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Nora Kachadourian

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Nora Kabakian Kachadourian
Interviewed by: Jackie Kachadourian
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 5 February 2017
Interview Setting: Vestal, NY

(Start of Interview)

JK: This is Jackie Kachadourian with Binghamton University’s special collection library on Armenian Oral History Project. Today is February 5, 2017. Can you please state your name for the record?

NK: Nora Kabakian Kachadourian.

JK: Where were you born?

NK: Beirut, Lebanon.

JK: Who were your parents?

NK: Mihran Kabakian and Meline Kashukchian.

JK: Where were they from?

NK: My father was born in Antep, Turkey, and my mom was born in Lebanon.

JK: And why did they immigrate to Canada?

NK: Well from Turkey, Antep– my father during the massacre, they moved to Aleppo, Tur– Aleppo, Syria and from there, he moved to Lebanon. And my mom, from Bursa, Turkey, they moved to Syria and from Syria they moved to Beirut, Lebanon. And from there, during the civil war, in 1975, we moved to Montreal, Canada.

JK: What were the reasons for moving from Turkey to Syria?

NK: To survive the massacre, they moved, they were being killed during the massacre so the– my grandparents moved gradually from Armenia to Turkey and they were established in Turkey. And from there, slowly, gradually, they moved to Syria and from Syria to Lebanon.

JK: What happened in Turkey? What was going on that caused– did they have to leave walking– or what? What did they have to do to leave?

NK: Well they had to leave everything– uh– In Armenia, they had to leave their land, their houses, and gradually they moved to my father, my grandfather moved to Antep. He had a job as a, as a control–accountant controller in the established bank and from there, my father was born in Antep, Turkey and when he was around four or five, during nineteen-fifteen, the massacre, they slowly moved closest areas they could find, Aleppo, Syria. And then my mom’s side of my grandfather was working for– he was a tailor working for the Turkish army, he was a very well-known tailor, so that was how he escaped to Syria. They have them– his family– to move to Syria and from Syria they moved to Lebanon.

JK: Is there any stories living in Turkey that you can remember? From either side of your family?

NK: Well my father’s side, my father was young, maybe around four, he was born in Antep but his mother, well, they moved from Antep to Syria, Aleppo, he was– my grandmother’s brother was a lawyer, very well-established lawyer and he worked for the– in Turkey– and then– for the state– and they– my grandmother did not know but after nine–late nineteen–nineteen uh, (19)18 or (19)19, around that period of time, they somehow, they wanted to get rid of him and they hang him. And my grandmother did not know and when she– somebody told her like felt sorry about how they killed my grandmother’s brother, he– they, they told her what happened and my grandmother just did not know about it and when she heard it like that– three days after, she passed away from the news. It was horrifying to hear how her brother died.

JK: This is in Syria?

NK: Um, they– yeah they killer her in Turkey and she found out when she was in Syria and she passed away because– three days after she was in shock and my father was like orphan because, you know, lost her mom right after they escaped the massacre in 1915.

JK: And when did your parents meet? Or where did they meet?

NK: In Lebanon, my mom and met in Lebanon, through a friend and they got married.

JK: Which part of Lebanon?

NK: Beirut, Lebanon.

JK: And what year was this?

NK: Uh, late 1949.

JK: Did they ever want to go back to Turkey or Armenia?

NK: Uh, no. No.

JK: Have they ever been to Turkey or Armenia– I mean Armenia?

NK: Uh, my father has been but not my mom.

JK: Okay so, he went to Armenia?

NK: Yes, and also she– he was– because lost her mom, and he went and study in Jerusalem after visit Armenia and then he got the scholarship, he was very smart he got scholarship in Wyoming, United States. That was how he became a chemist, study in Wyoming University.

JK: After he studied in Wyoming he went back to Lebanon?

NK: Yes, and he started business in Lebanon, a textile fabric–you know, a textile company factory. He started in Lebanon.

JK: In Beirut?

NK: Beirut, Lebanon.

JK: Did both your parents work?

NK: My mom also work as– she was a tailor.

JK: And how long did you guys stay in Lebanon before leaving to Canada?

