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Interview with Armine Aksay

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Armine Aksay
Interviewed by: Jacqueline Kachadourian
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 11 June 2017
Interview Setting: Binghamton

(Start of Interview)

JK: Okay this is Jackie Kachadourian with Binghamton University’s Special Collection Library, Armenian Oral History Project. Today is June 11, 2017. Can you please state your name for the record?

AA: Armine Aksay.

JK: And where were you born?

AA: In Istanbul, Turkey.

JK: And who are your parents?

AA: Uh, my father’s name is Harutyun Gümüşyan and my mother’s is Filor Gülep.

JK: And where are they from?

AA: Uh, they are from, uh, my father was born in Istanbul, and my mother, uh, oh no–eh, they–no they were–my father was born in Yozgat and my mother was born in Sivas–Sebastia was the old name, yeah.

JK: And, uh, were they Armenian? Both Armenian.

AA: Both Armenian.

JK: And did they live in, uh, Istanbul in, uh, for the majority of their time before coming to the United States, or?

AA: Um, my mother lived in Istanbul until, uh, 1994 and my father passed away in Istanbul, uh, in 90– I believe 1993. Um, so they were in there until that time.

JK: And, um being from– being Armenian and living in Istanbul, what was that like?

AA: Um, being Armenian in Istanbul, uh, is like um, the same like whoever, you know, is living in there but except we were Christians and, uh, the rest of the, uh, people were Muslims and, um, well I went to Armenian school, uh, in Istanbul. I was graduated from Armenian, uh, high school so we have churches, uh, schools, and, um, a lot of community activities still in Istanbul. Yeah.

JK: And, um, during– did they– did your family ever have any, um, stories about the Armenian genocide, or did they experience coming from Armenia or going to Istanbul or?

AA: Okay my grandparents, uh, had the experience so they had to move, uh, after the genocide, 1915 Armenian genocide, they have to they had to move from um different cities uh to Istanbul, uh. My grandmother from she was not from Sebastia but she was from Erzincan, Erzincan. And she moved to Sebastia after the genocide with her two-year-old daughter, um, because they– she had a husband and, um, parents and relatives and they all perished and she was the only one from her family. And, uh, she, she, she was– she escaped basically from Erzincan to Sebastia there he found, they found each other with my grandfather and my grandfather in Sebastia his name was Abraham Mosikyan. Um, he had a wife and a son so he was in military service at that time during the genocide and when he came back he could not find his wife and son and, um, after years–oh I do not know how many years, he found his son only in Lebanon. Uh, somehow he–the, um, you know, I guess he was exiled to the desert and then after that, um, they, he survived and he wa– he lived in Lebanon and he was married at that time and when my grandfather found him and, um, so my grandma and my grandfather got married, uh, in Sebastia and after that they had, um, eight more children, um, and when their children grew up, uh they came to, um, Istanbul. My grandma came to Istanbul. My grandfather had passed away, uh, in Sebastia. And my father’s side also um my grandfather, Ardaşes Gümüşyan was deported to uh Syria– exiled to Syrian Desert. There, and he was engaged to my grandma at that time and uh after four years living in tents, uh, tents he was able to come back and they got married. And later on, I think 1950s he came to Istanbul. Yeah, they moved because they were not comfortable still in, uh, the, you know, the cities that they were living so they moved.

JK: Wow. So, both your–on you mom’s side, their–her parents and your dad’s side they–genocide.

AA: They experienced ̶ they had the– yeah genocide.

JK: –And with that, did they– so they experienced people who did not survive and they–did they have to go through the, um, desert walk?

AA: Yes. They had, uh, my yeah, my grandfather was–at the Ardaşes Gümüşyan, he, uh, I know that he had some experience of– and they were walking in the desert, uh, but before they reached the desert, they were going to kill them all. But my, uh, another Turkish officer came, um, and then he said just leave them, leave them alone or something like that so that is how he, he got survived and then he was in the desert right after that but otherwise he was not, uh, he was not going to be, you know, in the desert even–yeah, he was not.

