45 Years After A Journey to Western Armenia--A Reflection

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Ara Khachatourian

The author with Hachig Hovanessian the only Armenian survivor in
Bingol Province standing in front of the Bingol Gazette


In 1969 I went to Turkish-occupied western Armenia to confirm a U.S.
State Department report that my Aunt Parancim, who initially had been
reported to have been killed during the genocide, had died just six
years earlier.

With the help of a then friendly state department my assigned guide
was a young Turkish law student graduate, and my driver-bodyguard was

For two weeks we drove through the heartland of historic Armenia,
starting in Sepastia, crossing through the Pontic Manzur mountains,
then on to Erzurum, cross the Mourad River to Moush, Lake Van, Bitlis,
Koops, Keghi, and Kharpet, In that time span the three of us developed
a bond of friendship: an Armenian, a Turk, and a Kurd. At the end
Mehmet expressed sadness that the Armenian lands were barren of my
people. Nur remained curious on what really happened in 1915.

When I left Ankara for my flight home, Nur and Mehmet took me to the
airport and in a parting gesture expressed hope our three peoples
could find justice and friendship in the future. But we still wait for
so-called modern Turkey to acknowledge the 1915 genocide. They still
occupy western Armenia - and deny self-rule for Memhet's Kurdish

On my return to Detroit, I then visited Armenian communities
throughout the United States and Canada to show my slides of the
devastated Armenian villages and cities. For the older generation the
the scenes were flashbacks to when they fled for their lives to never
see their families again.

In the years that followed I was urged by my cousin, the late Rev.
Vartan Kassabian to publish a memoir of my journey into historic
Armenia, a pilgrimage that took place just 54 years after the massacre
of 1.5 million of our people. Shortly after I embarked on my
assignment, Rev. Kassabian died. I dedicated the memoir to his legacy
for inspiring me to write the 162-page book. I titled it "Giants of
the Earth."

When the memoir came out in late 1969, requests for a showing of the
original slide program came from the younger generation in search for
linkage to the ancestral homeland of their grandparents.

Thankfully longtime friend Hrayr Toukhanian, film director and
producer of the movie "Assignment Berlin," a docudrama of Soghomon
Tehlirian's assassination of Talaat Pasha offered his professional

Hrayr developed a 32-minute abridged video of the journey by utilizing
color slides that had been stored for at least 40 years. In doing so,
we completed what I thought was an impossible task.

Interested persons can view the abridged video by going to Google
search on the Internet and type in "Giants of the Earth Slide Show."

Mitch Kehetian is a retired editor of The Macomb Daily and former
board trustee at Central Michigan University.