NK: We stayed until 1975. During the war, we went to Canada and my father left Lebanon in early (19)80s, after– because he had a factory he had to, you know, take care of it and then he came to Canada also.

JK: Did your parents go to school, high school or college?

NK: Yes. My mom went to high school and then went to a school and she became a tailor and my dad had several degrees in Chemistry. He went one semester, or one year to MIT in Massachusetts and then Wyoming University in Cheyenne. He has a degree in Chemistry.

JK: So how old was your father when he left Turkey?

NK: He was about four years old.

JK: Did he have any brothers or sisters?

NK: Yes, a sister and a brother.

JK: Are they still alive?

NK: No.

JK: Did they come to Canada too? Or– after they left Turkey?

NK: No, my aunt, her name is Mary Zenian, she moved to– from Lebanon she got married and soon she moved to New Jersey.

JK: And do they– do they remember anything that they told you about living in Turkey or what they did in Turkey?

NK: No, just they– to have a better life they– my father helped them and they moved to New Jersey to start a new life there.

JK: Is there any– before the genocide, did they get along with everyone in Turkey?

NK: Yes, they, they had jobs like I said my grandfather, his name was Edward Kabakian, he work for the bank, he was a controller for the bank and that was how he met his wife and when the wife came to the bank and they met and that was how they got married and then they moved– a few years after, they moved to Syria to survive because slowly everybody was moving in order to stay alive.

JK: Was– only the Armenians had to leave Turkey, or what happened that they had to leave, like? They–were they told to leave or they were going to kill them or what?

NK: Yes, they– while they can because people were getting killed and they already moved from Armenia, left their land, my grandfather, Edward, had land in Armenia, uh houses and they had to leave, they moved to Antep, Turkey and they had jobs there but, it was– things were getting worse because the World War I started in early 1914, (19)15, and, and it was, people in Turkey they were taking advantage of the war going on and so that was why they start to move– things were getting worse and they had to survive. That was how they went to closest cities, Aleppo, Syria, some moved to Egypt to Greece, Europe, France, so they were trying to survive.

JK: Did any of your family go anywhere else other than Syria?

NK: Well my mom’s side, from Bursa, to– they moved a lot of my mom’s side of family moved to France also to survive and a lot of people moved to Syria, so it depends.

JK: Did they ever– so the people told them to leave before they got into any trouble, right?

NK: Yes, like my father– my mother’s side, my grandfather’s name was Leon Kachakjian, and he was a very well know tailor in Bursa, Turkey. He was doing all the army outfits for the army and he had lots of friends and they help his family move to, from Bursa to Syria to survive because word got out that they were getting killed and there was some good friends of my grandfather he– they help them get away from the area and move outside of Turkey.

JK: Do you remember what year this was?

NK: 1915.

JK: So during the genocide?

NK: Yes.

JK: So did both of your parents speak Armenian?

NK: Yes.

JK: Did they speak any other languages?

NK: They also spoke Turkish and English and French.

JK: Did they write Armenian?

NK: Yes, very fluent in Armenian and also they spoke Turkish, and because they moved to Syria and after Lebanon, they spoke also Arabic.

JK: Did they know how to write Armenian?

NK: Yes, they knew how to write Armenian.

JK: Was it– Armenian their first language they learned how to write and read?

NK: Yes.

JK: Do you have any siblings?

NK: Yes, I have three brothers and a sister.

JK: And what is their age relative to you?

NK: I am the youngest and there–at least the oldest is fourteen years older than me.

JK: Can you say their names?

NK: Yes, my oldest brother is Leon, my other brother, Edward, and another brother Varoujan, and my sister Anahid and I am the youngest of all my siblings.

JK: Do your siblings have Armenian names?

NK: Yes, my oldest brother name is Levon which is an Armenian name, named after my grandfather who died and also Edouard is Armenian name for [inaudible], and Varoujan is an Armenian name and Anahid is also Armenian name. And my name is Armenian also.

JK: What is it– do they have any meanings?

NK: um, not that I know–

JK: Like Nora.

NK: Nora means new in Armenian. Anahid is– Ani is an Armenian city, Ani is named after that and Varoujan also means strong in Armenian but that is all.

