Survivors’ tears are testimony to truth

The Boston Herald
April 19, 2006 Wednesday
ALL EDITIONS

Survivors’ tears are testimony to truth

By JOE FITZGERALD

It’s a quote he spits out like vomit, yet, repulsive as it is to John
Baronian, 86, he keeps it on the tip of his tongue for times such as
these.

“Just before he began slaughtering Jews, Hitler asked, `Who
remembers what happened to the Armenians?’ ” the retired Medford
insurance executive recalls. “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. God forbid anyone
forgets.”

He was referring to the wanton slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by
marauding Turks whose government and descendants continue to wash
their hands of all responsibility, doing whatever they can, including
the hiring of PR firms, to sanitize their role as perpetrators of one
of history’s most heinous chapters.

Baronian, in a piece that ran here in October commemorating the 90th
anniversary of that Armenian genocide, recalled watching his mother
cry every day until the day she died.

“She would try to hide it,” he said, “but we’d catch her. 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.”

Sarah Baronian, who bore John after arriving in America, lived with
her husband in a Turkish farming town called Harput.

“When the genocide began,” John said, “the Turks were immediately
brutal. Women were beaten and raped by Turkish soldiers while men
were hanged in the square or shot in the woods. Then came the death
march, though the Turks called it a relocation march, which was
ridiculous because thousands were forced into the Der El Zor desert
with no water, no food, no anything.”

Such powerful memories are now stirring again throughout the Armenian
community at the thought of a major political candidate becoming
associated, even by extension, with Turkish revisionists who
vigorously deny a genocide took place.

In Arlington, where an orphaned Armenian boy named John Mirak
authored his own version of the American Dream, establishing an
automobile empire that still bears his name, his granddaughter
emotionally recalled her heritage yesterday.

“Both of my grandparents were orphaned by the genocide,” Julia
Mirak Kew, 40, said. “He was 9. But my grandmother, Artemis, was
only an infant. He would talk about it a bit, if you pressed him, but
my grandmother broke down every time I asked her about it. She’d try,
but then start crying again.

A year before Artemis Mirak died at 91, a special thrill came into
her life. Her name was Christina.

“We already had a biological daughter,” Julia explained. “Wanting
her to have a sibling, my husband and I decided to adopt an orphan
from Armenia. My grandmother was so excited; she kept asking, `When
are you leaving?’ And when we got back she wanted to know all about
our trip. But even in all of that happiness we were feeling, she
could not talk about things that happened when she was an orphan over
there.”

So, like John Baronian, Julia tells those stories now, keeping faith
with those not here to tell them anymore.

“Most of them are gone,” she notes, “but they died trusting us to
keep their stories alive.

“Did the genocide actually happen? Tell anyone asking that question
to ask me, because I saw the tears and I felt the pain. Yes, it did.
Absolutely!”

GRAPHIC: DAYS OF SORROW: Julia Mirak Kew, granddaugter of Armenian
genocide survivor, Artemis Mirak, holds her photo. STAFF PHOTO BY
TARA CARVALHO

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS