www.dorasakayan.com > press releases > An Armenian Doctor in Turkey (2005)
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The Armenian Writers’ Union
Head: Levon Ananyan
Address: 3 Barekamutyan
375019 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia
Phone: (374 1) 561 831
The Armenian Genocide Institute-Museum
Director: Dr. Lavrenti Barseghyan
375028 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia
Phone: (374 1) 390 981; (374 1) 391 041; (374 1) 391 412
SMYRNA 1922: Dr. Hatcherian’s journal in three languages>
On April 27, 2005, the Armenian Writers’ Union in conjunction with the Genocide Institute-Museum launched three editions of Dora Sakayan’s book based on Dr. G. Hatcherian’s journal, "My Smyrna Ordeal in the year 1922." The event was part of the many initiatives to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
Dr. Garabed Hatcherian’s journal is an eyewitness account of the 1922 Smyrna catastrophe, when the ancient city was destroyed by a spectacular fire and the entire Armenian and Greek populations were either massacred or forced to flee. The sequence of events that led to this disaster stems from the defeat of Turkey by the Allies in WWI, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of the Kemalists and the postwar peace settlements. Dr. Hatcherian’s journal covers the period between August 28, 1922 and April 7, 1923, with a special focus on the two infernal weeks of September 9 through 25, when the family of eight miraculously escaped the catastrophe. Ten other members of the extended family, including the mothers of the Hatcherian couple, along with their brothers and their families, stayed behind and were all massacred. The journal chronicles on a day-by-day basis the most significant events in and around Smyrna, as well as the suffering of the Christian civilian population — Armenians and Greeks alike — who in those horrific days became the target of Mustafa Kemal’s nationalists.
Dora Sakayan is Dr. Hatcherian’s granddaughter. She first learned about the existence of Dr. Hatcherian’s manuscript (completed and signed on June 1, 1923 in Salonica) in 1992. It had been kept in the Argentinean branch of the family for almost seventy years. She read the West Armenian manuscript in 1993 and undertook immediately to publish it (Montreal: Arod Books, 1995 and 1997). She subsequently published her English translation (Montreal: Arod Books, 1997) and later became the general editor of a multilingual series (French, in Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000), (Spanish, in Montreal: Arod Books, 2001), (Greek, in Montreal: Arod Books, 2001).
The three new editions are in East Armenian, Russian and — Turkish. The first two were published just a few days prior to their launching by the Armenian Genocide Institute-Museum in Yerevan under the title "Smyrna 1922: The Journal of the Armenian Physician Hatcherian." The Turkish edition appeared in March 2005 in Turkey and was published by the BELGE Publishing House in Istanbul. It is entitled: Bir Ermeni Doktorun Yasadiklari. Garabet Haçeryan’in Ízmir Güncesi (An Armenian Physician’s Ordeal. Garabet Hatcherian’s Diary). To date, eight editions of Dr. Hatcherian’s journal have been prepared and published by Dora Sakayan. She has recently completed the German translation, which will be published in Germany. The hall of the Armenian Writers’ Union was filled to capacity with writers, foreign guests, faculty members, publishing executives and journalists as well as many of Sakayan’s friends. Writer Levon Ananyan, head of the Armenian Writers’ Union, delivered the opening speech.
He welcomed the publication of Dr. Hatcherian’s journal in three new versions, Turkish, East Armenian, and Russian, just in time for the genocide commemoration, and thanked the courageous publisher Ragip Zarakolu for the Turkish edition. Mr. Ananian emphasized the crucial importance of Dr. Hatcherian’s eyewitness account by saying: "It demonstrates to the world that despite the outcry of the international community following the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Turks proceeded to commit yet another genocide seven years later, this time against the entire Christian population of Smyrna, both the Armenians and Greeks." Referring to recent developments in the Armenian-Turkish relations, and particularly to the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s letter addressed to the Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Ananyan stated: "They are proposing to set a group of specialists that would investigate the archives in Armenia, Turkey and other countries to establish whether a genocide took place. A document like Dr. Hatcherian’s journal that enlists the reader into a day-by-day trip through history makes such undertakings redundant. These are merely efforts of the Turkish authorities to avoid recognizing the Armenian genocide and evade responsibility. Let us pay tribute to survivors like Dr. Hatcherian who left behind their testimonies, a source of incontestable facts, a weapon to fight those who deny the Armenian genocide." Mr. Ananyan also acknowledged the artistic merit of Dr. Hatcherian’s writing by saying: "Some sections of the diary read as a work of art."