JK: That’s crazy. So, through each of the like each village that uh people lived in they would come and get them and then–

AA: Yeah, they were, they were what I was told that they were getting old men over I think twelve years old or something like that and the– taking them somewhere and then, uh, no news. You know, they would, either they got killed or they were exiled or deported or something happened and then the women and children, uh, also they did not know what to do so they had to escape if they had the chance, you know, they find the opportunity to, uh, escape but yeah. That is all I know. Yeah.

JK: That is crazy. Did– do you know if they were told in advance the villages like from other people that the Ottoman Empire was coming to take them away, or probably not?

AA: I do not believe so, they, they did not know anything.

JK: So, they did not know–

AA: They did not know anything about that just because all of the sudden the soldiers appeared, uh, and then, uh, you know, they did not know what was going on and– eh– so they had to leave.

JK: And how did your, um, grandfather on your, uh, I believe it was your mom’s side, uh, find his son?

AA: Oh, he was, uh, well he was looking, uh, everywhere and, um, and then he was– whoever was coming from other villages or cities he was paying them so if they have any news from them. He was giving gold coins or something like that at that time and then, then finally, he found, uh, in Lebanon I do not know how that happened but it was just, uh, yeah and–and he was married and he had a son. His name was Mardiros and he had a son we– which he named his son his father’s name, Abraham. So– and they were very happy to find each other, yeah, after so many years, yeah.

JK: Wow and um when your grandparents on both sides had to leave their villages to uh be exiled do you remember how old they were or?

AA: Oh Uh, my, yeah, I think my because they were getting married early at that time I believe my grandmother my mother’s side uh from Erzincan eh she was seventeen because she had a two-two year old daughter already and uh my father’s side uh my grandma was engaged and I think she was in her eight–like eighteen and then when they got married she was twenty-two, something like that. Yeah, yeah.

JK: That’s interesting. And um so they were exiled and they eventually most of them got–went to Istanbul?

AA: After the Second World War they were able to come to Istanbul. Yeah not the First World War. They– we were still there, you know, in the town, they came back and but they did not have anything– all their- the properties the house our businesses, everything was gone so they had to you know they had to be on rent or you know they did not have anything when they came back everything was taken. And, uh, um, then they could not move until, until after Second World War they came to Istanbul. Because I guess it was not still safe for them and to be in the village or another city so Istanbul– because in Istanbul there was a lot of other people like the Greeks or you know French, Greek or uh Jewish a lot of other people were living. So, it was more safer and we had also another reason probably we had Armenian schools in there and churches in Istanbul so otherwise I would not be able to speak Armenian you know yeah I would not know.

JK: Interesting. So, after they were exiled they came back to their villages and then they–

AA: Their villages and then they moved after. Yeah, yeah.

JK: Because usually a lot of people that I have interviewed they did not–

AA: They did not–

JK: Yeah come back.

AA: Yeah, they did not come back. They could not probably that is why they did not survive and you know or they, they were in another country so they– it was hard for them to move back. Yeah.

JK: Of course. And have you ever visited the villages that your grandparents–

AA: No, I never had the chance to–

JK: Would you be interested if you did–

AA: I would, yeah, I would go, oh yeah. Yeah, I have a– from my grandfather I have a, uh deed, I, I still saved and it is in Ottoman handwriting and with the, um, with the stamp I think Ottoman Empire stamp and, uh, I sent to Michigan University. There was a professor in there and then, uh, he, he was able to translate the Ottoman Turkish to English. He was a professor, this was couple years ago and then, uh, I found out that, uh, that two of them– one of them was the, uh, the paper that he did the military service– he completed, and the other one was a deed for a property, for a land and a– and a store in Yozgat, I still have it. And I guess he had it but them after the genocide that deed was not good anymore so he could not you know he could not take it. It was–

JK: It is crazy that he kept it still.

AA: [laughs] Yeah.

JK: So, um, when they had to be exiled from the villages, they– did they have like stuff that they could bring or not–

AA: They could not– no– they could not take anything. Yeah, yeah.

JK: So, they had–

AA: They had to leave everything. Yeah, yeah. Because government did not let them to take anything, yeah. Yeah.

JK: And did your grandparents speak both Armenian and Turkey? Because–

AA: Armenian and Turkish, yes. Yeah. Because we had Armenian schools in there before, you know, before the genocide, yeah.

