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103-Year-Old Survivor Calls for Justice

WORCESTER, Mass.—Heghine Minasian considers her life miraculous on two accounts.

'Obama promised us recognition and delivered us empty words,” she says. “It bothers me and all other Armenians, too. He failed to live up to his promises.'

First, that she survived a horrific genocide in her village of Kharpet. And second, that she’s still alive and kicking at the ripe age of 103.

Heghine doesn’t look upon herself as a poster child of her generation. Nor any great geriatric wonder as the city’s oldest genocide survivor. Instead, she prefers a more subtle role, away from unnecessary fanfare.

She’s content living an independent lifestyle in the comfort of her own home, watching “Jeopardy” every night, doing her knitting and crocheting, and enjoying the love of her family.

Three daughters tend to dote after her, including one next door, along with 8 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

But make no mistake about it. When it comes time to speak her piece about the massacre, Heghine is most opinionated. If President Obama is in the area, this is one person he may want to avoid.

“Obama promised us recognition and delivered us empty words,” she says. “It bothers me and all other Armenians, too. He failed to live up to his promises.”

In the background is daughter Alice Kanaley, who is not surprised by her mother’s actions. She’s heard this before, including publicly two years ago when Heghine was given the keys to the city by the Worcester mayor. A TV station was on hand to document the event and interviewed the woman.

“She handled it like a charm,” the daughter said.

In accepting the honor, Heghine used the moment to remind everyone about her feelings and how Armenians should band together in the name of unity for greater impact.

“Mom’s really feisty when it comes to matters like this,” Alice reminds you. “She’s a true ambassador for our cause.”

Heghine was old enough to remember the Turks invading her city. She doesn’t go into details only to say it was a sad experience. Her mother died when she was eight. Heghine never met her father. He had come to America and was never seen again.Her husband Garabed was more exposed to the brutality of conflict.

The two enjoyed a happy and rewarding life together in France, Canada, and in Worcester for 49 years before his death in 1976. They ran a hair dressing salon in the city and enjoyed giving their clientele a bright new look after they entered.

“Worcester has always been home to the immigrant population,” says Alice. “It’s been a wonderful city to live and work, to practice your heritage, too. Mom’s enjoyed it here.”

Word around town is that nobody made a better choreg than Heghine. Cooking was always a passion and you got to sample her fare at church dinners and other public gatherings.

Twice a week, elder care drops by to check on her. A visit to her apartment unveils a meticulous setting. Except for a blood pressure pill, there’s no other medication.

“Jeopardy” is not the only daily ritual she cultivates. Her Bible also gets a workout. Heghine is a woman steeped in faith.

“God must be keeping me for a reason,” she notes. “I’m blessed in many ways and wish the same for others like myself.”

On occasion, Alice will take her mother to Avak lunches at the church. She’ll play cards, relish the hospitality of others, and pass along her wisdom regally.

“My mother is my pillar of strength,” notes Alice. “Mentally, she’s 90 percent with it. Except for her knees, she’s the perfect picture of health. When I’m with her, it keeps me going. She’s an inspiration.”

Much of it has to do with her lifestyle. She never drove and refrained from tobacco. Except for a sociable glass of wine, alcohol was never consumed. Another hobby hasn’t lost its zest: She still reads books and periodicals.

The fact both mother and daughter communicate in Armenian and not English keeps the language alive in their home. It’s been an Armenian family that hasn’t lost its spirit.

“She wanted us to live the dream,” says the daughter.

To what does Heghine attribute her longevity? She doesn’t give it a second thought.

“You must have faith in God,” she answers. “Miracles are keeping me alive. You have to believe in miracles.”

As the 100th anniversary rolls around in three years, Heghine may not live to see 106. But she offers this message to those who will.

“Stick together,” she says with conviction. “Remain strong and fight for recognition. Above all, keep our culture and history alive by practicing it every day.”

14 Comments on 103-Year-Old Survivor Calls for Justice

  1. avatar Sylva-MD-Poetry // April 10, 2012 at 8:18 am // Reply

    Thanks Vartabed
    This should been done long time ago
    Where is Heghine’s photo…

    My beloved
    No longer wants to hear about word genocide
    Our dawn starts with genocide…
    And continues till dusk shines to rest…
    Nighting can’t stay deprived of that defined gene…
    Dream after dreams…
    We don’t have loughs
    We don’t have life
    Every Armenian song I hear …
    I can feel there …
    There was a genocide..
    I can see pains in every eye in every dear…

    Genocide word is a part of my bread…
    When I am hungry …
    I say oh, My god How my Race starved on Der-Zor land…

    Every thing I touch my pen cries and signs there
    “It was genocide”
    My mother’s family watched in and stepped…
    My mother every morning said
    what Heghine now says after decades…
    ” I’m lucky to be alive”……………!
    Alive …I am lucky as well to be born in life
    from a Mother who seen genocide…
    I’m lucky that I can pen
    About our unrecognized tragedies…
    Shame on many souless lawyers…politician…populace…..
    Who define them selves…as Christians”

    Written Instantly
    Sylva

  2. avatar john the turk // April 10, 2012 at 9:22 am // Reply

    “She remembers Turks invading her city”

    Seriously, what kind of world are you living in?

    • Hey Turk, do you know there are over 40,000 pages in our own USA archives on the systematic Armenian race extermination all written in real time as it was happening? Are you in utter denial or just can’t read? Which is it?

    • We’re living in a world where there are still eye witnesses! She’s probably one of the last but she’s not the only one whose story is recorded. Everybody knows the truth about what happened to the Armenians.. we know it, the world knows it and YOU know it! It’s just a matter of time till Turkey loses its political advantage and justice is served.

