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Lori Keurian Alonso

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Lori Keurian Alonso
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 29 March 2016
Interview Settings: Manhasset, NY
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Start of Interview)

0:02
GS: This is Gregory Smaldone with the Binghamton University, Armenian Oral History Project, being worked on through the Special Collection’s Library at Glen G. Bartle Library, Binghamton University, Would you please state your name, age and a little bit about yourself for the record?

0:17
LA: Lori Keurian Alonso. I am fifty-seven years old soon to be fifty-eight. I am a resident of Manhasset, New York. I grew up in Long Island and have essentially been in New York my whole life. I am an attorney by profession.

0:35
GS: Wonderful, were your parents or their parents immigrants to this country?

0:40
LA: My father was born in Turkey, and came here when he was two years old. And my mother was born in this country?

0:49
GS: What about her parents?

0:50
LA: My grandparents, my mother’s parents were both from Sebastia which is known as Sivas in Turkey. So they were both from there and my father’s parents were also born and raised in Turkey.

1:05
GS: Were your mother’s parents fleeing the genocide when they immigrated?

1:09
LA: My mother’s parents definitely were fleeing the genocide and essentially both my grandfather and my grandmother lost virtually every member of their family. And, in fact, my grandmother is my grandfather’s second wife. My grandfather lost his first wife and a two year old infant son in the genocide.

1:30
GS: Can you tell us, and you said you grew up in long Island?
1:34
LA: Yes.

1:35
GS: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Do you remember what your goals and aspirations were?

1:40
LA: Well I mean I grew up in Plainview, Long Island. It was a new community. There were not a lot of Armenians there. In fact I think there was maybe one Armenian family in Plainview. And I had you know my aspirations were to go to college and I was not sure if I wanted to work, own a bookstore, maybe be a nurse, maybe be a teacher, but you know grew up in a very sort of middle class environment in Long Island.

2:09
GS: Okay, you said there were not a lot of Armenians growing up, what was your kinship group mainly? Did you hang up with Armenians, with non-Armenians, or some combination of both?

2:17
LA: So, in my neighborhood my closest friends in my neighborhood were all non-Armenians. My parents started taking me to Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Bayside which is about forty minutes away from where I lived with traffic when I was five years old. So I had a connection to Armenians from Sunday school, but then when I was 12 years old my parents sent me to an Armenian summer camp, sleep away summer camps.

2:46
GS: Camp Nubar I am assuming?

2:48
LA: Camp Nubar, AGBU camp Nubar up in Andes, New York. And from the time I was twelve, through the time I was eighteen I spent my summers up at Camp Nubar developed very, very close Armenian friendships. So I would say growing up although I had my non-Armenian friends in my, you know, immediate neighborhood, I did have a lot of Armenian Friends because of my camp connection.

3:12
GS: Okay, did you attend Armenian day school or Armenian language classes as a child?

3:18
LA: I attended Armenian language classes only for about a year when I was younger. My father was involved with it for a little bit of time and I did go but that stopped. We ended that and I really was just going to Sunday school every Sunday and I graduated from that Sunday school.

3:37
GS: Did your parent speak Armenian?

3:39
LA: My parents understood conversational western Armenian. They spoke it a little bit. They spoke it. They could speak it a little bit and interestingly, I think that my mother’s Armenian got better when she was older because we ended up having some relatives marry into the family who spoke Armenian and you know one relative was Greek. She was Greek Armenian and they could not communicate with her unless they spoke Armenian. So, and she married my uncle. So my mother’s Armenian actually got better when she got older.

4:17
GS: Did you have siblings growing up?

4:19
LA: I have one younger brother.

4:20
GS: Do you think it was important to your parents that you and your brothers speak Armenian growing up and it was an aspiration that never materialized or do you think that it was not something that was overly important.

4:31
LA: I do not think that speaking Armenian was overly important. It was very important for us, my mother and especially my mother wanted us to maintain our Armenian heritage and our Armenian religion but the language part was not as critical to her.

4:51
GS: Okay, you said you attended Sunday school weekly. Can you tell us a little more about that?

4:57
LA: So, the church that I went to, as I said was in Bayside, New York, and it was started, I think in the late fifties. And it was, it was started by you know a group of Armenians in the area and every Sunday we would go to Sunday school and there was a fairly large group of kids being brought there and we were segregated by grade and taught either there was a program, we would taught certain aspects of the religion. There was also some cultural aspects included in there. And you know it was a time really to connect with Armenians each Sunday.

