The Reunion Of The Dovajyan Family After The Armenian Genocide Of 1915

A century has passed since the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, but the stories of different families retold from generation to generation are bringing us back to the past again and again.

Life in Western Armenia, childhood, ancestral home… People who remembered this and their homeland are long gone. Their descendants have spread to different countries. Much of what the Armenian people had to endure during the years of the Genocide remained in the distant past, but the memories are still there…

With rare exceptions, there are no eyewitnesses remaining to some of the most terrible pages in the history of the Armenian people.

Numerous memories gave us a real picture of those times. Many stories are still waiting in the wings to tell the world about the sad fate of the surviving people and those who escaped death.

Hamshen Armenians also shared the fate of the entire Armenian people. Those who managed to survive left their homeland in which death and humiliation awaited them.

Many families and relatives lost each other in the cycle of those terrible events and would never find each other, separated by the borders of different states. But miracles happened as well when, after years, relatives found each other despite any obstacles.

One of these stories was told to me by my interlocutor Hrant Hrantovich Cholokyan, though he was born much later than the events – in 1979 in the city of Gagra, Republic of Abkhazia.

“This is the story that has been preserved in my family,” said Hrant Cholokyan, “My great-grandfather Mkrtich Dovajyan lived in the region of the city of Ordu in Turkey. Like thousands of other families, he and his family left Turkey during the Genocide.

In 1915, a ship with refugees from Turkey sailed to the shores of Abkhazia, and the family of my great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers was on this ship. While the refugees were coming off the ship, an order was received from the tsarist authorities to stop the disembarkation.

Some refugees didn’t manage to get to the shore. On the ship still were two children from the Dovajyan family. The youngest of the children, Armenak, was 3 years old, while the eldest Astghik was 12 years old. Only their sister Khngen, who was 8 years old, remained with her relatives. The ship with the children sailed back to Turkey.

For many years, nothing would be known about the children. Search attempts yielded no results, and in subsequent years of closed borders, the family completely buried the hope to ever find out anything about the fate of the children.

Years passed, life went on, but the pain of loss settled in the Dovajyan family forever.

In 1964, a journalist from Bulgaria arrived on a business trip, and it so happened that he stayed in the house where my father Hrant Albertovich Cholokyan was living.

One day, Hrant was looking through the Bulgarian newspaper which the guest had left on the table in the gazebo. He noticed an announcement clearly reading the name “Armenak”. In the evening, the Bulgarian journalist translated what was in the announcement.

The announcement said that Armenak Dovajyan had been looking for his relatives for many years and had repeatedly given ads to newspapers. The coincidence of the name and surname was already a miracle, but it was hard to believe that their dear Armenak was found after so many years.

At the request of the family, the journalist from Bulgaria upon arrival home found out everything. And indeed, lo and behold, it was that very little Armenak Dovadzhyan who had remained on the ship that sailed back to Turkey.

50 years after separation, Armenak Dovajyan and his wife Nune arrived in Abkhazia. Sister of Armenak Khngen was living in a rural area in the Gagra region of Abkhazia (now Psahara). She had not been warned about anything. But finally, the long-awaited day arrived when her relatives together with Armenak arrived in the village where Khngen was living and who Armenak had been parted with in distant childhood.

Armenak slowly approached the gate and froze – his feelings overwhelmed him. His sister was watering flowers in her yard, and Armenak’s eyes filled with tears. He jokingly asked his sister in Turkish, “Do you need to fix anything?” And she, without looking back and continuing to water the flowers, answered in Turkish, “No, nothing is needed.”

Armenak was already opening the gate and entering the yard when his sister turned around and looked at him. For a second, she had doubts as to who was standing before her. “Armenak, tun is ta akhpyays?” (“Armenak, is that you, brother?”).

For a moment, they stood silently, looking at each other and not believing their eyes that were full of tears and joy. Then, they slowly approached and hugged each other. Embraced, they stood silently, not believing in the miracle that was happening.

Armenak then told his relatives what had happened to them after the ship sailed back to Turkey. It turned out that they had been given for adoption to different Turkish families. Although they had grown up in different families, they had lived in the same area and kept in touch with each other. Sister Astghik had secretly visited him and hadn’t let him forget who he was and what had happened to them and his family. They hadn’t known any other relatives.

As time passed, they grew up and eventually moved from Turkey to Bulgaria. Subsequently, Astghik moved to Los Angeles, US. Armenak started a family by marrying an Armenian girl by the name of Nune. He had children, but he wouldn’t stop looking for his family and friends.

After this happy meeting, they would never lose each other again. Armenak visited his sister in Abkhazia more than once, and sister Astghik from distant America also came to her sister Khngen and brother in Bulgaria. After many years of separation, fate gave them a happy chance to meet again.

Armenak, Khngen, and Astghik are long gone, but the memory of them and their wonderful meeting forever remained in the families of their descendants.”

Original post by Eleanor Uzunyan, Abkhazia, “Gagra Publication”, Sergey Vardanyan,

On the left is Khngen and her found brother Armenak Gagra 1965

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