JK: When they came to–when you guys came to Canada did you guys change your names to English or French names?

NK: Well, we– there is a certain version like Levon is Leon and Anahid short for Ani so my sister made it shorter but we kept in our passport is the Armenian names.

JK: Now did your parents speak Armenian to you when you guys were growing up?

NK: Yes, Armenian.

JK: Is that the first language you guys learned?

NK: Yes, it is the first language.

JK: Was there any other languages you guys learned growing up?

NK: Yes, we spoke French also and of course we had to speak Arabic also and we understand a little bit of Turkish.

JK: Did your parents ever speak Turkish to you so you would not understand in the household.

NK: Yes. I believe my grandparents, they spoke Turkish and also sometimes my parents also spoke, so we do not understand but we picked up– that was how we picked up the– that was how I know a little bit of Turkish by hearing them speak while growing up.

JK: Now, growing up, was there a large Armenian community in Lebanon?

NK: Yes, we– I grew up in a big Armenian community in Beirut, Lebanon. We went to Armenian and also Armenian and French school in Lebanon. The name is Nishan Palandjian Jemaran, which is Armenian.

JK: Did you guys speak Armenian in this school or French?

NK: We had to speak Armenian and learn Armenian history in Armenian and we spoke French and French history in French language and secondary language would be considered English. [audio is inaudible] And also, we had to speak Arabic and the history in Arabic language.

JK: Did you have any Armenian friends growing up? Were they all Armenian, your friends in high school and school?

NK: Yes, we had a lot of Armenian friends but there were a lot of French friends and– from Europe there were a lot of people from different countries, especially Europe, in Lebanon. It was a very international city so we had different friends from different areas.

JK: Now, the people you were growing up with, did they have to– why did, why did they– do you remember why they came to Syria– I mean Lebanon? Was it because of the–

NK: For better jobs and also its Christian country and there was a lot of opportunities for new jobs and we had different schools¬¬¬-French English and so people had the choices that they could enjoy, uh, whatever they prefer.

JK: Did they – did some come from Armenia or Turkey during the genocide? Do you remember? Like the– your– the students– the Armenian community.

NK: Oh yes, they used to come from all over to the Armenian school because there was people from Africa, my sister friend was from Europe and they came to learn Armenia in Lebanon because it was very well known–established Armenian school and so they come from all over the world to study at that school.

JK: Did anybody come from Turkey or Armenia that you remember that had to escape the genocide?

NK: A lot of people came besides my family from Aleppo and then they came to Lebanon there was a lot of Armenians.

JK: Did your– do you remember any stories they told you about leaving?

NK: Yes, it was very hard for them to leave everything; their land, their belongings in order to survive and how– some people helped them survive. Some died on their way to escape, they died because they were ‘fleding’, it depends what areas they were from in Turkey and some were fortunate, some died trying to escape during the massacre.

JK: Did you go to– was there an Armenian church where you grew up?

NK: Yes. Within walking distance there was an Armenian church and every Sunday my mom always tried to go Armenian Church and it was very convenient.

JK: What was it like growing up in Beirut?

NK: It was very nice area growing up in Beirut until the war, Civil War started and we had to move again. But growing up I had good memories in Beirut, Lebanon and uh and a lot of people that we knew moved from Turkey to survive and then they got established in Beirut, Lebanon. And we had a big Armenian community and it was, you know, the Lebanese people help– the– there was a– growing up– and then it was hard to move again because the Civil War in Lebanon, yes, because the nineteen seventies the war was pretty bad in Lebanon so that was how people moved to United States, Canada, Europe.

JK: So do you–

NK: It was déjà vu again for us because again we had to move again from Lebanon to Canada.

JK: Did you move before Lebanon or–?

NK: My grandparents move from Turkey to Lebanon. I was born in Beirut, Lebanon.

JK: Did anybody stay in Lebanon?

NK: Oh yes, there is a– I have some family– my–some of my aunts are still in Lebanon and some of my cousins. They stayed in Lebanon. There is a lot of Armenians right now in Lebanon.

JK: Now, why– why would you decide to go to Canada instead of the United States?