Ananyan thanked Dr. Tessa Hofmann, the prominent German historian and academic, expert on the Armenian genocide, a Human Rights activist, and a friend of the Armenian people, for providing an extensive preface that elucidates the historical background of the Smyrna catastrophe and the context in which it developed. He then praised Dora Sakayan for "having erected a monument to her grandfather’s memory by making his journal accessible to the world community and thereby an integral part of survival literature." He also credited her for a book that is not only a tribute of love from a granddaughter to her kin but also a definite contribution to the history of the Armenian genocide."
Ananyan thanked also the director of the Genocide Institute-Museum, Dr. Lavrenti Barseghyan, for publishing the East Armenian and the Russian editions of the journal in such a short time, praising him notably for the publication of a host of survivor testimonials over the last few years. Regretting, however, that this storehouse of solid proof has hardly broken out from the Armenian community, he said, "It is imperative that this great fund of information be translated into other languages and made available to the international community."
Ananyan then asked radio journalist and writer Larissa Gevorkyan to be the moderator and preside over the panel of speakers. The panelists were:
Dr. Tessa Hofmann, Institute for East European Studies, Free University Berlin
Academician Simeon Kerkyasharyan, Professor of History, Yerevan State University (YSU)
Margo Ghukassyan, writer and journalist
Dr. Khoren Balian, Professor of Medieval Musicology and vocalist (YSU)
Dr. Artem Harutiunyan, Professor of Western Literature and poet (YSU)
Dr. Lussineh Sahakyan, Professor of Turkish Studies (YSU)
Dr. Verzhineh Svazlian, philologist, senior researcher, Genocide Institute-Museum, Yerevan
Dr. Dora Sakayan, Professor of German Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (p/r)
Called upon to introduce her guest, Larissa Gevorkyan cited Dora Sakayan’s being up until recently Professor of German Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, but she also proudly recalled that before migrating to the New World in 1975 Dora Sakayan had been at the Yerevan State University — professor starting in 1957 and chair of the Department of Foreign languages from 1966 on. Gevorkyan then added: "Dora Sakayan has authored a great number of scholarly books in applied linguistics and Armenology. However, she confessed to me that nothing has given her as much satisfaction as working on her grandfather’s journal, translating it into various languages and editing it." Gevorkyan also noted that in order to facilitate the fast production of the series, she founded her own publishing company, Arod Books, in Montreal, where so far five of the Smyrna editions have appeared. In closing, Larissa Gevorkian expressed the wish to see one day Dr. Hatcherian’s gripping account become the scenario of a film that would draw the world’s attention on the Smyrna catastrophe, an aftershock of the genocide that in a matter of seven years ethnically cleansed Asia Minor from its entire Armenian population, killing thereby 1.5 million innocent men, women and children.
Larissa Gevorkyan then introduced and gave the floor to Dr. Tessa Hofmann, who said how happy she was to have prefaced these new editions and how much she enjoyed presenting them to the press with Dora. "Dr. Hatcherian’s journal," she added, "is an extremely important eyewitness report, un document humain, as the French call it, a human testimony about the final phase in a decade of genocides. We are talking about the transition period of the Ottoman Empire becoming the Republic of Turkey, a transition from a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state to a monolithic national state. We are talking about five million Christians, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians, who vanished through genocide, expulsion, and assimilation. The final stage of this crime was the burning of Smyrna." Dr. Hofmann then went on to describe the infernal situation, when Smyrna, the once gem city of the Aegean, went up in flames, and its citizens were burned alive or massacred by the thousands, and when the 23 international warships anchored in the harbor did nothing to rescue the endless line of refugees — Armenian and Greek Christians who were caught, in Dr. Hatcherian’s words, ‘between fire, sword and water.’ Dr. Hofmann stated that "the Smyrna catastrophe proves the continuity between the crimes committed by the Ittihadists and the Kemalists, since the crime in Smyrna was perpetrated by the Turkish nationalist regime that followed." She also stated that, based on the UN definition of genocide, the Smyrna massacres constitute a genocide, and that in 1998 the Greek Parliament passed a resolution declaring the 14th of September a day of commemoration of the Asia Minor Genocide. In the last few years, several governors of American states have named certain days of September remembrance days of the Smyrna and Asia Minor Genocides. Dr. Hofmann concluded, saying how grateful she is to Dora for introducing her to this important document and for asking her to write a preface.