5:40
GS: Where would you say was the main social space for the Armenian community growing up, that you grew up there?

5:45
LA: For me, for me my main social space was my family because my father had two brothers who married Armenian woman. And my mother only had one brother who never got married but, so we were primarily with my father’s family. They all lived within fifteen to twenty minutes of us. And we got together every week, every other week, so I had my Armenian relatives which were a big part of my growing up and also my camp Nubar friends were a big part and when I was not quite as interested in going to Sunday school until I started going to Camp Nubar Because once I started going to Camp Nubar then going to Sunday school became most like a camp reunion. So I got much more interested in the Sunday school after I started going to Camp Nubar.

6:32
GS: What kinds of Armenian Traditions did your parents try and bring in to the household to maintain the heritage?

6:40
LA: Well, first it was taking us to Sunday school, every Sunday. We had some traditions with the holidays, so on Easter my mother would always dye the eggs and we would play the egg-cracking contest and you know my mother was really forceful in to the extent she heard anything about Armenian throughout the world she would talk to us about it and bring it up to us and she told her family’s story often to us so that that was embedded in our memory ironically her father rarely talked about it. So my grandfather who suffered terribly was pretty quiet about by my mother was the voice was telling us what happened.

7:31
GS: Could you share with us a little of her stories?

7:34
LA: So, from my mom’s side Sebastia was where as I said my grandmother and grandfather were from, and that was an area very very hard hit from the genocide. And my grandparents as many ended up having to ̶ they called it the death march. They had to basically walk from Sebastia and ended up walking through the desert which my understanding is that my grandfather’s first wife and baby died somewhere in that and they ended up in Syria. And my grandfather actually met and married, became very close with my grandmother and married my grandmother in Syria. So she was his second wife. My grandmother says we heard a little bit more about my grandmother’s side. And it sounded like my grandmother pretty much lost her parents, her uncles and aunts pretty quickly but that there were six of the siblings on the death march. And in the end three died and three survived. So I think on the death March part the six siblings they lost half of them, but I think they lost everyone else. You know very early on the death march. And my grandfather lost everyone. The only person who survived in my grandfather’s family was his brother who had come to the United States years before.

9:00
GS: Can you tell us a little bit about your parents and what was their level of education, what were their occupations and how did they delegate roles to each other within the household?

9:09
LA: So, my father did not graduate high school. He ended up leaving high school a little early. And he was a printer by trade. You know part of it was that he needed to help support the family. My mother graduated high school in the Bronx but then went immediately to work as a legal secretary and my parents met and married a little later than people did during that time often in my parent’s time people married in their late teens and early twenties. My father actually ended up going into Arizona for seven years to help with his younger brother who was very, very sick with Arthritis. He moved with his brother to San Arizona for seven years to help my uncle got better so when my father came back that was when he met and married my mom so my mom was twenty-six, my dad was thirty-three when they got married. So they were a little bit older than the typical people getting married at that time.

10:18
GS: Okay, what were their roles in the household when you were growing up?

10:21
LA: So my mom was stay-at-home mom till I was about twelve. My father worked. He worked various shifts as a printer sometimes he worked they day shifts, sometimes he worked the night shifts, sometime he worked what we call the lobster shift which is midnight to seven in the morning. So his shifts varied depending on the needs of his company. My mother went back to work when I was twelve. She never worked more than, she worked full time but it was always within a few miles of the house. So she was always at home at five o’clock. You know basically put dinner, made dinner, put dinner on the table and was pretty traditional, a pretty traditional mom for that time.

11:07
GS: Okay, let us move on to as to your family now, can you tell us about your children’s, your husband’s etc.?

11:15
LA: Sure. So, I am married. I married a non-Armenian. I will tell you that I did try to marry an Armenian. It was important to me. And I spent time you know attending various Armenian events etc. to try to find somebody but it did not happen for me. So I ended up I did marry a non-Armenian. My husband was very open from the beginning that he was completely amenable to me raising our kids Armenian. And so, that we got married in an Armenian church. We did have our children, our children were baptized and christened in the Armenian Church. I have a boy and a girl. And I have, I took them to the same church that I grew up in and they attended Sunday school essentially from the time they were eighteen months old until seventeen.

