"Tell your story" - Rouben Hovaguimian

My name is Rouben Hovaguimian, and I am a retired engineer. My mother was only 13 years old when she was married to one of the young men from their village (“Qeni Qoy” or “New Village” Kharbert region) in order to avoid drawing attention from Kurds living around our village. War hadn’t started yet when my mother’s husband was drafted for mandatory conscription, and this marked their final separation. A few years later in 1918, supposedly one of their Turkish neighbors informed them that in their neighborhood mosque people were talking about Armenians being massacred. He advised them not to remain there, and to move to a relatively safe place.

There was no choice, my mother, together with her 4 sisters and some neighboring families, set off for Karin loaded with as much of their necessities as they could of carry. Their first refuge was the village where my father’s family was living. In those days, as a result of complications during childbirth, my father’s wife had died leaving behind 2 little children. Taking this opportunity my father suggested to my mother that she stay with him and take care of his children. They came to an agreement, and she, along with the whole group, stayed in Derisimi Markho Village considering the place to be comparatively safe. One evening, some time later, General Andranik,on his march to Armenia, arrived at the same village with a group of soldiers in order to stay there at night. Over dinner the General explained to those present that staying there was the wrong choice because Turkish state troops mixed in with gangs were moving to those parts, destroying everything, and imposing Islam. Therefore he advised everyone to leave everything and flee if they didn’t want to be converted.

Crossing the northeast of Turkey, Nakhichevan, Syunik, Gegharkunik, Khazakh and Tiflis, in 1921, after walking over 2000 km the family arrived in Batumi port. Without money, with their clothes torn, and their feet wrapped in leather instead of shoes, they hoped that there was some way they could go to America. Part of their group was able to board a ship, while the other part, among which were my parents and my uncle, had to wait for the next ship. But unfortunately there was no next ship, and after waiting a few months they returned Tbilisi and settled there.

My parents had 9 children of whom my sister Varduhi, my brother Suren and I survived. I was born in Tbilisi in 1932 with my twin brother Gurgen, whom I lost in the first year of our birth. Along the path of escape my father discovered his 2 children had frozen to death in the cart while he was crossing the heights of Karin. My father and mother escaped the genocide, and were followed by the whole family. Of my mother’s 9 children only my sister, my brother and I survived. As of 1992 I am the only one still alive.

The important challenge for me is that of remaining Armenian, and not allowing my grandchildren to forget that they are Armenians.

My achievements can be characterized by the fact that despite being the child of refugees I was able to graduate Yerevan State University’s department of Architecture and have had the honor of having worked in France’s largest design and engineering institution for over thirty years. There isn’t a single corner of France where I couldn’t set foot and find work.

My current activities are quite limited, and through certain principles of charity I try to modestly make myself useful to my homeland.