The following testimony was submitted via our online questionnaire by Nicolas, a relative of the family. The name of the family has been witheld for privacy reasons.
1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My ancestors were from Smyrna (today İzmir).
2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
They lost everything; land, properties and money in safes in the Ottoman Bank. They were lucky to escape with their lives. One of my ancestors, patriarch Chrysostomos (he was the maternal uncle of my maternal great-grandmother), was tortured and executed in Smyrna.
3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
My great-uncle was deported to Eastern Anatolia. He was struck with Typhus en route and collapsed in a lake. He was left for dead but survived and joined the rest of the family who had sought refuge in Lebanon arriving there by foot years later.
4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
My maternal grand-father and his family were caught by Turkish troops in their home in Smyrna and held in a makeshift concentration camp outside the city. Their Turkish butler saved them by talking to the guards. He then led them to the famous quay where they waited to embark on a French ship.
5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
They lost a brother through illness on the exodus trail. They rebuilt their lives, slowly and painfully in Lebanon, which welcomed them with open arms and gave them a new life. My grand father became a very important economic figure in Lebanon.
6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
The butler of my grandfather’s family got them out of the concentration camp.
7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
They spoke very little of the experience. My grandfather who spoke Turkish fluently never pronounced another word in front of us ever (except once to me) until he died.
8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
The Armenians who mostly sought refuge in Lebanon, found it more difficult. My family kept silent and dignified, partly because they shared their lives with Lebanese Muslims, who understood their trauma. Until this day, however, there is deep resentment to everything Turkish. I went to Istanbul many times for work, and always visited Saint Sophia and sobbed.
9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
Resentment and unforgivable. A sense of injustice and spoliation.