12:04
GS: Did you ever have your children attend Armenian language classes?

12:08
LA: I did not have them attend Armenian language classes. I would have loved to have done that, but the truth of the matter is I really did not speak it and my husband did not speak it. I felt that it was a little, it was going to be difficult to have them go and require them to go when I could not contribute and help them learn it. The other thing was that I felt more comfortable with the Sunday school because that was what I had gone through. And it was very difficult to ask these kids go to school seven days a week. It was just very difficult to do.

12:43
GS: So it was important for you that they speak Armenian but it was not practical?

12:47
LA: I would say yes. I also thought it was a little unfair to me to say it is important to you to speak when I did not speak. I just did not think it was fair.

12:56
GS: Was it important for you to pass on your Armenian heritage to your children?

13:01
LA: It was very, very, very important for me to do that and it is not easy. It has not been easy. Part of the reason I moved to Manhasset was because there are a lot of Armenians in Manhasset. And I thought that would help make it easier and in some ways it made it a little easier because as I said when I grew up I was the only Armenian in my town. Here kids who say they are Armenian, the other kids are not looking at them and think it is a disease, they know what it is and in fact in my kids grade, my kids are now in the twelfth grade, they are graduating class of 2016. There are two hundred seventy-five kids and there is eleven of them are Armenians. So, it is actually a percentage of the graduating class is Armenian.

13:42
GS: That is wonderful. Other than Sunday school what are some ways in which you tried to pass on your Armenian heritage to your children?

13:51
LA: So, I did send them to Camp Nubar also which is the camp that I went to. I cannot tell you that they had the same affinity for it. They like it but, I loved it and it became really a part of my being. So I sent them to Camp Nubar. I also took them to Armenia. So I took them with my husband and another Armenian family. And we went to Armenia two…three years ago for two and half weeks during the summer at which time we did some touring and we did some service with the hope being that it would instill in them a true connection to Armenia even though my family was from Turkey, I feel a complete affinity towards Armenia.

14:41
GS: Okay, let us see ̶ what does, how would you define being Armenian both personally and in a general sense?

14:49
LA: So I consider being Armenian a privilege and a responsibility. I feel like it is something so special that connects me to an incredibly rich ancient past and the responsibility part of it is that I feel responsible to help keep that rich ancient past available and open for the future. So I, and I feel like it is a bit of icing on the cake. You know there is a culture in this country and there is a way of living and a way of thinking and this community and this identity has provided me with feeling a belong ̶ a sense of belonging that I have not felt in any other respect.

15:46
GS: Okay, what are your thoughts on the Armenian Diaspora? Do you feel like it has its own separate identity? Do you feel like it is an aberration of history? Do you think it is a permanent entity?

15:57
LA: The diaspora is something that concerns me a bit. I think that, I felt one way about it maybe forty years ago and a little bit different about it now. I am concerned that the Diaspora is not going to really thrive and survive within the next you know maybe two to four generations. I think that the assimilation is going to really decimate it. And so my view is that for the Armenian people to survive and thrive I think that it is incumbent on every Armenian diaspora to support the country of Armenia.

16:44
GS: Where do you see the Armenian Church’s role in maintaining the Diaspora?

16:48
LA: I think the Armenian Church’s role is important. I think it is very important. I have always considered it our government in exile but I am concerned that the church is not addressing, what I think are really the pressing issues and I am concerned that in the end although I think they really play an important, I am not sure they are going to end up doing what they need to do.

17:21
GS: Could you go back and talk about your parents a little bit, how have they been cared for as they aged?

17:26
LA: So, my ̶ I guess I wanna add one thing. We did not really talk about my father’s side too much and quite frankly he was the one that was born in Turkey. And the only reason I do not talk about him as much is that my grandfather who lived in Turkey actually worked for the Turkish railroad and he was the story in our family is that he was warned a head of time about what was about to happen and that he was able to get his entire family out. So brothers, sisters and his own mother, So my great grandmother, I mean it was unheard of to have somebody in that generation really survive but my grandfather got apparently whole family out without having to do the death march. I think they really ended up probably taking the train to Ankara and then went on to France and, you know, went then to the United States. So, my father’s side did not suffer in the way that my mother’s side suffered. They have to leave the homeland, they have to leave everything behind and they definitely lost some family members but they did not suffer in any way of the same way as my mother’s side who lived in more of the interior. So how are my parents taken care of? My father past away twenty years ago at the age of seventy-six. He died in his home in long Island and he got sick and passed away within six weeks. So there was really not you know my mom was able to take care of him and I was there and my brother all of us were there to care for him. My mother is now ninety years old and she lives on her own. And she lives by herself in an apartment and still drives. And is self-sufficient. So, quite frankly I have not had to take care of her. Yes.