Academician Kerkyasharyan began his speech by saying: "I have read the West Armenian original version, and I have read it in one breath. This is a startling book, a book that forces the reader to face his humanity, for Dr. Hatcherian’s idealism, his dedication to his fellow human beings is simply remarkable. While other Smyrna doctors escaped Smyrna’s disaster by leaving at the first signs of the imminent danger, Dr. Hatcherian decided to stay. We see him ready to render medical service, performing operations and assisting in childbirth. After moving his children and his wife to a sheltered residence along the seashore, we see him with a fez on his head, and his military medals pinned on his breast, returning over and over again to the Armenian and Greek quarters, eager to be with the thousands of miserable people huddling wherever they could find refuge. After finally escaping annihilation, we see him, this time in Salonica, helping the refugees from the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s medical headquarters. With humanists like Hatcherian, even genocides prove powerless." He then added: "I highly appreciate Dora Sakayan’s thorough scholarly work, supplying Dr. Hatcherian’s journal with 65 well-founded historical annotations and a bibliography that makes the book a precious instrument in the hands of anybody who seeks truth and justice." Kerkyasharyan also stressed the great importance he attaches to the forthcoming German edition in view of the responsibilities that Turkey’s WWI ally bears for its collusion, as well as the prospect of the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the German Parliament.
The next speaker was the writer and journalist Margo Ghukassyan. "I was in Smyrna in 1980," she said, " and I was fascinated by the city’s natural beauty. Two years ago, I had read the original of Dr. Hatcherian’s journal in West Armenian, and instantly drew parallels between the beautiful scenery I had once seen and the dreadful events at the Smyrna harbor described in the journal 83 years ago. As a writer myself, I was most impressed by Dr. Hatcherian’s powerful expression and elegant style. Without exaggerating, instead rather downplaying his painful experience, he captivates the reader, drawing him in and making him a participant of the events. Recently, I read the book again, and although I knew the outcome, I was as anxious as the first time I read the book to see his salvation from the horrible military barracks and his safe return to his family. With this journal, Dr. Hatcherian definitely establishes himself as a writer in his own right." Mrs. Ghukassian was followed by Khoren Balian, who first spoke about Dora Sakayan’s overall achievements as a scholar. He then added: "It is a catastrophe, when Armenian intellectuals leave their homeland for good. But Dora Sakayan is a happy exception, a blessing in disguise. She left Armenia 30 years ago, taking Armenia with herself, and walking with Armenia around the world, introducing Armenia to many. She also kept coming back to her homeland to renew her experiences and replenish herself, while contributing to Armenian linguistics with a great number of books and articles. She pioneered Armenology at Montreal’s renowned McGill University and throughout Canada. Even though she was a professor in the German Department, she organized Armenological conferences, founded Armenian courses, and wrote Armenological monographs and textbooks. Lately, she has been arriving here every year with a new monograph, or a new conference, or both, presenting them as a gift to Armenia. She is now with us with three more editions of Dr. Hatcherian’s journal: an East Armenian one, that will make it accessible to a broad readership in Armenia and Artsakh, a Russian one for the thousands of readers in the former Soviet republics, and most importantly, a Turkish edition for the open-minded Turks who want to discover the truth about the events that took place in their country between 1915 and 1922. This is a unique book in the body of survivors’ literature." Khoren Balian concluded his impassioned speech, saying: "This book is a true fossil and a precious relic of the genocide, a thorn in the flesh of the Turks who do not have the courage to come to terms with their own history." Since in the Armenian tradition the launching of a book is done with a song, Khoren Balian went on to perform "Karahissar," an Armenian folksong lamenting over the death of a hero who resisted the deportation from Shabin Karahissar.
"There are at times documentary narratives that surpass or at least match the artistic quality of literary works." That was the opening statement of Artem Harutiunyan, the next speaker, who went on to praise Dr. Hatcherian’s literary talents. "In the very first entry of his journal, the author enlists the reader’s interest and triggers his fascination by starting his narrative with the presentation of his peaceful and happy family life, his success story as a medical doctor and his future plans for himself and his loved ones. Alas, sudden dramatic and earth-shaking events drastically destroy the doctor’s life. The reader follows his story with bated breath. Each page of this journal is important because it reflects deep personal feelings, an analytic mind, and a compassionate soul. Compared to the original West Armenian edition, published in 1995, the present East Armenian version (2005) has become a much more substantial publication. Dora Sakayan has done an excellent job in gradually adding new components: an introduction, numerous notes, an epilogue, a chapter describing the reception of the journal, etc. And now we see Dr. Hofmann’s most valuable contribution, her preface translated into Armenian by Dora Sakayan. In its present shape, this book reaches the reader as an integral unit on the Armenian genocide which is a valuable documentary, literary, and historical work all in one."
