April 15 2005
Armenian among those marking sad anniversary
Friday, April 15, 2005
By CATHERINE HOLAHAN
ORADELL – Ninety years later, Rahan Kachian still has the nightmares.
In the daylight, she is healthy and happy. The horrors of her youth
in Turkey are memories.
But at night, she is five years old again. Burying the remains of her
beheaded father in the family vineyard. Running. Watching strangers
burn churches filled with people. Hiding between mattresses.
Seeing her 2-year-old brother, Kourken, die of starvation.
“I was 5 years old but I remember,” said Kachian, 94, of Oradell. “I
It’s a history Kachian and fellow survivors of the 1915 Armenian
massacre are trying to bring to light. The Turkish government denies
the killings were state-sponsored genocide.
On April 24, Armenians will gather in New York to mark the 90th
anniversary of the Turkish government’s arrest of more than 200
Armenian community leaders. That date is considered the beginning of
a genocide that took the lives of more than 1 million Armenians in
There will be services held at three New York cathedrals and a
remembrance in Times Square on that day.
“The genocide is a current issue,” said Ken Sarajian, a relative
through marriage of Kachian and an organizer of the New York events.
“It’s about justice, it’s about the prevention of genocide and what
happened in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur. The threat of genocide
still exists in the world today.”
For Kachian, the genocide is current because the memories are still
“How could they deny it when they killed everybody?” she asks.
Kachian’s earliest memories go back to age 3, when she lived with her
father, sister and brother on a plantation in the village of Segham.
Her mother died in childbirth.
The family had vineyards, a large farm, a lake and animals. Her
father, Mardiros Delerian, was a university professor and also sold
the excess produce from the farm in the city.
“It was beautiful,” Kachian said. “We had everything we could want.”
Then, one morning, that all changed.
Turkish soldiers came to her village and began shooting her
neighbors. Kachian, her elder sister Marinos, and her brother hid.
Kachian’s father ran to woods behind the house where he was found,
shot and beheaded.
Though Kachian did not know it at the time, the Turkish government
had ordered the deportation of Armenians to the Der El Zor desert,
according to Western history books. The deportations are thought, by
some scholars, to have been spurred by an Armenian movement for an
Kachian believes the Turkish government wanted to seize the land of
the Armenians to increase its wealth.
When Turkish soldiers came, Kachian and her siblings fled to a
Turkish friend’s house in a nearby city. An aunt later made it to the
same friend’s house after being shot and left for dead by the
Soon after their arrival, their family friend died and her sister
forced the Armenians to work the land for free in exchange for a
place to hide. At 5, Kachian had to tend the lambs and sheep. If she
lost one, she was beaten, she said. She and her siblings were given
crusts of bread to eat. Her brother eventually starved to death.
Kachian survived by eating wild vegetables as she tended the flocks.
Eventually, after the killings stopped, she escaped with her sister
to an orphanage. Her sister was married to an Armenian who had become
a U.S. citizen and soldier. He sent money to bring his wife to the
United States. The pair brought Kachian to New York to live with them
when she was about 17.
“When I came to the U.S., I wasn’t afraid to walk down the street,”
She also wasn’t afraid to tell others what she remembered of the
genocide. But even now, she sometimes wakes up frightened, from the