19:19
GS: Would you say her independency is important to her?

19:21
LA: Her independency is critical to her wellbeing.

19:24
GS: Do you think that ̶ why do you think that is?

19:27
LA: Well, I think that she does not have a large family because you know her side most of them were killed and she only had the one brother who never married. She does not have a large family. She does not have a lot of friends, and her independence is what gets her out. So, she feels that if she were not, if she were not able to drive and get out that she would be in her apartment alone and that that would be something she would not wanna do. I do not live that close to her that I can just pop in and out. And my brother does not live anywhere near her. So she would be alone and she does not wanna, you know that is something that something she does not want to deal with.

20:18
GS: How is growing up with your parents altered your perception of traditional gender roles of society today?

20:26
LA: My mother, I would say, I feel like my mother was a really good role model for me. Although she was in some ways a traditional mom early on she did go to work. And so, that is really my recollection is of her working and being in the home. I also know that although I said my mom was a legal secretary from early on. She actually dabbled in several things. She probably would have been a slight rebel in her time, she worked on during the war, during World War II, she ended up working with radio transmitters and was doing that a little bit and you know she actually told me that if she could have she probably would have gotten in the motor cycling and driven out west because she wanted to see what the country was like and so she had a sense of adventure that I thought was fabulous.

21:23
GS: Okay, how do you feel about the way gender roles are structured today in the society?

21:30
LA: I think that, I think that they have changed somewhat for what I considered to be the good. I think that in the traditional Armenian home years ago you know you had the mom at home, the dad working. There was this, you know I think really set roles and that is certainly not in my family. I mean quite frankly in my family I was the major breadwinner. I recently left my job but for the vast majority of my marriage I have been the primary breadwinner. My husband works but I was as an attorney, making more money than he was. And my husband has been really great about sharing the responsibilities of child rearing, of taking care of the home. He worked fifteen minutes from the house I worked an hour and a half away from the house. So, if the kids were sick at school, he went and got them. He was the one who relieved baby sitter at night. So, I think it has changed tremendously.

22:36
GS: How do you feel that Armenian organization? Do you feel that there is a distinction within the Diaspora between Americans of Armenian decent and recently emigrated Armenians from Turkey or Armenia?

22:51
LA: Yes, and I think that part of it and I do not know if I am right or if I am imagining it but I sense that there is a feeling among the Armenians who have recently come from the other side whether it is Turkey or Armenia or the Middle East. I am jealous because they speak Armenian fluently whether it is Eastern or Western Armenian. They speak Armenian fluently. And I have a sense that there is a feeling that if you do not speak Armenian, you do not read Armenian, you do not write Armenian, I have a sense that the American Armenians who do not read, write and speak Armenian are not considered as Armenian as they are. And I think that this is something that is a little bit of a gap.

23:46
GS: What role do you see Armenian organizations in America they are trying to bridge that gap? Do you think they are doing a good job of doing that or do you think they are generally appealing to one or the other group?

24:00
LA: Um, I do not necessarily see them trying to bridge it, I am not sure it is even, I am not sure it is acknowledged. Again, I do not know if this is just my perception. So I am not even sure it is acknowledged. What I sense is that with the Armenian organizations that I am associated with I mean I think that there is you know just a thought ̶ I am not sure if it has been swept under the rug actually. It might be. I am not sure I see it being addressed.

24:31
GS: Okay, well. That is all the question we had, thank you so much for your time. We very much appreciate it.

24:36
LA: Thank you.

(End of Interview)


Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Lori Keurian Alonso
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 29 March 2016
Interview Settings: Manhasset, NY
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Start of Interview)

0:02
GS: This is Gregory Smaldone with the Binghamton University, Armenian Oral History Project, being worked on through the Special Collection’s Library at Glen G. Bartle Library, Binghamton University, Would you please state your name, age and a little bit about yourself for the record?