As an expert in Turkish language, Lusineh Sahakyan concentrated on the Turkish version of the book. She highly praised the publisher, Ragib Zarakolu for courageously accepting to publish such a book in Turkey, and also the translator, Atilla Tuygan, for the fitting quality of his work. "I made some random comparisons," said Sahakyan, "to ascertain the accuracy of the Turkish translation, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tuygan not only had provided the original Armenian text with an excellent rendition, but also expanded the conclusion of Sakayan’s introduction, adding a few more rhetorical questions and rendering her text more convincing and compelling to the Turkish reader." Sahakyan then proceeded to translate into Armenian those additional sentences in the Turkish text and added: "It is known that for many decades Turkish authorities have withheld information on the Armenian genocide from the general public, from history books and from school curricula. No wonder Turkish people are misinformed about the destiny of the Armenian population under Ottoman rule and in Smyrna, and defend the official denialist views of the Modern Turkish government. For any uninformed Turkish citizen, this book is a genuine source of knowledge about the Armenian genocide."
Verzhineh Svazlian, a leading collector of eyewitness accounts of the 1915-1923 Armenian genocide for fifty years, congratulated Dora Sakayan for having presented her grandfather’s book to the world in several languages. She added: "Books on the Armenian genocide have been written in many genres. However, until recently the voice of survivors was seldom heard. Dr. Hatcherian’s journal provides precious insight into the Smyrna disaster from the unique perspective of a survivor. But most importantly, it carries both a historical and a documentary significance because the author puts down his bitter experience himself and immediately, recording day-by-day, hour-by-hour what he sees and feels during this atrocious ordeal. In my view," Dr. Svazlian said, "the 20-page description of his five days in prison is a significant contribution to the annals of history."
In closing the literary event, Dora Sakayan thanked Dr. L. Barseghyan for publishing the East Armenian and the Russian editions and L. Ananyan for organizing the event. She then said: "Today I rejoice, because I repatriated my grandfather. It is as if I brought his ashes to Armenia. He is now with his people, in his homeland, where he will take on a new life, a spiritual one. My grandfather’s journal exists now in nine languages and I consider my mission completed. The most valuable in the series of translations, however, for me is the Turkish one and I say: ‘More power to Mr. Ragib Zarakolu, the brave publisher and journalist, the hero, who stands up against censorship and for freedom of expression in Turkey.’ When the book was distributed in Turkey, Mr. Zarakolu informed me that he was summoned to appear before the general prosecutor. Today’s Turkish authorities dread Dr. Garabed Hatcherian’s journal because it refutes the Turkish apologists’ thesis according to which the steps taken in 1915 against the Armenians were normal precautionary measures in a state of war, reciprocating the aggressive actions of the Armenians siding on Turkey’s eastern border with the Russian enemy. Most importantly, because it shows that Kemal Atatürk, the founder of today’s Turkey, carried out the Young Turks’ program by eliminating the entire Armenian community in and around Smyrna. At the present time, Mr. Zarakolu faces a new trial. We all should support him in his strife to reform Turkish society." Sakayan then talked about her uncle Hovhannes (89) and her aunt Vartuhee (84), Dr. Hatcherian’s two children, both citizens of Argentina, both survivors of the Smyrna catastrophe, who lived to see their father’s work coming home. She then said with emotion: "For us, Armenians around the world, the time for crying and lamenting is over. It is now time to show firm resolve and strength." She was very much impressed by the two-day (April 20-21, 2005) international conference ("Ultimate Crime, Ultimate Challenge – Human Rights and Genocide") dedicated to the commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Yerevan. "It was an unprecedented conference: dignitaries, scholars, human rights activists from 50 countries had come not only to condemn the ultimate crime of genocide, but also to discuss the ultimate challenges of truth, reconciliation and transitional justice. From such a high-level forum, our voices can be heard and many goals can be reached. I congratulate the organizers of this conference, and especially the Zoryan Institute." Those were Dora Sakayan’s closing words. The three new editions – East Armenian, Russian and Turkish – had been successfully launched with well-deserved praise for the author and fervent hope for a positive impact.