NK: Um, we could have went to United States but it was kind of easy for us– my mom’s sister was in Montreal, Canada and she, she helped us move there but I– we could have moved to New Jersey also because my father’s sister was in New Jersey also but it was easier at that time when we were escaping Lebanon, uh, it was easier to get to Canada somehow.

JK: Did all of you guys leave at the same time?

NK: No, my brothers and sisters they moved to Montreal, Canada to Cyprus–they went from Cyprus to Canada. And also my– one of my brothers Edouard Kabakian, he had a– won a scholarship from Lebanon in early 1974 and, uh, he went to Montpellier, France. So since then, he lives in France right now so he moved from Lebanon to France.

JK: Did he ever join you in Canada or he lived in France this whole time?

NK: No during– before the war started in 1973, (19)74, he won a scholarship, he was very smart in Lebanon so he moved to France to study and–

JK: Did he ever move to Canada?

NK: No he never moved to Canada. He– from Lebanon he move to France because he was studying, he had a scholarship and he had to– he just established– after he study he stayed in France.

JK: And what did your parents do in Lebanon? What did they– where did they work or what did they do?

NK: My father opened a textile factory in Lebanon. He was the first person to open a textile factory and he worked there and, and then my brother, Levon Kabakian, he also study– my father send him, uh, study in Switzerland in the same type of, uh field, in chemistry textile– chemistry and from there my fa–brother got his education in Switzerland and then he worked for several textile companies in Canada and my sister also went to university in Lebanon, it is called AUB, American University in Lebanon. And then she continued her education in Canada and also my youngest brother went– study in Canada also, University of Concordia.

JK: Did– how old were all of you guys when you guys left Lebanon?

NK: Um, I was thirteen years old when I moved from Lebanon to Montreal. I believe my brother was in–eighteen when he moved to Canada. My sister in her twenties and they moved to Canada.

JK: So you guys left because of the war that was going on?

NK: Yes, we tried to escape the Civil War.

JK: Was there any experiences or any encounters you had while growing up in the area? That was, like, bad?

NK: Well in 1975 two of my brothers and my sister moved– tried to catch a, like a small boat and then went to Cyprus. From there, they stayed there and then from there they tried to move to Montreal, Canada. But I was there on one side of Lebanon with my mom and my dad was stuck on the other side of Lebanon in this factory. So we did not see each other for at least six months because the borders were tight and there was a, a war going on between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon. It was kind of very, you know, very bad situation because you could not communicate and in order to survive we had to go– me and my mom for a long time, I was young we were stuck in the house and just survive you had to go get water and bread and there was–– everything was shut on one side. People were getting killed and it was a miracle we survived. A lot of neighbors not far from us died because there was a lot of bombs falling, air strikes and, and then, uh, when there was a cease fire, that was when we tried to get our passport and move– tried to move somewhere safe and that was where we1977 we tried to come to Montreal, Canada, I was like thirteen-year-old. Me and my mom when the airports were open, we, we tried to gather our stuff and move to Montreal, Canada and then eventually my dad also came to Montreal, Canada, and also he lost his factory it was destroyed and lost everything so we had to start all over in Montreal, Canada.

JK: Now what did they do in Montreal? Did they–

NK: We– I went to school and, uh, and my brothers and sisters they went to school and had jobs and then slowly, you know, we worked and graduate school and, you know.

JK: Did you guys go to Armenian school at all in Can–Montreal?

NK: No, we were– we just went to French high school there and a university but we have an Armenian school and there is a big Armenian community in Montreal because Lebanon– and people moved during the war from Lebanon to Canada to United States and they, of course, they started establishing Armenian schools and for the new generations.

JK: Was there a large Armenian community when you went to Montreal?

NK: Yes, we had a, a lot– at least three, four Armenian churches and two Armenian schools in Montreal, Canada.

JK: Did you attend bible school or Armenian language school in Lebanon or Montreal?

NK: No, I went to Armenian Bible Sunday School, we called it. Yes, I attended but because I went to–when I was young I went in Lebanon Armenian school, I, I did not need to continue learn, but people who do not– did not know Armenian, there was programs they could sign up to learn Armenian and eventually after they, uh, they built the Armenian school– first it was elementary then all the way to high school.