JK: And, uh, when, uh, your parents lived in Istanbul, did they speak Armenian? Both of them speak Armenian and Turkish?

AA: Yes, both, yeah.

JK: And, which one was more preferred in your household? Like let us say you are at home or, uh, with you and your family would you guys speak Turkish or Armenian?

AA: Well, I– because I went to the– I went to Armenian school I sp– I spoke Armenian and my mother always, uh, she was speaking Armenian to us and, uh, and my grandma– grandmothers also. Yeah but both– we were– because we lived in Turkey and in home sometimes we speak Turkish, too. Yeah, yeah.

JK: So– and you guys went to an Armenian Church in Istanbul growing up?

AA: Yes, yeah. I grew up– yeah, I was in the church and I was in the school, yeah.

JK: That is nice. And did you have any siblings growing up? Um, in your household.

AA: I have a brother, yeah.

JK: And what’s his name?

AA: Arman.

JK: Arman. And he went to Armenian school?

AA: Yes, he went to Armenian school also.

JK: And, um, uh, growing up in Istanbul, and you had Armenian friends because you went to Armenian school.

AA: Armenian school, yeah. And I, I had Ar– Turkish friends also from– yeah from the neighborhood or you know wherever we were.

JK: But they did not go to Armenian School, right?

AA: No, no, no. Yeah.

JK: So, it was both. And they– that is nice.

AA: Yeah, in, in Armenian school, we had also Turkish classes like, uh, history and Turkish language classes and, you know, you were learning both. Both languages, yeah, yeah that was like.

JK: Oh, that is nice, yeah. So, a mixture.

AA: Yeah.

JK: And, um, did– were there any traditions that your, uh, family maintained in the household in Istanbul that resembled Armenian culture?

AA: Uh, Armenian, Armenian culture, we like New Years’, um, Eve, New, New Years’ Day, uh, we were making Noah’s pudding. My mother always made that– uh, that is the tradition. Uh, because it– we make a lot of different things, raisins and apricots and stuff like that so that, that was a tradition. And we were always going to Church, uh, holidays like Easter, Christmas, and, um, the Virgin Mary’s Assumption in August. Uh, like major holidays, uh, first to the church and then after that we– my father was taking us to, uh, relatives but whoever is older first and then visiting them. And, um, well we were getting Easter we– they were giving us what– we had the dinner and then they were giving us colored eggs, you know candies or cakes. Chocolate, something like that and that is, that is a tradition. After the church we always go to, uh, relatives’ homes and, you know, yeah.

JK: That is nice.

AA: Yeah.

JK: And, um, did you celebrate– I am assuming Armenian Christmas–?

AA: Armenian Christmas on January 6th and, uh, the Easter– April. Yeah.

JK: And, um, when did you come to America and moved here?

AA: 1990, uh, yeah September of 1990, I moved here.

JK: And may I ask what was the reason, or–

AA: I got married.

JK: Oh, you were– yeah, yeah.

AA: Yeah.

JK: And, um, uh, your husband– was he Armenian?

AA: He was, uh, from Istanbul– same, uh, Armenian, yeah. But he was here earlier, like ten years before, uh, I moved here– he came, yeah.

JK: And, um, moving from Istanbul, which is heavily Armenian and Turkish, um, traditions and coming to America was it different to see the– see the differences–

AA: Cultures difference, yes, there is a culture difference. And, uh, here, like in the beginning of course it was difficult to learn the language and, it–and, um, all different cultures in here– mixed cultures and, um, but, uh, well first I came to Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah. Five years I was living in Utah and that was different– we did not– we had Armenians in there. They, uh, they were from Lebanon, uh, after the Lebanon War, I think, I believe 1970s, they moved, uh, here. And then, uh, but like, um, I believe there was like thirteen or fourteen families that was all, in, in Utah. And there was no Armenian Church so there was a Greek Church whenever we had weddings or baptism or Sunday mass, once in a while, we were, we were, uh, in Greek Church.

JK: And then you came to Binghamton?