0:17
LA: Lori Keurian Alonso. I am fifty-seven years old soon to be fifty-eight. I am a resident of Manhasset, New York. I grew up in Long Island and have essentially been in New York my whole life. I am an attorney by profession.

0:35
GS: Wonderful, were your parents or their parents immigrants to this country?

0:40
LA: My father was born in Turkey, and came here when he was two years old. And my mother was born in this country?

0:49
GS: What about her parents?

0:50
LA: My grandparents, my mother’s parents were both from Sebastia which is known as Sivas in Turkey. So they were both from there and my father’s parents were also born and raised in Turkey.

1:05
GS: Were your mother’s parents fleeing the genocide when they immigrated?

1:09
LA: My mother’s parents definitely were fleeing the genocide and essentially both my grandfather and my grandmother lost virtually every member of their family. And, in fact, my grandmother is my grandfather’s second wife. My grandfather lost his first wife and a two year old infant son in the genocide.

1:30
GS: Can you tell us, and you said you grew up in long Island?
1:34
LA: Yes.

1:35
GS: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Do you remember what your goals and aspirations were?

1:40
LA: Well I mean I grew up in Plainview, Long Island. It was a new community. There were not a lot of Armenians there. In fact I think there was maybe one Armenian family in Plainview. And I had you know my aspirations were to go to college and I was not sure if I wanted to work, own a bookstore, maybe be a nurse, maybe be a teacher, but you know grew up in a very sort of middle class environment in Long Island.

2:09
GS: Okay, you said there were not a lot of Armenians growing up, what was your kinship group mainly? Did you hang up with Armenians, with non-Armenians, or some combination of both?

2:17
LA: So, in my neighborhood my closest friends in my neighborhood were all non-Armenians. My parents started taking me to Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Bayside which is about forty minutes away from where I lived with traffic when I was five years old. So I had a connection to Armenians from Sunday school, but then when I was 12 years old my parents sent me to an Armenian summer camp, sleep away summer camps.

2:46
GS: Camp Nubar I am assuming?

2:48
LA: Camp Nubar, AGBU camp Nubar up in Andes, New York. And from the time I was twelve, through the time I was eighteen I spent my summers up at Camp Nubar developed very, very close Armenian friendships. So I would say growing up although I had my non-Armenian friends in my, you know, immediate neighborhood, I did have a lot of Armenian Friends because of my camp connection.

3:12
GS: Okay, did you attend Armenian day school or Armenian language classes as a child?

3:18
LA: I attended Armenian language classes only for about a year when I was younger. My father was involved with it for a little bit of time and I did go but that stopped. We ended that and I really was just going to Sunday school every Sunday and I graduated from that Sunday school.

3:37
GS: Did your parent speak Armenian?

3:39
LA: My parents understood conversational western Armenian. They spoke it a little bit. They spoke it. They could speak it a little bit and interestingly, I think that my mother’s Armenian got better when she was older because we ended up having some relatives marry into the family who spoke Armenian and you know one relative was Greek. She was Greek Armenian and they could not communicate with her unless they spoke Armenian. So, and she married my uncle. So my mother’s Armenian actually got better when she got older.

4:17
GS: Did you have siblings growing up?

4:19
LA: I have one younger brother.

4:20
GS: Do you think it was important to your parents that you and your brothers speak Armenian growing up and it was an aspiration that never materialized or do you think that it was not something that was overly important.

4:31
LA: I do not think that speaking Armenian was overly important. It was very important for us, my mother and especially my mother wanted us to maintain our Armenian heritage and our Armenian religion but the language part was not as critical to her.

4:51
GS: Okay, you said you attended Sunday school weekly. Can you tell us a little more about that?

4:57
LA: So, the church that I went to, as I said was in Bayside, New York, and it was started, I think in the late fifties. And it was, it was started by you know a group of Armenians in the area and every Sunday we would go to Sunday school and there was a fairly large group of kids being brought there and we were segregated by grade and taught either there was a program, we would taught certain aspects of the religion. There was also some cultural aspects included in there. And you know it was a time really to connect with Armenians each Sunday.

5:40
GS: Where would you say was the main social space for the Armenian community growing up, that you grew up there?

