Alexandra Bohigian

Alexandra Bohigian

My Armenian heritage is important to me because it connects me to a network of driven, passionate and loving people who stop at nothing to reach their goals. While I didn't get to spend much time with my great-grandma, Siranoosh Tavookjian, my fondest memories involve sitting on a porch with her, listening to her sing Armenian children's songs. Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of growing up with her daughter (my grandmother), Barbara Bohigian.

My grandma is the most loving person I have ever met, instilling the importance of education and hard work in all four of her sons and all eight of her grandchildren. The Tavookjian family is the largest group of the most loving, intelligent and generous people I have ever met, and I'm not just saying that because they are my family.

My great-great-grandmother, Yeranoohi Lazian, her mother, her daughter Siranoosh (my great-grandmother) and son Moushegh were told to leave their home in Tokat, Northern Turkey, after great-grandfather Ohan was taken from the home, never to return. They were told to march with other women and children in a group of about 100. They traveled 300 miles in three months. During that time Yeranoohi’s mother and Moushegh were left alongside the road to die because they could no longer keep up. They finally reached Suruj, a day’s journey from Urfa (modern-day Sanliurfa in Southern Turkey). In Suruj, Turkish women came looking for young girls to take to their homes. One of them asked Yeranoohi if Siranoosh could come with her. Yeranoohi was ill and weak and did not feel she could take care of Siranoosh, so Siranoosh went with the Turkish woman. Later her mother came back two times.

The Turks would not let Siranoosh leave with her.

Yeranoohi was taken to Birecik. She stayed there for a year. She was allowed to go back to Suruj to try to find Siranoosh. She went to the house where she had last seen her daughter with the Turkish family, but they no longer lived there. A Turkish women saw Yeranoohi crying and led her to the house the family had moved to. They refused to let her see Siranoosh.

The woman then took Yeranoohi to her home where she finally was able to meet with Siranoosh. But Yeranoohi had to return to Birecik, a district in the same province, so the Turkish woman said she could become her maid and therefore stay close to her daughter. The day came when they appeared before the magistrate, which was to decide where Siranoosh was to stay. Siranoosh chose to be with her mother. 

Mother and daughter boarded the train to Aleppo, where they stayed with relatives from the Tokat region. They all lived together in one house for four years. In 1919 they moved to Beirut. Yeranoohi wanted Siranoosh to attend school, but it was a challenge because the money was very tight.

She made 10 cents a day washing clothes.

They were finally safe in Beirut, despite having very little money. Then, one day, they received a letter from Charlie Tavookjian, who wanted to marry a girl from Tokat. Siranoosh’s photo was sent along with another girl’s. He chose her and sent $300 to get her a gift and a ticket to come to the United States. She left Beirut in October of 1924 to be married, leaving her mother behind.

If I could, I would thank the Turkish women who took care of Siranoosh. I would also like to thank the magistrate who allowed Siranoosh to choose who she wanted to live with, and who made sure that her decision was carried out.

I am most proud of my Armenian heritage because of the intense obstacles my people have overcome, instilling in me the drive to overcome anything that comes my way. My biggest achievement thus far is graduating college with honors in May, with a full time job lined up. This would not have been possible without the love and support I receive from my family.