Landing in the United States, Canada, and Cuba, Armenian women, who survived the 1915 massacre in Turkey, arrived to start new lives and meet the unknown men, who would soon became their husbands. The phenomenon of the Armenian Picture Brides gave way to one of the first modern dating agencies and changed the course of the Armenian diaspora forever. (Photos: Courtesy of the Families)
They came by the hundreds, even thousands — ethnic Armenian women who had survived the World-War-I-era massacres in Turkey and were brought by ship to the United States to meet the equally anxious Armenian men, complete strangers, who would become their partners for life.
Love was scarce, but the hunger for survival wasn’t. In a patchwork-effort to reconstruct Armenian bloodlines and the culture that had been lost dur-ing the violent upheaval of 1915, the phenomenon of the 1920s Armenian picture-brides foreshadowed modern dating agencies and changed the course of the Armenian Diaspora forever.
Their passages were organized by informal networks of friends, family and Armenian-American communities; often, the prospective husbands had only seen a photo of their brides-to-be.
Both of 63-year-old Los Angeles realtor Dianne Bedrosian Ohanesian’s grandmothers were picture-brides. In fact, every woman in Ohanesian’s ex-tended family was matched up with an Armenian husband who had emi-grated to the US years before.
Within Armenians’ family-centric culture, such marriages were seen as critical for the survival not only of an individual family, but the Armenian na-tion at large.
“Whenever they could get a sister out, she was supposed to bring others with her and there were men ready,” Ohanesian said of her own family. “I’ve been floored reading about it. It amazes me what they went through and how their lives were so different.”
Ohanesian’s paternal grandmother was marched with relatives as refugees from Kessab in northwestern, Turkish-controlled Syria to the deserts of Deir ez-Zor in the east. Another brother kept her hidden in an abandoned struc-ture until it was safe for her to escape.
“We heard there was a younger brother who died on the march,” Ohane-sian said.
A brother who already lived in the United States eventually paid for her travel to Cleveland, Ohio. When she arrived, her husband-to-be was wait-ing for her.
Her maternal step-grandmother, who had been seized by a Turkish man and bore a child by him also came to Cleveland from Malatya, Turkey. Her brother, who secured her passage, had also been living in the U.S. and she was asked to bring another woman along for him to marry. However, she was forced to leave her child, a daughter, behind. She never saw her again.
Edited by onjig, 22 February 2016 - 02:16 AM.