Scarlet Vartanian

Scarlet Vartanian

When the genocide came my Great Grandmother Sirvard was just 15. Her parents quickly arranged for her to marry and cross the border to Iran. She lost her parents and her elder brother, but she escaped to start a new life in a village near Hamadan.

In that Iranian village she began to raise a family, helped by the few gold coins she had brought from Armenia. Later she and her husband took their six children - five sons and a daughter – to Tehran. Tragedy struck again: she lost her husband shortly after moving to the city. Sirvard was a talented seamstress, skilled in knitting and needlework and those talents wove the family together in the face of hardship. As a widow she held her family together, providing for everyone even when her daughter was also widowed after just four years of marriage.

Sirvard was a big part of my life as a child and the memory of her will live in me forever.

She used to tell stories about her house and her street in Van (a city on the shores of Lake Van in the Eastern part of the Ottoman Empire, close to Turkey’s modern-day borders with Armenia and Iran). Sometimes she would cry and tell us to take her back home so she could show us the gold hidden in the walls. She lost her parents when she and her husband fled to Hamadan, and she thought she had lost her older brother. He sailed to America and they never met again, but after many years he found her phone number and they talked at last.

I never knew the names of the people who helped Sirvard to escape. I wish I could find out so I could pass on my thanks to their descendants.