JK: So after you went to high– finished high school, did you go to college in Ar–Montreal?

NK: Yes, I went college. I study Business Administration.

JK: And, where was it?

NK: In University of Montreal.

JK: And then how did you end up coming to the United States and living here?

NK: Um, I was, uh, working in Montreal and also attending, uh, education. When I my aunt in North Jersey, I wanted us to visit her and also invited us to Armenian event in North Jersey. So my mom and I drove there to visit my aunt in North Jersey and she took us to a Armenian church and–

JK: Do you remember the name?

NK: Yeah, it is The Armenian Church in St. Thomas, North Jersey. And she wanted us go there for a, I think it was a mother’s day luncheon, after church and I took my mom and we went there and that was how I met my husband, Mark Kachadourian, because he is from Binghamton and he went to that luncheon in North Jersey from Binghamton area to– there was a church’s event. So that was how I met him over there in New Jersey.

JK: And how did you guys meet?

NK: In– during– after church there was luncheon sponsored by St. Thomas Church that was how I met Mark Kachadourian.

JK: But, did you guys, like–

NK: We just met– the– there was a lot of Armenians attended from Binghamton to the St. Thomas Church in New Jersey and that was how a lot of people met each other during the lunch.

JK: How did you guys start– did you guys talk with other Armenians, or what?

NK: Yes, from different region because I was from Canada and my aunt was from New Jersey and they, they– we share a big round table and that was how we met, uh, a lot of Armenians from this area, Binghamton and the New Jersey area.

JK: So, who was– how did your aunt end up in North Jersey, and which side?

NK: My father’s sister, Mary Zenian from Syria, shortly after she got married and they move– tried to come to New Jersey, they got in a boat and they escaped the Syria and came to North Jersey in early 1930s, I think. It was around 1930s, they moved to– from Syria they came to North Jersey.

JK: Now, why did not your father go to–

NK: My father went to– he had a scholarship to study in Wyoming. He travelled all over and then he came to New Jersey but then he wanted to open his factory in Lebanon and that was how he established in Lebanon after he had his studies in United States, he went back and opened a factory in Lebanon.

JK: Did he meet your, uh, your mom in– after or before he studied in Wyoming?

NK: After he studied in Wyoming.

JK: Was there a large community in the Armenian community in North Jersey?

NK: Yes, it was big Armenian community, also they have Armenian school in New Jersey and, and a few churches, a lot of churches.

JK: Now, growing up in Montreal, in high school, did you guys have– did you have Armenian friends or non-Armenian friends?

NK: We had so many and–French and Armenian friends and Lebanese friends. A lot of different nationality.

JK: Did you all intermingle with each other or have distinct groups?

NK: Yes, we mingled with each other, yes.

JK: But did you have– only if you hung out with your French friends and then hung out with your Armenian friends or they all hung out with each other?

NK: Uh, some of my French uh they were really interested, uh, talking to my father from work– they always come visit, they like to hear the stories that my father had. But also we had Armenian friends and old friends–

Unknown: No

NK: So?

Unknown: Lady Gaga.

JK: Okay, so what were some of the family traditions you kept in your household that related to Armenian culture?

NK: We had several tradition. Its– but we always talked about the Armenian history, um, and how our ancestors tried to keep our heritage going-our culture and, uh, we, we are a nation of rich culture. We have a– our own alphabet– very unique– our own stories and we have a very unique Armenian dance and–

JK: So can you name some of the examples of the culture that is kept in your family?

NK: We always spoke Armenian so that is very– keep our children informed with our rich language which is very unique alphabet and, uh, we have very good Armenian songs that we sang and special dances we dance and we always– very religious nation. We are the first Arm– nation to be Christian– to accept Christianity. So, uh, we always kept our religious background and taught our children our language and our religion.

JK: So what were some traditions that your parents would maintain in the household? Maybe certain foods, songs?

