Armenian News Network /
February 14, 2014
Special to Groong by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor, Long Island, NY
The following quotes from “The Helping Hand Series” give a feeling for the urgent need to secure aid for the Armenians.
“Once again the voice of the prophet rings in our ears, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” [Isaiah 40:]
“Lift them up, send them relief, pray for them as you have never prayed before, since a race is being done to death!
“The Armenian nation is being blotted out! Do you realize what it means that strong true men, without a thought of sedition or treason, should be imprisoned, tortured till they cannot stand, and then driven out to be shot down by Kurds or Turkish soldiers, hung in the market places, or drowned in the sea?
“Can you for a moment imagine the woe of those old men, women and tender children who are driven into the desert to die, or left as slaves in Moslem villages? We will not try to picture the attendant horrors: the living death of young girls and loving mothers, the misery of the babies and young children, perishing with drought and hunger by the roadside.
“The twentieth century hides its eyes from the sight. It cannot be described.”
And again, “500,000 Children in Bible lands face starvation. What will you do about it? Since 1895 our Association [The National Armenia and India Relief Association] has handled the problem of saving massacre children in Turkey and famine children in India, hoping some day…to finish its work. Now we take up our mission afresh aided by you. Stretch out your helping hand!”
Attention was given in a recent post on Groong about how American Relief workers were instrumental in the planning and execution of Christmas celebrations for Armenian orphans in Mezreh, Kharpert in January 1920. The genuine affection and compassion for the Armenians who had survived genocide and the sincerity revealed in the letters and communications was very touching indeed.
Among the many significant things that increasingly stick out in our minds from our studies made in various archives has been that there were, in fact, some ten million children who were made orphans by World War I. Happily, millions of lives were saved by the generosity of Americans. But an important distinction that we feel needs to be made again and again, is that Armenian orphans were not direct victims of the War, or as a result of their being refugees in the strict definition of the word. No matter how much one seeks to modify or qualify, soften, ameliorate, - whatever, the bare fact remains that the Armenians were the victims of the Young Turk government who directed and carried out the destruction and attempted to annihilate them, their ‘race’, as the perverted Turk mentality in that period demanded, unless they were willing to be fully Turkified. (We need not bother here what that might entail.)
A “refugee” in that period was usually formally defined in dictionaries as “one who flees for protection, especially from political or religious persecution.” Use of the word ‘war’ ended up considerably later as being yet another cause in the age of total war which generated hordes of refugees. But again, the vast majority of Armenians did not flee for protection. One day the full story of the Vanetsis following the Russian army as it withdrew from advancing Turkish troops will be told. As many know, a substantial number of those in Hayastan today have Vanetsi roots. But those who were not able to withdraw and go into hiding underwent forced and cruel deportation (actually a substitute for massacre), frequently referred to by survivors as the aksor. One cannot really argue in our view that these Armenians were exiled, for the purest definition of exile was at the time and still is, to be “banished from one’s native country.” The Armenians were not “banished”, they were driven out of their homeland under escort (another euphemism), and were victims of all sorts of deliberate evils, if indeed they survived to endure them. This is not simply a matter of hair splitting. Again, we need not dwell on these specific evils here.
Fund raising for any cause, good bad or indifferent, is never easy. Americans were generous and the need in that period was terrific. Many were tired of giving for the ‘starving’ or needy - to this group, that group or yet another group, and after a while the donations tapered off, eventually dwindling to a trickle. That is, as expected, a story unto itself.
An ever-present feature of fund raising for the Armenians was that no punches were ever withheld so to speak. The stories told about the starving Armenians were direct, heart-wrenching and alarming. One recurrent phrase of that period that sticks out in our minds is “Sick and tired? You don’t know what sick and tired really means!” Or, “Tired of suffering and hunger.” In the same vein, and in reference to the huge numbers of those who were literally starving to death, “Are you fed up?”
