By Latreecia Wade

St. Louis Post-Dispatch /articles/2009/07/29/stcharles/news/doc4a704f83639 49941206880.txt
July 29 2009

In the last several decades, Holocaust survivors have been speaking
out to community groups and schools to make sure that genocide is
not forgotten.

But there was another genocide in Europe a few decades earlier,
one that few people in St. Charles County may have heard about.

It was the Armenian genocide of 1915, during World War I.

And the family of St. Peters community relations director Lisa Bedian
lived through it.

The genocide, which was ordered by the Turkish government and killed
about 1.5 million Armenians, forced Bedian's grandparents from Turkey.

Bedian, who does public and community relations for the city, remembers
what her grandparents have told her about the experience.

The Turkish government used deportation tactics forcing Armenians to
march through the wilderness and deserts under horrendous conditions,
she said. Boys, some as young as 13, were forced into the military,
Bedian said.

"If they refused, the soldiers would take them out of the villages
and kill them," she said.

After he heard about Bedian's grandparents, Mayor Len Pagano earlier
this year set aside an official day to honor Armenians affected by
the genocide. The day is Apr. 24.

In May, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution in support of a
national bill recognizing the Armenian genocide. About 20 St. Charles
County residents of Armenian descent were there. Rev. Stepan Baljian
of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Granite City, Ill., offered an
invocation during the meeting.

The Turkish government does not acknowledge the genocide.

Bedian's grandfather, Asadour Bedian, and a cousin escaped from
the Turkish town of Divrik at age 20 as word of the Ottoman Turkish
atrocities spread across the country, Bedian said.

Asadour Bedian, who was later called "Oscar," made three attempts to
come into the United States. He traveled to the South American country
of Bolivia before making it in through Cuba, Lisa Bedian said. Many
in his family were killed.

"He went out west to work on railroad construction with his cousin,"
she said.

Asadour Bedian later settled in Granite City, Ill., and worked in
the steel mills there. His cousin settled in Lynn, Mass.

"A lot of the immigrants went to work in East St. Louis and Granite
City," Lisa Bedian said. "It was the only place a non-English speaking
person could find a job."

As a single man, he sought an Armenian girl to marry. With the
help of a local woman, he sent a letter to an Armenian orphanage in
Constantinople, Bedian said. The woman wrote the letter on behalf of
Asadour Bedian and another man seeking Armenian wives.

"The orphanage sent two photos for my grandfather to pick from,
and he picked my grandmother's picture," Lisa Bedian said.

Her name was Elizabeth Eghiassarian.

The soon-to-be groom sent money to pay for Elizabeth's voyage by
ship to America and some clothing. He met her as she docked in the
at Ellis Island, Lisa Bedian said. They were married the next day at
an Armenian Church in New York City.

"She was 15 years old when she came here," Bedian said. "Can you
imagine what that must have been like? So young and to marry someone
you didn't even know."

After their wedding in September 1921, they had three children, Arthur,
who is Lisa Bedian's father, Caroline and Sue. Asadour Bedian died
in June 1971 at age 80. Elizabeth passed away in May 1976. She was
71. The couple were married nearly 52 years.