AA: I came– no– I moved– from there I moved to New Jersey and I worked in the city, New York City. Twelve years I lived in there and then, then we moved here, uh, 2008, uh, May 2008 because two years before that I– we bought the, the property, this place. I was thinking maybe this, this will be, uh, retirement place for us. Once in a while we were coming and, you know, staying couple of days and then after that, um, we decided to move. Yeah, and it was good for my daughter’s education because, uh, high school was better in here and also the college, you know, uh, yeah.

JK: And did you only have one daughter?

AA: One daughter.

JK: And what is her name?

AA: Christie.

JK: And, uh, does she speak Armenian as well?

AA: She speaks fluent Armenian and Turkish also.

JK: Oh, very nice. And, um, so moving to all these, uh different places in America, which one was the most heavily, heavily, uh, Armenian culture, uh–

AA: Istanbul will be that.

JK: Oh yeah.

AA: Yeah, we had all kinds of, uh, Armenian, um, well we had the big Armenian community–fifty thousand Armenians in there and then we had a lot of activities like choirs or schools churches open, uh, thirty-three churches. Uh, not all of them open all the time but, uh, special days we were there– we were in churches that we– there was no community. So, we had– you feel more Armenian when you are in Istanbul. But in here far– we are far from each other we do not, we do not live close by. That is why I do not feel the same, you know, the same thing.

JK: In, um, Istanbul, did you– was– since there was a lot of mixtures of culture was– did you ever see like, um, differences like people did not like certain cultures or not? Or did you see everyone mixed together well–

AA: Every– well, I– everyone, uh, was mixed together well and we– all neighbors, you know, our neighborhood we had Greeks, we had Jewish we had Turkish and all kinds of people but we, we did not see any difference. Except, uh, except the, uh, the religion.

JK: Oh yeah.

AA: You know, other than that we were like the same, you know?

JK: Same food–

AA: Same food, same– everything, the culture same and, you know, uh, yeah, we, we were okay, you know. Except, uh, during the religion but they were, you know, they– once in a while, my father had friends– they were Muslims and then once in a while we went to the Mosque, uh, when they invited us.

JK: Oh wow.

AA: But yeah, and then sometimes they were coming to our church, too.

JK: Oh, that is nice.

AA: Yeah, for special days, yeah. So, we did not, I did not see any problems when I was living there.

JK: That is good. And, um, what kind of foods did you experience living in Istanbul, like traditional Armenian food or Turkish, or Greek?

AA: Oh well I can say Istanbul– because Greeks used Byzantium– it used to Byzantium and Greeks were living in there we had Greek culture and then mostly Greek foods I saw. From my grandmothers, uh also Eastern Turkey, so we had the Armenian food, uh, exposed to Armenian food too so sometimes we were cooking that sometimes the Greek. Um, there’s little differences. We had, uh, I cannot say but we have in, uh, in our culture we have more meat and then the Greek more vegetables. Yeah, so it is just a mix of everything we were cooking, yeah.

JK: That is really nice. And, um, in New Jersey, uh, in America did– was there a big Armenian culture?

AA: Yes, there was a lot of churches and a lot of Armenians in there. Um, as well as in the city, New York City. So, um, I had my aunt– I have an aunt in Rego Parks, Queens and another aunt and an uncle in New Jersey. And relatives were there and a lot of Armenians, yeah, living in there, yeah.

JK: That is nice. And, um, how– what would you consider yourself as, um, a person– how would define it? Like are you Armenian, American or Turkey-Armenian, or, what would you say?

AA: I think I am– oh, well I feel like I am more like Armenian, uh, because I speak Armenian in home, the food I eat–sometimes I cook American or Italian but, uh, I still have an accent, you know. [laughs] I cannot get rid of that, um, and I do not feel like really, I am an American yet, since I am living here long time like since 1990, twenty-seven years. Um, I feel like I am more like Armenian but we have the Turkish culture also we carry that with us. That is another thing, yeah, so just, uh, quarter, uh, American and quarter I can say Turkish and then half is Armenian. [laughs] 50 percent Armenian, yeah, yeah.

JK: That is nice- And was it important for your family to, um, teach about the Armenian cultures and traditions as opposed, let us say living here in America and teaching your daughter– raising her– was it important to teach those Armenian traditions rather than American, or–

AA: When I came here?

JK: Hmm.

