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Looking Back On A Painful Past

Looking Back On A Painful PastTufts graduate and Trustee Emeritus John Baronian recalls his family’s painful plight during the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.28.05] John Baronian never met his family members who lost their lives in Turkey before he was born, but the Tufts graduate and Trustee Emeritus remembers watching his mother struggle with the haunting memories of what many refer to as the Armenian genocide of 1915. Recently, Baronian described to the Boston Herald how the events that traumatized his family nearly a century ago have shaped his life.

“I was their firstborn here,” Baronian, whose parents relocated from Turkey to Worcester, Mass., told the Herald. His three older siblings died during what Baronian describes as “the death march” when “thousands [of Armenians] were forced into [ Turkey’s] Der El Zor desert with no water, no food, no anything.”

The events left an indelible mark on Baronian’s mother.

“My mother was among them with her three little children, all under five,” Baronian continued. “She had my sisters, Helen and Azadouhi, and my brother, Sirak. All around her, decent-living people were dying needlessly, while her own children kept crying from hunger and thirst until they died, too. My poor mother would hear those cries every day for the rest of her life.”

Baronian, a 1950 graduate of Tufts, also lost his uncle and grandfather during the early 20th century, when anywhere from 300,000 to more than a million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire lost their lives at the hands of the Turkish government.

“My father's brother had moved to Worcester, where he worked in the old steel mill,” Baronian told the newspaper. “But he got homesick, so he returned, and two weeks later he and my grandfather were taken to [the] woods and shot to death for no reason at all, just for being Armenians.”

Baronian’s parents hailed from Harput, Turkey, which he calls an Armenian “kingdom with its own symbol, Mount Ararat,” according to the Herald. In the United States, they landed in Worcester and then moved to Medford, where Baronian still lives. They had three daughters after Baronian was born, but his mother never fully recovered from losing her first three children, he said.

“I can still see my mother crying,” he recalled to the Herald. “She would try to hide it, but we'd catch her crying all the time, and whenever she'd try to talk about it she'd break down and cry again, unable to continue. She could still hear the voices of those little kids, the sisters and brother I never knew, pleading for something to eat or drink as they died in her arms out there in the desert.”

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and Baronian believes it’s important to keep the memories – however painful – alive, according to the Herald.

“Just before he began slaughtering Jews, Hitler asked, ‘Who remembers what happened to the Armenians?' '' Baronian told the Herald. “In other words, people will eventually forget whatever you do. What a devastating comment. I can assure you, all around the world, Armenians have never forgotten what happened 90 years ago.

“And that's why I tell the story,” he said. “God forbid anyone forgets.”












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