Diana Buyukkurt

It was an autumn day in Marash and, like many other Armenian families, the Zapazians went to church to celebrate Holy Mass. Some of them, however, stayed home; they had work to do.
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It was an autumn day in Marash and, like many other Armenian families, the Zapazians went to church to celebrate Holy Mass. Some of them, however, stayed home; they had work to do.

The peace, the family and all of its dreams were shattered in an instant. The Turkish army showed no mercy. When the Zapazians returned, they met death face to face; a white rope surrounded the necks of those who had stayed behind. 

Amid the crying, the horror, the fear and the desperation, they knew they could not remain there – the systematic plan to exterminate Armenians was already underway. They walked quietly down the streets of the neighborhood, trying not to be seen, and took refuge in the Beytel orphanage that had been set up by German evangelical missionaries. Hagop was 11 years old, and his brother was 12. 
That building meant salvation. It sheltered them and so many other children whose childhoods had been ruthlessly stolen. They stayed there many years. “This story has left a mark on me. It deals with identity, with up-rootedness, with such close and violent death in childhood. It is hard to think of a boy who saw all his family hanged,” says Diana Buyukkurt, Hagop’s granddaughter.
In 1927, Hagop reached the cutoff age at the orphanage. That meant the beginning of his exile and separation from his homeland. His brother moved to France, while Hagop took a ship to Argentina in search of a new destiny. 
The suit he was wearing was the only thing he had; all he carried were his hopes and dreams.
Hagop had no identity papers; his proof of nationality were his large, expressive eyes. But that was not going to suffice for the authorities of the new land. Before disembarking on Argentinian soil, he took the ID card of a countryman who did not survive the trip, the young Demirgian. Hagop thus “borrowed” his identity to present to the authorities.
Other Armenians who had fled and were already settled in Buenos Aires helped Hagop and offered him their hospitality. Some years later, he moved to the city of Rosario in the province of Santa Fe. There, he learned the trade of a photographer and worked in parks, taking pictures of children, couples and families. Despite living miles away from his brother, they kept in constant contact by mail. 
For many Armenians who survived the tragedy, it was hard to recount the events. “I remember I once asked my father’s sister how she had lived through it all, and she replied, ‘We never spoke about those things at home.’ They just moved on, carrying the pain on their shoulders, without putting it down in words. What is not put down in words becomes a contagion and is passed on. What is not resolved repeats itself, time and again. This is the way of contagion. This is why, as a society, we need Turkey to recognize the Genocide,” Diana believes.  
Hagop couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, so he taught himself to read and write. After years of working at a shoe factory, he managed to open his own shop in the province of Santa Fe. Argentina meant a new beginning, a land where death was not lurking around every corner and where he could start a family. After some time Hagop met Azniv Vaneskeheian, married her and raised a family of two daughters, Lucía and Susana Demirgian. In 1978, Lucía married Serkis Buyukkurt in Buenos Aires, and they had two daughters: Cynthia and Diana. 
“Today, I am thankful for my grandfather’s courage to move on after such tragedy, to form a family and leave a mark in this world. I am thankful to those who, at all times, whether in Marash, on the ship, in Rosario or in Buenos Aires, helped him integrate and reinvent himself after so much pain. They are the unknown characters of this story; I express to them my deepest gratitude. In this story, my heritage means identity: Armenian identity, diaspora identity, cultural identity. It is knowing that my blood is Armenian, that life’s circumstances caused my birth on Argentine soil, but I also hold all things Armenian as mine, as part of who I am,” Diana concludes.   
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team.
A new beginning in Latin America
Story number: 
Eugenia Akopian
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