After her father died in 1983 and she began going through his things, Adrienne Alexanian discovered things about him that she had never known. Among Yervant Alexanian’s belongings, his daughter found a hand-written account of his experiences during the Armenian genocide, in which he lost 51 members of his immediate family.
Alexanian spent years transforming his account into a book, “Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Empire,” published earlier this year. This edition, translated from Alexanian’s hand-written Armenian language chronicle, includes never-before-seen documents and photos that the author preserved.
“Forced into Genocide” is the riveting memoir of Yervant Edward Alexanian, an eye-witness to the massacres and dislocation of his family and countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. His memoir is a one-of-a-kind insider’s account documenting the genocide’s astonishing cruelty — but also its rare, unexpected acts of humanity.
Alexanian will discuss her father’s memoir in a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the University Business Center’s Alice Peters Auditorium (Room 191) at Fresno State.
“My father often said, ‘A man’s legacy is his good name based on keeping his word.’ This was a core belief of his and also one which helped to save his life,” Alexanian said. “There were two reasons my father needed to stay alive: to keep his promise to help his childhood friend escape her prison as a servant and concubine in a Turkish home and to tell his story to the world. He accomplished the former, but died before accomplishing the latter. Telling my father’s story thus became my responsibility, and my privilege.”
“Forced into Genocide” features an introduction by Dr. Sergio La Porta, Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State, and a foreword by Dr. Israel Charny.
“This memoir is significant because it is the story of a survivor who served in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and was not sent on the deportations,” La Porta said. “The author also recounts much about life in the city of Sivas before the genocide and personal relations between members of the different communities there.”
This presentation is sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program and the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State, and is co-sponsored by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research and the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism at Fresno State. It is part of the Armenian Studies Program Fall Lecture Series and is supported by the Leon S. Peters Foundation.
Alexanian graduated from Hunter College with a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s in political science.
Alexanian has been active in the Armenian community as an NGO Representative at the United Nations for both the Armenian Diocese and the Armenian General Benevolent Union for eight years. In that capacity, she initiated, organized and moderated forums on the Nagorno Karabakh War, the blockade of Armenia, landmine eradication and the Armenian genocide among others.
Alexanian has coordinated earthquake relief for the Armenian Diocese and chaired numerous fundraisers and major events. In 2010 she received the Ellis Island Award for her decades of volunteer work and philanthropy for the Armenian community.
“If my father were alive today, he would humbly say that he is merely the messenger to tell a bigger story, the Armenian genocide,” Alexanian said.
Copies of “Forced into Genocide” will be available for sale at the lecture.
The lecture is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in lots P6 and P5 near the University Business Center with a code at a campus kiosk for a parking permit. For more information and a free parking code, call 559.278.2669 or visit the website.