Interview with Zarouhi Mooradian (nee Malkasian), conducted by her grandson, Craig Wallen, at her home in Whitinsville, Mass., April 28, 1973

CW: What is your name?

ZM: Zaruhi Mooradian

CW: Where were you born?

ZM: Pazmashen.

Where is that?

ZM: Kharpert (province in Turkey)

When were you born?

ZM: 1898.

CW: What were your parents’ names?

ZM: Father’s name was Sarkis and (mother’s name] Bahar.

CW: Last name?

ZM: Malkasian.

CW: Do you know what your grandparents’ names were?

ZM: Sahagian.

CW: Last name?

ZM: Yeah.

CW: What was life like there?

ZM: I don’t know. I have forgotten how it was. I was so young that I don’t recall everything. [Pause] Well, what else you want me to say?

CW: What kind of things happened there? In Armenian!

ZM: Oh. People would go to the spring to bring cold water in round pots. They would put them on their shoulders and bring them.

CW: What else?

ZM: In summer, people would go to harvest crops, wheat. My mother worked on linen; it was just like linen. She had learned it from my father. She worked for other people also and earned money. Johnnie Jigarjian’s grandmother used to help my mother.

CW: Did you go to school there?

ZM: Maybe a year, I don’t remember. I think I might have attended a year.

CW: Were there many Armenians there?

ZM: There were 500. 500 households. When I say household, each family contained 12, or 13, or 20. There were also two [membered families] mother and daughter.

CW: Was there a church there?

ZM: There was one Apostolic, one Catholic, and one Protestant church.

CW: Why did you leave there? Why did you come here?

ZM: Because my father was here.

CW: Why did he come?

ZM: He had come seven years earlier (1900). After the massacre happened, he came here and then he sent after us so that we, too, come here.

CW: When was that?

ZM: 1907, July 4th.

CW: Who did you come with?

ZM: My mother.

CW: Anybody else?

ZM: Her mother – Varter (Bedrosian) – her mother, brother. There was also Mayram Baji (auntie Lizzie’s mother – Mariam Israelian). They, too, were with us.

CW: Anybody else?

ZM: I don’t know others.

CW: How did you come when you came?

ZM: We came up to Samsun.

CW: How did you get there?

ZM: With a cart (araba). With a cart we arrived in Samsun. After Samsun, we took a boat and reached Istanbul. In Istanbul, we would put money on a rope and lower it down in order to get bread to eat. Two days later we went to Marseilles; no, we went to La Havre. We went to La Havre and stayed there for two weeks. The girls would take me to walk around. When I saw the bridge open and the boat pass through, I was surprised. These girls would give me everything: [illegible,] mascara, everything. I wondered how my mother allowed me to go with these girls. They could not speak with me, but she would let [me go].

CW: How long did it take you to come here?

ZM: From La Havre it took 8 days until we arrived here, but I was sick during the entire 8 days. I was in bed, unable to eat, vomiting all the way. I was in very bad shape. I wanted raisins from my mother. My mother said that’s not raisin. I said whatever it may be, I want to eat it. She brought it out. It was olives. As soon as I took it to my mouth, I began to vomit again. I was very sick. I was aware only of my entering [the boat] and leaving it. We came to Ellis Island. When we arrived in Ellis Island, my father, Baba, was supposed to wait for us. But he wasn’t there. I said: “Ma, you should know; among all these men perhaps one is my baba.” My mother said: “What are you talking? Of course I recognize your father.” Then we saw a man, an Armenian man. This man asked us: “Do you know who Bedros Malkasian is?” My mother said: “Yes, we know.” “Do you want me to take you there [to him) the man asked?” She said yes. Then we went to Brighton (Mass) and we stayed at the Malkasian’s. My father was supposed to go to New York to bring us. At the time he had gone to Providence and they [?] had called from Providence and were told that Bahar had come to Brighton. Baba immediately said: “I thought they were in Whitinsville. Ok, I’ll go to Brighton (Mass); that’s even better.” They said: “No, not Whitin, Brighton.” Then we went home, that’s all.

CW: Where did you live when you got here?

ZM: We stayed in Uncle Yenovk’s house for three months. After that, a new house was built in D Street (the New Village area of Whitinsville). We stayed 8 years there. After staying there for eight years, my father built a house and we went and spent a year and a half there. We owned a Turkish bath there. It had a good income. My mother died (while we lived) there.

CW: When was that?

ZM: 1917.

CW: And then where did you go?

ZM: Then my father married and I stayed home with grandma (his new wife). Then I married in 1919. On January 11. [Pause]

When (before) we left the old country, a dog bit me. I was young, barely 4 years of age. It bit me near my eye, under my throat, and my face. They mixed the dog’s hair with honey and wrapped my wound to stop the bleeding. Varter’s sister also was bitten. Nothing happened to her, but a dervish came and said she’ll die. I don’t know much of anything else.

There were no Turks in our village. Never. There was a (Turkish) village outside, some five miles away, known as Jik. There was a place known as Chor Keugh [Dry Village], and another place known as Kua Keugh. Mezre was the government’s seat. Letters arrived in Mezre and from Mezre they were brought and distributed to us.

CW: Did they ever do anything?

ZM: No, they did nothing to us. But in 1895 they had perpetrated a massacre there at the time of my grandmother. After that massacre we escaped and came here.