NK: Uh, yes, we have Armenian song, a very, uh, uh, known– it is a– about our Armenian nation and how we survive and wherever we go, we build a churches and schools and we keep going wherever, uh, we go we always get together and make Armenian food and we have a– our special Armenian Christmas which is always on January 6 and we make a special Easter, we make a special bread. It is çörek, it is called çörek and we have several different holidays, we get together and celebrate and on Easter, always we go church and Armenian Christmas always comes on January 6. We try to go and celebrate. It is different and we have our Independence Day which is May 28, we celebrate. And, of course, on April 24, the genocide we always try to remember and pay our tributes and, uh, that is our cultures keeps going and our ̶ remember our heritage and how our ancestors, you know, went through a lot to keep our Armenian culture alive.

JK: So what kind of Armenian food did you guys have that was kept in the household?

NK: Uh, we have– we make of course a lot of rice, we call it pilav, and with a lot of– we have different rice, we call it pilav, which is a very traditional food with pasta– different pastas and Armenian string cheese. We have dried fruits– several different types of dried fruits and, and we have– very similar to Middle Eastern food and its very similar because as a neighbor– when we were growing up we have similar food– Mediterranean– it is a different food.

JK: Did you have Armenian food in Lebanon, or was it Lebanese food or was it–?

NK: It is Armenian-Lebanese combination. It is very similar, we have stuffed grape leaves which is similar to Lebanese food and–

JK: Do you have the Armenian name for what it is called?

NK: We call it– grape leaves– we call it sarma– yalancı, but which is also certain name are Turkish also, we have a lot of sweet, helva which is also used by Turks and Arabs also. So very similar.

JK: Would you– what kind of foods would you– or traditions did you have during Armenian Christmas or Easter– Armenian Easter?

NK: Well, uh, Armenian Easter– we have– we color eggs and then we have Armenian bread which we call çörek which is kind of like braided, nice Armenian bread. We have that and also we have lamb dinner and some rice, things like that.

JK: Do you ever play the egg game?

NK: Yes, and after church services has an Armenian tradition. We get together and play some egg that we colored before and we play the egg with each other and then eat some Armenian çörek and celebrate the Easter.

JK: So, in Armenian, your last name says what you did. What does Kabakian?

NK: It is, uh, mean ‘kabak’ means pumpkin in Turkish so that is how they call the Kabakian that is our name is from.

JK: So did your family who lived in Armenia or Turkey, they sold– worked on a pumpkin farm or sold–

NK: Yes, they had a lot of– in Armenia, my great grandfathers they had land and they had vineyards. That is why they called them ‘kabak’, because they had, I guess, pumpkins and– on their land.

JK: What about from your mom’s side?

NK: My mom’s side, her name is Kashukjian [Kaşıkçıyan, Turkish version] I think it is– what its mean is they used to make silver spoons so when they refer about them they meant the family who builds– makes those silver spooks that is what it means kaşık, Kaşıkçıyan that is what it means I think in Turkey.

JK: What about– the same in Armenian?

NK: Spoon in Armenian is trgal this is in Turkish; I think it means the person who makes the silver spoons.

JK: So did the Armenian words– were they similar to Turkish words?

NK: No, it is because they lived in–– my grandfather on my mom’s side lived in Bursa and they, they had to speak in Turkish and that was how they called them the person who makes the spoons and I– that is why they call them Kaşıkçıyan.

JK: So how old were you when you got married?

NK: I was twenty-seven years old.

JK: And did you– is your husband an Armenian?

NK: Yes, he is.

JK: Is he a hund– are you a 100 percent Armenian?

NK: Yes, I a 100 percent Armenian.

NK: And your husband?

JK: He is a 100 percent Armenian.

NK: And how do you feel about marrying an Armenian? Did you want to marry Armenian– or did it matter?

JK: Yes, as I said in my family, we were stronger believer to, to meet Armenian and get married Armenian because of all our grandparents and great grandparents went through to, uh, keep our culture our race alive and we– the least we can, uh, do if we meet Armenian and marry an Armenian for our–keep our heritage.

NK: Did your parents want you to marry Armenian?

JK: Of course, but it was our choice but, uh, it was up to us.

NK: Did your ̶ other brothers and sister, did they marry Armenians as well?

JK: Um, one brother and– who lives in France, married a French but my other brothers and sister married an Armenian.