5:45
LA: For me, for me my main social space was my family because my father had two brothers who married Armenian woman. And my mother only had one brother who never got married but, so we were primarily with my father’s family. They all lived within fifteen to twenty minutes of us. And we got together every week, every other week, so I had my Armenian relatives which were a big part of my growing up and also my camp Nubar friends were a big part and when I was not quite as interested in going to Sunday school until I started going to Camp Nubar Because once I started going to Camp Nubar then going to Sunday school became most like a camp reunion. So I got much more interested in the Sunday school after I started going to Camp Nubar.

6:32
GS: What kinds of Armenian Traditions did your parents try and bring in to the household to maintain the heritage?

6:40
LA: Well, first it was taking us to Sunday school, every Sunday. We had some traditions with the holidays, so on Easter my mother would always dye the eggs and we would play the egg-cracking contest and you know my mother was really forceful in to the extent she heard anything about Armenian throughout the world she would talk to us about it and bring it up to us and she told her family’s story often to us so that that was embedded in our memory ironically her father rarely talked about it. So my grandfather who suffered terribly was pretty quiet about by my mother was the voice was telling us what happened.

7:31
GS: Could you share with us a little of her stories?

7:34
LA: So, from my mom’s side Sebastia was where as I said my grandmother and grandfather were from, and that was an area very very hard hit from the genocide. And my grandparents as many ended up having to ̶ they called it the death march. They had to basically walk from Sebastia and ended up walking through the desert which my understanding is that my grandfather’s first wife and baby died somewhere in that and they ended up in Syria. And my grandfather actually met and married, became very close with my grandmother and married my grandmother in Syria. So she was his second wife. My grandmother says we heard a little bit more about my grandmother’s side. And it sounded like my grandmother pretty much lost her parents, her uncles and aunts pretty quickly but that there were six of the siblings on the death march. And in the end three died and three survived. So I think on the death March part the six siblings they lost half of them, but I think they lost everyone else. You know very early on the death march. And my grandfather lost everyone. The only person who survived in my grandfather’s family was his brother who had come to the United States years before.

9:00
GS: Can you tell us a little bit about your parents and what was their level of education, what were their occupations and how did they delegate roles to each other within the household?

9:09
LA: So, my father did not graduate high school. He ended up leaving high school a little early. And he was a printer by trade. You know part of it was that he needed to help support the family. My mother graduated high school in the Bronx but then went immediately to work as a legal secretary and my parents met and married a little later than people did during that time often in my parent’s time people married in their late teens and early twenties. My father actually ended up going into Arizona for seven years to help with his younger brother who was very, very sick with Arthritis. He moved with his brother to San Arizona for seven years to help my uncle got better so when my father came back that was when he met and married my mom so my mom was twenty-six, my dad was thirty-three when they got married. So they were a little bit older than the typical people getting married at that time.

10:18
GS: Okay, what were their roles in the household when you were growing up?

10:21
LA: So my mom was stay-at-home mom till I was about twelve. My father worked. He worked various shifts as a printer sometimes he worked they day shifts, sometimes he worked the night shifts, sometime he worked what we call the lobster shift which is midnight to seven in the morning. So his shifts varied depending on the needs of his company. My mother went back to work when I was twelve. She never worked more than, she worked full time but it was always within a few miles of the house. So she was always at home at five o’clock. You know basically put dinner, made dinner, put dinner on the table and was pretty traditional, a pretty traditional mom for that time.

11:07
GS: Okay, let us move on to as to your family now, can you tell us about your children’s, your husband’s etc.?

11:15
LA: Sure. So, I am married. I married a non-Armenian. I will tell you that I did try to marry an Armenian. It was important to me. And I spent time you know attending various Armenian events etc. to try to find somebody but it did not happen for me. So I ended up I did marry a non-Armenian. My husband was very open from the beginning that he was completely amenable to me raising our kids Armenian. And so, that we got married in an Armenian church. We did have our children, our children were baptized and christened in the Armenian Church. I have a boy and a girl. And I have, I took them to the same church that I grew up in and they attended Sunday school essentially from the time they were eighteen months old until seventeen.

12:04
GS: Did you ever have your children attend Armenian language classes?

12:08
LA: I did not have them attend Armenian language classes. I would have loved to have done that, but the truth of the matter is I really did not speak it and my husband did not speak it. I felt that it was a little, it was going to be difficult to have them go and require them to go when I could not contribute and help them learn it. The other thing was that I felt more comfortable with the Sunday school because that was what I had gone through. And it was very difficult to ask these kids go to school seven days a week. It was just very difficult to do.

