My grandfather was a shepherd. When he was just three years old, his parents were shot by the Turks, and some friends by the name of Dadian took him in as their own. We only learned in the past few years that our real last name was, in fact, Ouloukhodjian (not at all sure of the spelling) and that our family was from Tadim, a village in Elazig disctrict, Turkey.
My great grandmother and grandmother were in the desert marches and became slaves. They told me they weren’t killed only because my grandmother had red hair and blue eyes.
They escaped, endured unthinkable conditions and made their way to Marseille, France.
My grandfather got to the United States and arranged for both grandmother and great grandmother to come here. They became property owners, renting tenement buildings in Lowell, Massachusetts, where I was born.
My father served in the USMC and then went to college. He is a well-known businessman within our community and a founder of his own employment agency. He's now retired and I am taking care of his business, which gives me access to government contracts throughout the United States.
All this is to say: I am the granddaughter of a shepherd and three Genocide Survivors and an owner of my own firm. I have put thousands of people to work through several recessions in the last 26 years. And I give all my thanks to God.
I would like to hug those friends by the name of Dadian took my grandfather in after his parents were shot and cry with them, bring them to my home and have a meal with them and laugh with them. It's so deep inside me. I can't explain.
What does my Armenian heritage mean to me? My best answer is this: as I write about how I would extend my gratitude to my ancestors’ saviors, I tear up.