  3. avatar gaytzag palandjian // April 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm // Reply

    Կարդացեք մամիկին ….եւ փորձեցեք հասկնալ ուր կը գտնւի հարցին պատասխանը…
    Ելերենք -դեռեւս-կը փորցենք թուրքին խոսք հասկցնել: Թուրքը միմիայն Ույժէ կը հասկնայ եկած պատկամ/խօսք: Ըսել է ինչպէս ինձի պատգամեց տարեց ընկերս,Փարիզ-այն նոյն մարդը զոր Զորավար Բաղրամեանին կը ընդունիր(ինք Նախկին Հայ Ռազմիկներու Նախագահն էր Ֆրանսայ…պատվական Գեւորք Պաքրճեան, ըսեց(թուրքին ղաֆային էթէ չի զարնես,խոսք չի հասկնայ):
    Անշուշտ ՄԵՆՔ ՉԷ որ այդ կրնանք ընել……..ան շատ հզորւեցաւ Դաշնակիրներէ,բայց ինչպէս ՄԱՄԻԿ կըսէ….եւ այդ կը ակնկալէ…..ԿԱՅ ՈՒՐԻՇԸ զոր այդ պիտի ըներ ԵՒ ԴԷՌ ԿՐՆԱՅ Ը Ն Ե Լ …..Ապրիլ 24 մօտ է:
    Շատ նեղութեամբ Հայ տառերով կը գրեմ.այս 81 տարիքիս նոր սորվեգայ….
    Յ Ա Ռ Ա Ջ ԵՐԻՏԱՍԱՐԴՆԵՐՍ…………

  4. Dear Heghine,
    Our Lord Jesus Christ blessed you with your Patriarchal Family.
    I am asking the LORD to continue His Blessings to you and to your Dear Patriarchal Family.
    The Turks they are denying the Armenian Genocide because they are ashamed that their ancestors did such atrocities.
    With love and respect
    Bedros Zerdelian

    “JUSTICE NEVER DIES
    GET SICK BUT THAN RECOVERS” Baruyr Sevag

    • avatar Sylva-MD-Poetry // April 11, 2012 at 1:54 am //

      Dear Mr. Bedros,

      Can you answer why some lived …
      Why some killed
      Why Jesus did not save all…
      All were innocents …
      Working hard
      Building minarets for Ottoman empire …
      For them to call their criminal god and
      Who allowed them to slay Us
      Thus, Where was our Jesus
      and where was our innocent God…!

      Thanks
      SP

  5. avatar Rose-Marie Bogosian Krikorian // April 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm // Reply

    I remember Heghine and Garabed when I was growing up in Worcester. I was at their home often and enjoyed their loving hospitality. Their daughter Alice was a very good friend of mine.

  6. avatar Alice Kanaley // April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm // Reply

    Thank you so very much for printing this wonderful interview you had with my Mother.Beautifully done.

    Alice

  7. President Obama,
    April 24, 2012 is your last chance to keep your promises to Armenians of the world.

    Properly recognize The Armenian Genocide or forget about the second term.

  8. The best part of this story is that these genocidal racist criminals decided to eradicate the Armenians from the face of this earth, yet here we are today almost 100 years later and this women not only is alive but remembers well the facts to tell about it and has children that continue their fight for justice..

  9. avatar Bedros Zerdelian // April 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm // Reply

    Dear Sylva,
    Those who dyed for Jesus is never in vain. They are in heaven.
    We do our part as Christians and GOD is going to do His part.
    We won ARTSAKH war because we came to our knees and ask the Almighty to guide us and we put the sign of the CROSS on our bodies and the tanks.
    2 Chronicles Chapter 7: 14
    If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
    Do your best and God will bless the rest.
    My mom Vartouhi Garabedian Zerdelian was raised in orphanage.
    I am asking the LORD to Bless you and your Dear family.
    Jesus said: “Ask for it and you will receive”.
    With love,
    Bedros Zerdelian
    beezee57@hotmail.com

    • OK no offense to your faith or anything, but we won the Artsakh war because we had soldiers brave and patriotic enough to fight and die for our country. It had absolutely nothing to do with “putting the cross on the tanks”.
      If God was listening, he would’ve heard the prayers of all those who were being raped, beaten and starved to death during the genocide.

  10. Dear Tom, Yet another good article by yourself and I thank you.

    It was a heartwrenching, but all truthful poem you wrote about our sad faith dear Sylva and how we were betrayed, butchered and then murdered as a race by the Turkish gov’t of 1915.

    WHY? Because we didn’t have a king to rule over and protect us. Why? Because we were Christians by faith and not Muslims.

    WHY? Because the Turkish goverment wanted our 5,000 year old lands that belonged to us from long long ago.

    WHY? Because we were builders, intelligent merchants, farmers, engineers, educators, doctors, lawyers, storekeepers, architects who built them minarehs as well as our hundreds of Churches and Monasteries.

    WHY? Because they wanted our houses, our buildings, our crops, our stores, our bank accounts and our soil under our feet, but without the Armenians.

    THAT’S WHY.

    For 97 long years the Turkish government denies such a Genocide ever happened. They pay zillions of dollars around the world to almost every country in the world so that their goverments do their DIRTY JOB of denial. To deny that a Genocide of such magnitude to the Armenians ever happened. And but who can believe them? The world knows it already. They know how and why it happened. Most governments of the world are just intimidated by the Turkish sword, that is called “yataghan”. It is high time goverments of the world to free yourselves from the bondages of intimidation and fright, and accept the Armenian Genocide, because it did happen and we are here to attest the veracity of such atrocities time and time again. To this date, 22 nations accepted the Armenian Genocide already. It is high time for the United States and England to accept it and stand by us, the murdered innocent nation. In all these years we have been patiently waiting for you. How much more do we have to wait? The time to accept the Armenian Genocide is not tomorrow, but right now!!!!

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