AA: Yeah, well, uh, yes. If you think about how I was trying to teach, um, my daughter, I remember that I put her, I registered her to Armenian schools so she learns Armenian. Saturday school. Um, so I tried to teach her the language and the songs that I know, you know, so we do not lose, lose our cultures, that is, that is main thing that we have to– yeah, yeah.

JK: And, um, so you are saying you sent her to Armenian Saturday school?

AA: Saturday school, yes.

JK: And so, for normal school she would go to like a normal American–

AA: Normal American, yeah. I– she was in Catholic school until, uh, middle school, uh, elementary. And then after that she was in public, uh, you know the middle school and the high school. But, uh, she, she, she was speaking Armenian in home when she was little but she did not have any problems learning English when she started to school because, because of the TV probably, she was exposed to– she was watching everything and then yeah, she was, uh, she learned very fast.

JK: Oh wow, that is funny.

AA: Yeah.

JK: And, um, do you still, uh, try to maintain the Armenian tradition now today, since she is old– I am assuming she is much older now and, uh, going to like Armenian church or celebrating Armenian–

AA: Sometimes she comes, when she is not busy she, she lives, uh, on her own in a different apartment. Bu, uh, if I ask her, uh, there is an event or something that she wants to help me, or, you know, she will, she will come. And because she was– I sing in the church, uh, because she was always in Sunday school and in church, she remembers the mass– uh, the Armenian mass. So, she can sing with me also she tries to help me and she, she has a lot of Armenian friends also from New Jersey, from school, yeah.

JK: That is nice. So, growing up in New Jersey, she– even though she went to Catholic school and, uh, then public high school later on, did– were there Armenian students in either of those schools or was it through Saturday school?

AA: Only Saturday school, yeah, she had Armenian friends.

JK: So, she had a mixture of American friends–

AA: American and, uh, yeah and Armenian.

JK: That is nice and, um, how would you define being Armenian, or what is the most important part of the Armenian identity that you are–

AA: Hmm. Armenian identity, um, is the language. I think we should speak the Armenian language in home. That is very important– that is how keeps us– and also at the, the church, I believe. You know, um, that is how we, um, we learn all the, uh, things that we we never, uh, learned in, uh, Turkey, in Istanbul, in schools. Some of the things– for example we did not have Armenian history in, in–even I was in Armenian school, Armenian high school; they did not teach us Armenian history. Yeah. So, when I came here, I searched and I found a lot of– we had the Kings and Queens or the, the wars with the Persians or whatever. I, I never knew that, so, yeah.

JK: And, so, um, going back to Istanbul and take, uh, going to Armenians who are there, did they, they taught everything in Armenian I assume–?

AA: Everything in Armenian except, uh, Turkish language and, uh, Turkish, uh, history.

JK: So what kind of– so would you just have like Armenian language classes and then like normal other subjects?

AA: Oh no, we had– everything was Armenian because we had Armenian teachers so biology, chemistry, math, all Armenian. Um, all, all– the principal was Armenian and everything except couple of, uh, classes that we had Turkish–that has to be Turkish.

JK: And would that be taught by the Turkish people?

AA: Turkish, yes. Yes, Turkish.

JK: Interesting, and um do you think the Armenian community here in, uh, Binghamton is going, uh, keep, uh, the Armenian identity strong or do you think we are losing our–

AA: I do not think we’re losing but the, the problem is young generation, uh, find– they find jobs in elsewhere in different cities so they move. But then new people are moving here, uh, and then we have young– with their young kids and, uh, like that is so– I think once in a while we are losing little bit the community and then after that, uh, we still have. But I think we should continue the church has to continue, first of all, and the language classes we have to have so we do not forget, you know. Our culture has to continue–yeah, grow, yeah.

JK: And, um, and, um, let us see. So, going back to the Armenian, um, community here in Binghamton, do you think it would be, um, nice to have a Sunday school because I know we do not have one or like a Armenian language school?

AA: We should have the Armenian language and Sunday school also, yeah, we need that, yeah.

JK: To help them– to help keep our, um, identity.

AA: Yes.

JK: And, um, would you ever– have you ever went, uh, been back to Istanbul?

AA: Once, uh, after I came here in 1997, I was able to stay there for two weeks because I was working in here so I could not stay longer. And after that I did not– I could not.

