Aurora Mardiganian: The Woman I Met in Genocide Museum

Aurora Mardiganian

The eternal flame at the Genocide Museum

Upon arriving in the Zvartnots Airport of Armenia, I came to ask myself who is Aurora? I didn’t care to find the answer though until I met Aurora Mardiganian at the Armenian Genocide Museum.

Genocide is a word that I didn’t know nor I understand before. I just knew that this word exists when I first came to visit Armenia last December 2015. As I feel sad with what the word means, I felt bad that genocide happened and still happening in some part of the world now.

My first visit to the Genocide Museum was during winter of December 2015 but only to explore outside and see the eternal flame. And as I came back for summer of 2017, I was able to get in the museum. From there, I met Aurora Mardiganian.

Who is Aurora? Why you can see a lot of posters around the city of Yerevan with Aurora prize or Aurora award.

Aurora Mardiganian is a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

Aurora Mardiganian

Aurora Mardiganian

The Armenian Genocide Museum was built in 1967 as an official memorial dedicated to commemorate the victims of the genocide. Inside the museum, you can see many heartbreaking photos depicting the genocide. There are many kept documentaries. During a tour inside the museum, you can read the information about the genocide.

One story, a one-real life caught my attention. There’s a photo of a woman and her name is Aurora Mardiganian. Beside her photo are her words,

“I saw my mother’s body, its life ebbed out, flung unto the desert because she had taught me that Jesus Christ was my Savior. 

I saw my father die in pain because he said to me, his little girl, “Trust in the Lord, His will be done.” 

I saw thousands upon thousands of beloved daughters of gentle mothers die under the whip, or the knife or from the torture of hunger and thirst, or carried away into slavery because they would not renounce the glorious crown of their Christianity. 

God saved me that I might bring to America a message from those of my people who are left, and every father and mother will understand that what I tell in these pages is told with love and thankfulness to Him for my escape.” 

Aurora MardiganianAs I read this, I felt the pain she has gone through but I admire her faith in God.

Those words came from a person where I don’t have any idea about her life. So as I continue to go around the museum, I’ve get to know who Aurora is.

  • Arshalouys Martikian (Aurora Mardiganian) was born on January 1, 1901, in Western Armenia
  •  She was only 14 at the onset of WW1: a period of suffering and tragedy for Arshaluys and her family. The deportation of Chemeshgezak Armenians commenced on June 14, 1915. 
  • Aurora’s relatives were killed before her eyes by the Turkish gandarmes escorting the caravan of exiles. Brutally abused by the Turkish officials and Kurdish chieftains.
  • Aurora escaped from Kemal Efendi’s harem, throwing herself into the Euphrates, but was captured once again.
  • She fell in the hands of the Kurdish slave-traders, who spared her life and sold her. She escaped again.
  • Emaciated and dehydrated, Aurora trudged more than 600 kilometers over two years until, in the spring of 1917, she reached Erzerum, then already taken by the Russian troops.
  • With the help of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief Arshalouys moved to Petrograd ( Saint Petersburg)
  • In November of 1917, she arrived in the United States of America.
  • Her story, “My two years of torture in ravished, martyred Armenia” appeared in American newspapers. Later the memoir “Ravished Armenia” was published in December 1918.
  • In late 1918, upon the initiative of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, the Selig Polyscope Company made a silent movie based on the book, “Ravished Armenia” (“Auction of Souls”). Arshalouys Martikian played the leading role in the film. For the security reason her name was changed to Aurora Mardiganian.
  • Aurora Mardiganian married at the age of 28, on December 7, 1929. Her husband, Martin Hovanian, was an Armenian who had found refuge in America.
  • Their only son, was born in 1931. Following the death of her husband, Aurora’s son abandoned her.
  • In her declining years Aurora lost her mind, the depravity and shock of the Genocide took their troll. She lived alone for many years, fearful of being pursued by the Turks.
  • Aurora spent her last days in the Armenian nursing home in California and passed away at the age of 93 on 6 February, 1994. (Source: Genocide Museum)

Walking along the alleys of memorial trees

   After exploring the museum, we headed to walk along the alleys planted with memorial trees. We visited also the eternal flames and offered a short prayer.

4 Comments

  • Marge says:

    Aurora’s life story is one rife with misery and violence. My heart goes out. As I read this, I couldn’t but feel quite sad that such person had to go through what she did. It somehow makes you feel lucky that you didn’t live back in those days when some humans are not allowed to live or whose rights have been deliberately trampled by the tyrants.

  • REBMINLU says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. It was so heartbreaking to read this post, but I am so thankful that we continue to share the stories of these events so that we can learn from history.

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