CW: Did they have doctors there?

ZM: No.

CW: So what happens if you get sick?

ZM: We would help ourselves. Everybody would help each other. The women went and prepared medicine. People helped each other. How would you go to Mezre to see a doctor? There were no cars, no trains. You should ride a donkey, and that will take you a day.

The houses were built with plaster and they were flat. We used to sleep in the upper floor. My father’s auntie stayed with us. My father was here [in the States]. I told my mother: “Ma, I want water.” My mother said: “I can’t get up.” I repeated that I wanted water. Finally, they got up to give water and we saw a goat climbing up the stairs. A Turk was trying to catch the goat, but he could not. The goat fell on my Maryam auntie. She could not speak. Later, we realized that thieves were taking away everything, all the tools that my father used to work with. They took everything away. We could not say anything to anyone. We were afraid.

Side story: (When) my mother was eight years old, my grandmother was baking bread. She [my mother] saw that the cat had caught a young snake, killed it, and was heading out. My grandmother said that that snake is going to harm us. Then, my mother said, that my grandmother told her: “Go, Bahar, get some fresh bread to eat.” My mother said: “I will eat the old bread.” When my mother said so, my grandmother ate the bread and suddenly began to cry out loud: “I will die; I will die now.” My mother went out and called on everybody, saying: “My mother is dying, hurry up, come.” People rushed in and they made her drink a lot of milk (madzoon) until she vomited. She would go to the toilet [to vomit]. At the end they saved her with that milk (madzoon).

All the women harvested wheat, harvested cotton, and made fabric with it. My mother made fabrics and people paid her money. Sometimes they paid for it with honey, sometimes with other things. That’s how we earned living.

People used to light [oil] lamps at that time. A small light. Nothing would be visible. You had to take it and walk around to see your way. When we came here and saw the lamps, my mother was surprised: “What is this; how beautiful is this?” Afterwards, I think it was around 1912, they installed electric lights. My mother said: These people are very smart people. How can they bring the light from the ceiling?”

(in Whitinsville) Our toilets were outside. We slept at home. We burned coal and wood. That’s all. My father was paid $5.35. (a week)

CW: Where?

ZM: Here, at the White Machine Works. It was $5.35. Later, when they raised the pay to $7.35, Oh boy, my father was very happy. he said: “This is nice money.”

(in Pazmashen) We would have earthquakes. During earthquakes, we would go out, there was a plaza, we would sleep outside. If we stayed at home, the house could collapse upon us. But I don’t recall how it was.

CW: When was that?

ZM: I don’t know when it was. It must be 1898. Maybe it was in 05 or 06; in 07 we had already come here. There were two carts. Yeghsa (auntie Lizzie (Israelian/Seropian) and her mother (dede’s aunt, Mayram Baji) and I and my mother were in one. Our cart was very pretty. Varteni’s cart was good for nothing. They said: “We, too, want an araba (cart) like that.” The man, Krikor Agha, said: “Well, they have paid 12 Mejidies and rented that one. You, too, could have rented it had you paid.” But there was only one covered cart. So we were given the white, new cart. The worker went to Mezre and brought them a funny (looking) coach. They said they could hardly sit in it. Later, when we were about to cross the Euphrates, there was a raft, some kind of a boat; they put the carts on the boats and we all stood on the raft and the people crossed us to the other side. But before we crossed, I exploded (screamed, got scared?). The Euphrates had strong currents. Without that man I could have drowned in the water.

(a saying) It was written in the grammar book that a dog with a big bone was going to the river bank. Once there, he sees another dog in the water. This [dog] says the bone of the other [dog] is bigger. It was his bone, a reflection of it. So in order to get the other, he lost his.

(ZM then sings two patriotic songs. In the first, the Armenian nation is likened to a boat beaten by waves.)

I have five cousins in France. One stays (lives) in Valence, the other four in Vienne. They have very pretty, nicely built, clean houses.

CW: How did they go to France? What are they doing in France?

ZM: When they [the Turks] deported all the Armenians, my cousin went to Damascus. He had completely forgotten the Armenian language. Later, they found my maternal auntie and realized that he was Armenian. My auntie told him: “You have to marry, Boghosig.” He married his cousin and they moved to France. He had five children.

CW: When did they go to France?

ZM: In 1921, 1920 perhaps. I don’t know. So they have three sons and two daughters. One daughter and one son married with French. The others married with Armenians. They were very nice, happy people. I went and stayed with them six months. They gave me tours in seven countries: Spain, Holland, Andorra, Belgium, Italy, Monte Carlo. I went there, too. I had very nice time.

My cousin came and settled in Vienne. He had five children there: two girls and three boys. They are well-to do people. They have a very pretty house in Spain where they go for vacation. They take turns, and every time they go there, they spend a month, enjoy it and come back, all three brothers.

CW: Do you have cousins anywhere else?

ZM: No.

CW: Didn’t you say you have in Syria?

ZM: Well, I have a cousin in Syria, in Damascus. There was my auntie, but I don’t remember. She has a daughter married to perhaps Kasabian. I don’t know the names. Her Aghavni daughter is married to Kusakjian. They have three children: one boy and two girls. But I don’t know where they are now.


Interview with Zarouhi Mooradian (nee Malkasian), conducted by her grandson, Craig Wallen, at her home in Whitinsville, Mass., April 28, 1973.

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