JK: Now did they still have Armenian culture in their–

NK: Yes, they–

JK: –household.

NK: –my brother who lives in France, they try to keep Armenian culture and they sometime make Armenian food and invite their friends and introduce them to Armenian food and talk about the Armenian history and they and also their names are one hundred percent Armenian also.

JK: Now, how important would you say was it to teach Armenian culture to your children?

NK: It was important, but this– in Binghamton we do not have any Armenian school, we have a small Armenian church and when my kids were young, we always went to– and took them to Sunday schools so they learned some Armenian song and also some Armenian dance and, uh, we used to have every year Armenian dance and we tried to take them so they see how it was, the Armenian culture. We have very small Armenian community in Binghamton.

JK: Was it hard switching from Montreal which has a lot of Armenian population to Binghamton which has very little–

NK: Yes, it was hard to adjust, you know, because it was very small Armenian community. But we tried to go sometimes in bigger cities, New Jersey, and Philadelphia and also California there is a lot of large Armenian community.

JK: Well what made you want to move to Binghamton?

NK: My husband’s job was here and we met in New Jersey, like I said, in Armenian church and, um, and we, because his job was here so we moved here after we got married in New Jersey we moved to Binghamton.

JK: So, growing up in Binghamton, have you seen any strong Armenian community or not so much?

NK: They try, uh, to, uh, keep the Armenian culture and community but it is hard, they need a lot of help. A lot of people are from here– a lot of Armenians, but they all moved and there is not a lot of younger people in this community. A lot of the Armenians moved for– out of this area to the city.

JK: So do any of your children speak Armenian?

NK: Yes, my oldest daughter and my two daughters they speak but my son does not speak that well.

JK: So they two –can you name your children?

NK: My oldest, Melanie, second oldest, Jackie, and my youngest is Henry.

JK: So, how come none of them has learned Armenian in Armenian school properly? Like at writing–

NK: Because, uh, we– I could teach them but I– they–there is no Armenian school near us, also they do not have any Armenian Sunday school anymore and also they outgrew, it was for young, young children. And, uh, we have church services every two weeks in our Armenian church. And like it is a very small community.

JK: So, did– do your family in Montreal or North Jersey, do they know Armenian, their children?

NK: Yes, all of my nieces and nephews they write and speak Armenian and one of my niece attends Armenian school and she is going to graduate this year. So yeah, they all speak and write in Armenian.

JK: Were you upset that– did you want your children to learn Armenian?

NK: Yes, we speak Armenian but I can always teach them if they are interested to write also in Armenian and, of course, we do not have that advantage here because we do not have Armenian schools or classes at Binghamton University that they can take. Other universities, they offer Armenian lessons and– but Binghamton University do not provide Armenian language.

JK: How would you describe the culture of the home– household spreading Armenian ideas and things like that? What things have remained constant? Like growing up compared–

NK: We always tried to speak a little bit of Armenian in our household and always sang some Armenian songs and talked about our flag, what it means, different things we always talked about and, uh, we liked to watch different TV shows sometimes that has Armenian articles in it. We are always interested in our culture.

JK: So have you ever travelled to Turkey or Armenia? Back to where your father was born?

NK: Uh, no, no. I have not but my sister’s daughters, they been to Armenia and Turkey also my brother’s daughter been to Armenia recently and, uh, we always ask questions and see the pictures– we are so interested and we like to go one day, visit our homeland.

JK: So you want to go to Armenia someday?

NK: Yes, it is a dream to go Armenia and visit our land and see our churches and to see all of that. It is very important.

JK: So, right now, do you attend church regularly?

NK: On major holidays I try to go, last time I was at church was during Easter. I– it is hard with the busy schedule but I used to go more often than I am right now.

JK: Would you say that you identify as– what would you say that you would identify as your homeland?

NK: It is a– I– it is where my ancestor were. It is–I like to see.

JK: Which country?

NK: My– I consider Armenia my country– my roots– because my roots are from there and I always want to visit and see.

JK: So, how do you view the diaspora? Diaspora. The Armenians in the, the United States.