JK: Do you want to go back if you can?

AA: I would like– yeah, if I had the chance I would like to go but I– the reason is I have to work always and then I do not have a long period of, you know, vacation time, that’s the– that’s the reason.

JK: And, going back to, um, growing up in Istanbul when you were younger, did you– what were your parents’ roles in the household? Like–

AA: My mother was home– she was a homemaker but she was a tailor also–a woman’s tailor. So sometimes she was making dresses or suits for other ladies but she was always home cooking for us and, you know, I was helping her clean. And my father was working all the time and then providing everything– all the school expenses that we had or, uh, the, you know, all other expenses he was, uh, yeah, he was working.

JK: And, um, what were the circumstances, um, so the main circumstances that, um, made your ancestors or your, uh, grandparents leave, um, the villages was the genocide–

AA: Yes, main reason was the genocide because they were not comfortable in there. Oh, one thing I, I just remembered–my father–my grandfather, uh, um, changed my father’s first name to a Turkish name just because they were, um, he was in school and the other kids were bothering him. And he– they– sometimes they were, you know, throwing stones and stuff like that, uh, because he is Armenian and he, he changed– his name was Harutyun, my father’s name, and then he had to change it to Atik ,which Atik is a Turkish name so they do not bother him anymore. And then, before that also, after the genocide, there was a–the government ordered, uh, to change the last names because we have last names ends with I-A-N so the–our last name was Gümüşyan and he changed it to Gümüşok. Uh, that– so it is close to Turkish– the ending is not I-A-N. So, they were comfortable. But until that time, after second World War, I guess still they were not, you know, they were bothered in there, they had to move to Istanbul to change the place, so, yeah. That is, that is the–

JK: The government had made people–

AA: Made all Armenians change their last name.

JK: Wow.

AA: Yeah. So, whatever they remembered, uh, any, any kind of last name Turkish, they changed it and, yeah, so, um, so no one knows that they are, you know, they are Armenian. But we were still going to the church or, um, continue the culture and everything but– outside, you know, they were not speaking Armenian when they were out, out of home. Yeah, so, that is the–

JK: Did they have Armenian churches during that time?

AA: No, they– during that time all the churches, uh, they were, uh, closed. They made, um, storage– the government made the, the churches storage or they, they were keeping animals or something like that. All, all– that, uh, wherever the genocide happened. And after the genocide, um, also they could not open the churches we do not have any churches in the eastern part of Turkey which we were. Uh, but only in Istanbul so the– because the– in Istanbul we had some Armenians also before the genocide so they– we had to– also they took some of the schools from Greeks and, uh, because same thing happened to Greek, Greeks. Uh, in one day they had to leave the country– government ordered them to leave the country, um, in one day– without taking anything. So, they went to Greece at that time, I do not remember when was the, uh, date but after Armenian genocide I believe. And, so they left their schools and churches so we took over, uh, we– in Istanbul– that is the reason we had–

JK: –to go.

AA: Yeah, we had to go to their church and that was an Armenian Church later on.

JK: So, um, the government really had an influential part like the villages and

AA: Yes, in the–everywhere. Everywhere. Yeah.

JK: It is crazy.

AA: Yeah.

JK: Um, when– before the Armenian genocide, um, so your grandparents who were living in the villages at the time, what, what were their occupations? Do you remember? Or–

AA: Oh I– my, um, my mother– I remember my mother's father's– I mean, that side of grandfather, uh, he was, um, making, uh, he was working with metal, making the shoe ho– the nails for shoe horses and that kind of things. Metal worker– and I do not remember my other, he did not tell me what was the ̶ what was his occupation, you know.

JK: And were there Armenians in Turkish and other, um, people living in the village or was it mostly Armenians living in the villages where your grandparents grew up before the Armenian genocide?

AA: Oh, mostly Armenians. Yeah. Sebastia is– Sebastia was full of Armenians, maybe few Turkish people– they were coming from other religions. And also, Yozgat also is like, Erzincan, Erzincan also a lot of Armenians were living in there. Yeah, they had a lot of schools. Yeah.

JK: So, everything was mostly Armenian based?