12:43
GS: So it was important for you that they speak Armenian but it was not practical?

12:47
LA: I would say yes. I also thought it was a little unfair to me to say it is important to you to speak when I did not speak. I just did not think it was fair.

12:56
GS: Was it important for you to pass on your Armenian heritage to your children?

13:01
LA: It was very, very, very important for me to do that and it is not easy. It has not been easy. Part of the reason I moved to Manhasset was because there are a lot of Armenians in Manhasset. And I thought that would help make it easier and in some ways it made it a little easier because as I said when I grew up I was the only Armenian in my town. Here kids who say they are Armenian, the other kids are not looking at them and think it is a disease, they know what it is and in fact in my kids grade, my kids are now in the twelfth grade, they are graduating class of 2016. There are two hundred seventy-five kids and there is eleven of them are Armenians. So, it is actually a percentage of the graduating class is Armenian.

13:42
GS: That is wonderful. Other than Sunday school what are some ways in which you tried to pass on your Armenian heritage to your children?

13:51
LA: So, I did send them to Camp Nubar also which is the camp that I went to. I cannot tell you that they had the same affinity for it. They like it but, I loved it and it became really a part of my being. So I sent them to Camp Nubar. I also took them to Armenia. So I took them with my husband and another Armenian family. And we went to Armenia two…three years ago for two and half weeks during the summer at which time we did some touring and we did some service with the hope being that it would instill in them a true connection to Armenia even though my family was from Turkey, I feel a complete affinity towards Armenia.

14:41
GS: Okay, let us see ̶ what does, how would you define being Armenian both personally and in a general sense?

14:49
LA: So I consider being Armenian a privilege and a responsibility. I feel like it is something so special that connects me to an incredibly rich ancient past and the responsibility part of it is that I feel responsible to help keep that rich ancient past available and open for the future. So I, and I feel like it is a bit of icing on the cake. You know there is a culture in this country and there is a way of living and a way of thinking and this community and this identity has provided me with feeling a belong ̶ a sense of belonging that I have not felt in any other respect.

15:46
GS: Okay, what are your thoughts on the Armenian Diaspora? Do you feel like it has its own separate identity? Do you feel like it is an aberration of history? Do you think it is a permanent entity?

15:57
LA: The diaspora is something that concerns me a bit. I think that, I felt one way about it maybe forty years ago and a little bit different about it now. I am concerned that the Diaspora is not going to really thrive and survive within the next you know maybe two to four generations. I think that the assimilation is going to really decimate it. And so my view is that for the Armenian people to survive and thrive I think that it is incumbent on every Armenian diaspora to support the country of Armenia.

16:44
GS: Where do you see the Armenian Church’s role in maintaining the Diaspora?

16:48
LA: I think the Armenian Church’s role is important. I think it is very important. I have always considered it our government in exile but I am concerned that the church is not addressing, what I think are really the pressing issues and I am concerned that in the end although I think they really play an important, I am not sure they are going to end up doing what they need to do.

17:21
GS: Could you go back and talk about your parents a little bit, how have they been cared for as they aged?

17:26
LA: So, my ̶ I guess I wanna add one thing. We did not really talk about my father’s side too much and quite frankly he was the one that was born in Turkey. And the only reason I do not talk about him as much is that my grandfather who lived in Turkey actually worked for the Turkish railroad and he was the story in our family is that he was warned a head of time about what was about to happen and that he was able to get his entire family out. So brothers, sisters and his own mother, So my great grandmother, I mean it was unheard of to have somebody in that generation really survive but my grandfather got apparently whole family out without having to do the death march. I think they really ended up probably taking the train to Ankara and then went on to France and, you know, went then to the United States. So, my father’s side did not suffer in the way that my mother’s side suffered. They have to leave the homeland, they have to leave everything behind and they definitely lost some family members but they did not suffer in any way of the same way as my mother’s side who lived in more of the interior. So how are my parents taken care of? My father past away twenty years ago at the age of seventy-six. He died in his home in long Island and he got sick and passed away within six weeks. So there was really not you know my mom was able to take care of him and I was there and my brother all of us were there to care for him. My mother is now ninety years old and she lives on her own. And she lives by herself in an apartment and still drives. And is self-sufficient. So, quite frankly I have not had to take care of her. Yes.