NK: Um, they are a– they are, they are Armenians that survive and they try to keep the culture alive–they are– it is not easy, uh, being Armenian. It is, it is always we got to remind our self what our ancestor went through for us to be, to have better life here in United States. Their sacrifice a lot for us. What we could do is remember and, uh, keep our culture alive.

JK: So do you think it has its own identity here in the United States or in Montreal compared to Armenia?

NK: Yes, to– of course. We are Armenians but we are not living in Armenia, we are living outside of Armenia and there are differences between us but we are all Armenians, were united. That is what counts.

JK: So how would you identify yourself?

NK: Uh, Armenian, um, that I want to remember where my ancestor came from and keep our tradition alive and our language– use our language and always remember our history and what we went through to be here today.

JK: Would you also identify yourself as Canadian, American, like Armenian first or–

NK: I am Armenian first but I do not forget where I was born and then where I grew up in Canada and–and then I moved to United States. I am a person of multi-culture. [laughs]

JK: Which, uh, country do you think has the strongest sense of Armenian pride? And culture? That you have lived in?

NK: The Armenians in Lebanon. Very, very strong. Also in Canada.

JK: And why do you say that?

NK: Oh, because as– I remember as a– growing up in Lebanon, uh, we– they always talk about the Armenian history how we survive and wherever we go we built our churches and we built, uh– and we stay together and there were strong believer so as a young child I remember how important it was to keep our culture in Lebanon especially.

JK: Was it important for your children to be raised in an Armenian orthodox?

NK: Yes, it is important but it is hard when you do not have a big Armenian community.

JK: Was there anything in, uh, your house that represents Armenian and where you co– come from?

NK: We had a lot of books and my father had lots of books and, um, always pictures and– of our history and we always read and sang the Armenian songs and, uh, we had a lot of poems that we read about how the Armenians survived and, uh, we always, uh, you know, enjoyed our rich culture.

JK: Do you remember any of the poems or songs?

NK: Yes, as– we had a nice Armenian poem– it was always said wherever we go, wherever happens we always built the Armenian Church and Armenian community. No matter how hard they try to erase us from out– this planet we always come– get together, survive and, uh, that was a very strong Armenian poem we always read and remembered.

JK: Do you remember who it was by? Who said it?

NK: I, uh, I do not remember right now but I [laughs] I just cannot recall but it is a famous writer.

JK: So [clears throat] do you have anything else– other than the poems or books or songs like paintings?

NK: Oh yes we have a paintings of Mount Masis and Mount Ararat from our Armenian land, its beautiful pictures and paintings, uh, uh, so when we have a exhibition I enjoy going and looking at those paintings those– we have a lot of Armenian paintings of churches on top of the mountains. We have a lot of beautiful paintings in Armenian history– in Armenia.

JK: So do you think Christianity is an important part of being Armenian?

NK: Yes, because we were the first nation to accept Christianity and, uh, we sacrifice so much to become a Ar– Armenian Christian and it is very unique and our–we celebrate January six as Armenian Christmas and its very old fashion. It is very unique with Christianity.

JK: Do you think it is important for your children to marry Armenians?

NK: Of course, it is their choice as well of course it is important to keep our culture going, our Christianity.

JK: So, do you have anything else to add–or? I think I am all set.

NK: Well just to say Armenians, we, uh, we are a survivors and wherever we go, we get together and we do not forget our language and where we came from and it is not easy to be Armenian but I am very be proud Armenian and speak our Armenian language and culture. I am very proud to be Armenian.

JK: Okay thank you.

NK: You are welcome.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Jacqueline Kachadourian


Nora Kachadoourian

Biographical Text

Nora was born in Beirut, Lebanon to first-generation Armenian parents. When she was thirteen years old during the Lebanese Civil War, they moved to Montreal, Canada. Later on, she studied Business Administration at the University of Montreal. She currently resides in Binghamton with her husband. Together they have three children; Melanie, Jackie, and Henry.





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.


massacre; Syria; Turkey; Lebanon; language; Civil War; Sunday School; church; Christianity; traditions; food; diaspora; identity; Mount Ararat



“Nora Kachadourian,” Digital Collections, accessed February 7, 2023,