AA: Armenian based, yeah, but there was also Turkish and Kurdish also were living mixed, but mostly Armenians. Yeah. Yeah.

JK: And would– is there anything else you would like to add?

AA: Oh! [laughs]

JK: That you can remember or stories or anything?

AA: I, I do not know if I, well I, I may remember later on. [laughs]

JK: Maybe about the genocide or– go ahead, yeah.

AA: Oh, um, in, uh, what happened was in Istanbul I remember some of the things were going on and, uh, sometimes they were not in, um, the churches for example we want to make a repair or, uh, needs to paint or something, they were not letting us. We had to get the permission from the government, but sometimes for the– for that kind of things was hard to get the permission. And, uh, you know, and, uh, other than that. In– from my grandfather's, I do not know, they did not tell us a lot of things, you know, after the genocide, they were afraid to talk about so they were thinking probably we will go and tell everybody in there so they keep, kept everything, uh, yeah, uh, for themselves. But in Istanbul, I experienced couple of things like they were in schools, school also they sometimes they were telling us if we have less than some students, student population in, in each school they would close the school or something like that. Yeah if it is less than I think two thousand students or something at the time this was in 1980s. We had–sometimes we had pressure from the government. I do not know how is the situation right now. I do not remember anything but, uh, yeah, that is like–

JK: So, there was still–

AA: Still uh–

JK: Something like pressure from the government but not the normal people living in the area.

AA: No, no. Just, yeah. People were okay with that they never, you know– all the neighborhood was good and but the government still, until now, maybe, they may– they may have, you know, uh, the control. What– once they had told we had passports and the ID, ID cards so we all Armenians had to be thirty-one– the first page of the– of the either pass– passport if you want to have or the ID. Uh and other people did not, they had other numbers, so they were probably controlling all the Armenians whoever left in there with that numbers. This is– they that is the thing that, yeah, the way that you know– they know that you are label, label everybody. Yeah, this, this is a Christian or this, you know. Thirty-one maybe it is a 301(AD) because we accepted the Christianity in years 301(AD). That is the reason maybe they put the thirty-one on the IDs. Um, and then the– when there was a military coupe, uh, in 1980, military took over, because there was a lot of fights in the universities, there was leftist rightist or radical beliefs. And, uh, and at that time, uh, well, a lot of students were in, were put in prison.

JK: Armenian students?

AA: Armenian, as well as Turkish. Kurdish, Turkish, everybody, so even if they did not do anything, you know, they did not know who was responsible of that. And, and we had hard times at that time, you know, yeah. Yeah. And yeah.

JK: Do– how do you because I know, um, the Turkish government still has not– denies about the Armenian genocide. Even America does not recognize it as a genocide.

AA: Yeah, it was a genocide because when– it– because I believe when, when you, um, when you are, um, getting, like, collecting older men from their homes, uh, that is a, that is a genocide because you take everybody out from their homes and then you just deport them. All of them, all Armenians this is towards all, you know, to one race and that is a genocide. I do not know why they do not accept until now. That is tha–that is crazy. I do not know why. They should because if you, if they do not accept it will continue. I believe it that another genocide will come and then tha– that is going to be terrible to other people, you know? Yeah. So that is what–[laughs] That is what my opinion is.

JK: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well thank you so much.

AA: You are welcome. You are welcome Jackie.

JK: Great. Awesome. I hope you get all the–

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Jacqueline Kachadourian


Armine Aksay

Biographical Text

Armine was born in Istanbul, Turkey along with her one brother, Arman. During her time in Istanbul, she attended an Armenian high school and sang in her church choir. in 1990, she moved to Salt Lake City, Ohio and got married. She then moved to New Jersey while she worked in NYC. She and her husband eventually settled down in Binghamton a decade later and had a daughter, Christie.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format


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.


Istanbul; Armenian genocide; religion; Sebastia; Turkey; World War; Ottoman Empire; traditions; culture



Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

This collection includes interviews in English with informants of all ages and a variety of backgrounds from various parts of Armenia. The interviews provide deeper insight into the history of the Armenian culture through personal accounts, narratives, testimonies, and memories of their early lives in their adoptive country and… More

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“Interview with Armine Aksay,” Digital Collections, accessed May 28, 2024,