19:19
GS: Would you say her independency is important to her?

19:21
LA: Her independency is critical to her wellbeing.

19:24
GS: Do you think that ̶ why do you think that is?

19:27
LA: Well, I think that she does not have a large family because you know her side most of them were killed and she only had the one brother who never married. She does not have a large family. She does not have a lot of friends, and her independence is what gets her out. So, she feels that if she were not, if she were not able to drive and get out that she would be in her apartment alone and that that would be something she would not wanna do. I do not live that close to her that I can just pop in and out. And my brother does not live anywhere near her. So she would be alone and she does not wanna, you know that is something that something she does not want to deal with.

20:18
GS: How is growing up with your parents altered your perception of traditional gender roles of society today?

20:26
LA: My mother, I would say, I feel like my mother was a really good role model for me. Although she was in some ways a traditional mom early on she did go to work. And so, that is really my recollection is of her working and being in the home. I also know that although I said my mom was a legal secretary from early on. She actually dabbled in several things. She probably would have been a slight rebel in her time, she worked on during the war, during World War II, she ended up working with radio transmitters and was doing that a little bit and you know she actually told me that if she could have she probably would have gotten in the motor cycling and driven out west because she wanted to see what the country was like and so she had a sense of adventure that I thought was fabulous.

21:23
GS: Okay, how do you feel about the way gender roles are structured today in the society?

21:30
LA: I think that, I think that they have changed somewhat for what I considered to be the good. I think that in the traditional Armenian home years ago you know you had the mom at home, the dad working. There was this, you know I think really set roles and that is certainly not in my family. I mean quite frankly in my family I was the major breadwinner. I recently left my job but for the vast majority of my marriage I have been the primary breadwinner. My husband works but I was as an attorney, making more money than he was. And my husband has been really great about sharing the responsibilities of child rearing, of taking care of the home. He worked fifteen minutes from the house I worked an hour and a half away from the house. So, if the kids were sick at school, he went and got them. He was the one who relieved baby sitter at night. So, I think it has changed tremendously.

22:36
GS: How do you feel that Armenian organization? Do you feel that there is a distinction within the Diaspora between Americans of Armenian decent and recently emigrated Armenians from Turkey or Armenia?

22:51
LA: Yes, and I think that part of it and I do not know if I am right or if I am imagining it but I sense that there is a feeling among the Armenians who have recently come from the other side whether it is Turkey or Armenia or the Middle East. I am jealous because they speak Armenian fluently whether it is Eastern or Western Armenian. They speak Armenian fluently. And I have a sense that there is a feeling that if you do not speak Armenian, you do not read Armenian, you do not write Armenian, I have a sense that the American Armenians who do not read, write and speak Armenian are not considered as Armenian as they are. And I think that this is something that is a little bit of a gap.

23:46
GS: What role do you see Armenian organizations in America they are trying to bridge that gap? Do you think they are doing a good job of doing that or do you think they are generally appealing to one or the other group?

24:00
LA: Um, I do not necessarily see them trying to bridge it, I am not sure it is even, I am not sure it is acknowledged. Again, I do not know if this is just my perception. So I am not even sure it is acknowledged. What I sense is that with the Armenian organizations that I am associated with I mean I think that there is you know just a thought ̶ I am not sure if it has been swept under the rug actually. It might be. I am not sure I see it being addressed.

24:31
GS: Okay, well. That is all the question we had, thank you so much for your time. We very much appreciate it.

24:36
LA: Thank you.

(End of Interview)




Date of Interview

3/29/2016

Interviewer

Gregory Smaldone

Interviewee

Lori Keurien Alonso

Biographical Text

Lori grew up in Long Island with her younger brother and Armenian parents. As a child, she attended church regularly and spent her summers at Armenian camp, Camp Nubar. Currently, Lori is an attorney by profession in Manhasset, NY, and has two children.

Duration

24:37

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format

Audio

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as Armenian Oral History Project, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries for more information.

Keywords

Turkey; Armenian genocide; church; Camp Nubar; Sunday school; traditions; gender roles; Armenian language school; diaspora

Files

Citation

“Lori Keurian Alonso,” Digital Collections, accessed August 15, 2022, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/613.