive cover by the Ottoman authorities to subjugate the Armenian
population.

The author
tells the individual stories of these Tadem villagers and their extraordinary
efforts to survive the genocide that exterminated the majority of this
community.

Through
descriptions of his father’s arduous journey from his ancestral homeland across
Siberia to Japan, then to Seattle and America’s East Coast, Kaloosdian
describes in detail individual choices made by his father as well as other
Armenians, Turks, and Kurds.

In doing so,
Kaloosdian effectively clarifies what genocide actually details. It’s a book
anyone who knows or doesn’t know Armenia’s history would get to appreciate.

The jacket
pulls the reader inside, showing the village of Tadem in remarkable clarity,
done in color. A mere look would entice any reader to consider a possible
visit.

Over the
next 300 pages, you get an overview of life in this town, its people and its
history. It is not Erzurum or Van, Bitlis or Dikranagert. It is Tadem, and you
may not have heard about this place had it not been for Kaloosdian’s dad
Boghos. He dedicated this work to his beloved “Hairig.”

Covered
inside the contents is a rich repository of information that puts the reader
right into the thrust of history, beginning with a Tadem childhood to its
Educational Society, the deportation of women in this village, and the massacre
of remnants.

It continues
with Boghos’s journey to America, a retreat through chaos and revolution, and
hits upon life in America—the early days, the foundry where he worked, the club
he frequented and the people he befriended.

You’re about
to revisit that devastating hurricane in 1938 that uprooted Watertown where he
lived, and finally, a postscript of the destinies of Tadem survivors.

It’s a crossover
between East and West—immigrant to citizen. Maps, testaments, and interviews
make this a poignant read. It’s a work that probably wrote itself with Aram’s
initiative.

One striking
section of the book is about the women who survived the July 1915 deportation.
I was particularly enamored by the immigration struggle; they were like so many
others who came to America and cultivated a dream.

Out of it
came a son named Robert Aram who was encouraged to get an education and found
his way to law school and ultimately success. We owe our survivors a debt of
gratitude for their sacrifice, foresight, and resilience. Education was their
mantra.

We owe the
Boghoses of the world our survival, our success. This book is about Tadem. In
fact, it’s about any village facing a cloud of despair and seeing the sun shine
through on a tragic history that has since turned notable.

We applaud
such an inspiring book.

“Go Where No One Else Will”: Mount Holyoke Missionaries in Eastern Turkey Before and During the 1915 Armenian Genocide on Display

By Ava M. Gurekian
AAANews Blog

February 23, 2015

Corrected 2:45 PM

image

Grace Knapp, an 1893 graduate of the all-women’s Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts and missionary to Eastern Turkey until October 1915, described the Ottoman oppressors in a letter saying:  “…they are perfectly heartless as to each others’ sufferings and will not care for the children of those who die, even when it would not be the least out of their way to do so.” (Letter from Grace H. Knapp ‘93 to Dr. James L. Barton; written in Van, Turkey. June 14/28 1915. Mount Holyoke College Archives)

The Armenian Genocide was the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s systematic extermination of one and one-half million Armenians living in their historic homeland, within the territory that is now part of modern-day Turkey. April 24, 1915, is widely remembered as the starting date, almost 100 years ago. The genocide consisted of the killing of the able-bodied male population and the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the sick on death marches to the Syrian Desert. A fortunate few escaped their homeland and dispersed to various parts of the world, landing in areas ranging from Lebanon and Syria, to Eastern Europe, the European Union, and the United States.

image

A Mount Holyoke College missionary presence existed in regions where the massacres took place before and during 1915. Charlotte Elizabeth and Mary Ann Caroline Ely were missionaries and teachers in Bitlis, Turkey from 1868-1915. Grace Knapp was born to missionary parents in Bitlis and after graduating from Mount Holyoke in 1893, returned to Turkey to teach at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary of Bitlis, the American School in Erzerum (1896-1898), and the American School in Van (1913-1915). She worked with refugees in Van during and after the Armenian massacres in 1915 and when foreigners were forced out she returned to the United States in October 1915.  

Genocide is, according to the Convention on Genocide’s 1948 definition, “any…act…committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Convention on Genocide). Acts of the like include: “causing serious …harm to…the group”; “killing members of the group”; prescribing “measures…to prevent births within the group”; ‘intentionally inflicting on the group conditions of life…to bring about its physical destruction”; and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (Convention on Genocide). The Medz Yeghern, an Armenian term used by survivors in reference to the atrocity, to the loss of loved ones and of property, and to the loss of their culture and homeland, was in fact genocide.

image

An exhibit depicting the relationship between Mount Holyoke and the Armenian Genocide titled “Go Where No One Else Will”: Mount Holyoke Missionaries in Eastern Turkey before and during the 1915 Armenian Genocide” will be on display in the Mount Holyoke College Williston Library Atrium in South Hadley, MA until Friday February 27th. The exhibit is curated by Mount Holyoke senior Ava Gurekian to commemorate those lost in the Armenian Genocide almost 100 years ago and to educate the community about Mount Holyoke’s important missionary presence and educational influence in the region.

This exhibit complements a lecture on February 19 at 7:00 p.m. in Dwight Hall 101 at Mount Holyoke College. The lecture was presented by Dr. Ronald Suny of University of Michigan titled “They can live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: Explaining the Armenian Genocide.”

Ava M. Gurekian is a senior at Mt. Holyoke College majoring in International Relations and French, with a minor concentration in Economics. Ava is an alumnus of the Armenian Assembly of America’s Summer Internship Program (Class of 2013).

*This article was corrected to reflect the extended date of the exhibit. The exhibit is now open through Friday, February 27th.