Submitted by Marie A. Haytaian, Marie Dedekian’s daughter
My mother, Marie Asadourian Dedekian, was born in Chomaklu [Çomaklı], Turkey, to Soukias and Mananoush Asadourian. She did not know the exact date of her birth. Her birth records, like those of her surviving siblings, were destroyed by the Turks. When she came to America she chose December 25, 1913, as her birthdate. She might have been two or three years old when the Genocide began and the family was taken out of Chomaklu and marched into the Syrian Desert (Der Zor).
My mother was one of nine siblings. Only four survived the Genocide: Krikor, Takouhie, Mardiros and my mother, Marie. One of the nine siblings died at six months of age; Yester died in the desert; Arshavir died in combat, and we do not know of the fate of the two other sisters, Serpouhi and Siranoush.
The siblings’ mother, Mananoush, died of cholera in a cave near Petra, Jordan, in the arms of Takouhie. How they were able to get that far south is unknown to us.
After their mother’s death, five of the siblings, Arshavir, Krikor, Takouhie, and Marie, arrived in Port Suez, Egypt. We believe they were rescued by the British and were sent to Egypt to a camp administered by the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union). Upon their arrival, the four younger siblings were separated from the oldest one, Arshavir, who was forced to join the Armenian Legion that was part of French Legion, and which was supposed to occupy and administer the area of Adana. Arshavir was killed in combat in an unknown location on Christmas Day, 1917.
From Egypt, Krikor, Takouhie, Mardiros and my mother were taken to Beirut, Lebanon, and then to a monastery in the mountains, which had become an orphanage.
All my mother would say to us about their father Soukias was that he was incarcerated, tortured and died in a prison. But two of our cousins told us that our Uncle Krikor remembered visiting his father in prison, and that he handed him a bundle of sheets and told him to take it home, wash it, and not tell his mother about it.
When he opened the package he found bloody sheets with pieces of skin stuck to it. Obviously that experience had been burned into Uncle Krikor’s memory.
My mother came to the United Stated as a teenager through the efforts of her brother, Krikor, who was determined to keep the siblings together. Takouhie had married while in Beirut, and she, too, eventually made it to New York through Marseille, France.
While in New York, my mother secured a job as a seamstress. She would recount a story to my twin brother and me about her experiences in a factory there, where the majority of the workers were Italian by descent. Many of them were unable to speak English, so to converse with them, my mother learned Italian. I mention this to emphasize the determination and desire she had to be part of a community, even in the work place.
Once she married my father, Vartan Dedekian, and had twins, my mother remained home as a homemaker. Our life, although simple, was rich in all aspects of family life. Our home was a source of feasts prepared days in advance; classical music was playing; ballet performances were given by me for relatives; family discussions around the dinner table were held, and Sunday excursions in the car were taken to admire different surroundings.
Dad passed away in 1991. In the later years of her life, Mom lived with my husband John and me. Mom passed away in 2003.
Mom was diminutive in size, but a giant in many ways. She was loved for her ability to converse about politics and sports, for her gentle heart, for her humor, and her love of family. I often wonder— what Mom would have become, had she been born in the U.S., with all the opportunities available to her.