Those who knew the devastated regions best, especially in Turkey, less so in the southern Caucasus region, were the American missionaries. Understandably, it was they who first answered the call for help in saving the tattered remnants of the Armenian nation. Strangely enough, the euphemism for the relief work was “reconstruction.” To our way of thinking, this was a fantasy, pure and simple. Reconstruction of an essentially annihilated people could never be accomplished even if one were to concentrate on orphans as being a new beginning. Reconstruction never really took place at the level needed. It could not have been. Despite the fact that way back then the present-day age of ‘spinmeisters’ was still a faint concept waiting to be fully developed; we suppose that it was the only decision that could be made—the picking up of the few remnant pieces. One must concede obviously that it was not a bad decision to try to be positive.
Clearly, the work of those seeking to aid in ‘reconstruction’ was cut out for them, and it is yet another miracle that they were able to do so much with relatively little. This service was as basic an act of love as was humanly possible. Emma Roxanna Spencer Hubbard, the widow of Rev. Albert Wells Hubbard, an old missionary family among the Armenians in Sivas, wrote in February 1919 a letter to her daughter Mary that was to be opened after she was set to sea en route to Turkey as a relief worker for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East. In this beautiful letter she states the content of her prayers that will be made throughout the period her daughter would be away. “I will be praying for so many things, for great usefulness, for wisdom to see clearly where you can put your time and strength to count for the most, for the true spirit of Christ that will make you forget self in ministering to the needs of the homeless and destitute, for constant joy in the service you are giving of yourself too…¬” (The work of Rev. Albert Hubbard and his wife Emma as missionaries to Sivas is showcased in “The Hubbards of Sivas: a chronicle of love and faith” by Edwin W. Martin and published in 1991 by Fithian Press, McKinleyville, CA).
So far as Mary is concerned, especially in the period with which we are here concerned, the entry pertaining to her, indeed all those listed in the Near East Relief’s Team Work, Veteran’s Number June 1924 is deceptively simple. It says:- “HUBBARD, Miss Mary of White Plains, New York went over with the “Leviathan” party of February 16, 1919 and was assigned to Sivas. She worked at Caesarea. She left Constantinople for home by way of Marseilles on July 28, 1920. She may be addressed at 29 Lafayette Street, White Plains, N. Y.”
A minimalist statement if ever there was one! No one who knew Mary Hubbard’s story would deny that her service in Sivas is the stuff out of which movies are made! Actually her group only spent a very brief time in Caesarea, the work was virtually all in Sivas. (See “Triumph from Tragedy” by Araxi Hubbard Dutton Palmer, ne¬é Arpenia Karagosian, Self-published, 1997).
One day while on the way from one orphanage to another in Sivas Mary Hubbard chanced upon an Armenian woman in dire straights and dying. She learned from the woman in her last breaths, that her name was Aznive Karagosian. Mary knew Armenian, Turkish etc. and was fortunately able to understand her. Aznive had lost her husband but she herself had escaped the Diyadin massacre in the Erzerum Vilayet. Aznive was in terrible condition and absolutely near death. She gave Mary her baby daughter Arpenia, who was only a couple of months old at most, and asked that she take care of her since she was dying. Mary was able to get some rather precise details about what had happened from Aznive and stayed with her until she died. Taking the baby girl who was also in a horrible state to the hospital sadly ended up with Mary being told that the baby would more than likely not last three days, and that there only was room in the crowded facility for those who had a realistic chance of surviving. Refusing to accept “no” as an answer, Mary assumed responsibility, took the baby to her room and fed her with canned Carnation milk using an eye dropper. Miraculously, the baby lived and even thrived. Eventually, they returned to America on the S.S. Providence, an aptly named ship for them to travel on, leaving the port of Naples, on 11 August and arriving at Ellis Island on 25 August 1920. Tragically, Mary’s fianc¬ée, also serving in relief work, Charles Van Orden Farnham of Wheaton, Illinois and who was to join her in America the summer of the following year, was shot dead accidentally by a stray bullet in Constantinople. It was a blow from which Mary never fully recovered; she remained single all her life.
Having returned to the United States earlier than anticipated because of witnessing a horrible act of vicious murder of a baby by a Turk, Mary took on work as a lecturer and fundraiser, concentrating on telling stories of the plight of orphans like Araxi. The touching and uplifting story of the little baby, eventually adopted as Araxi Hubbard has been placed on YouTube, and is entitled “Araxi Hubbard – The Amazing Story of an Armenian Orphan.” The video reflects a visit we made in 2003 to visit Araxi who is today alive and doing well in her 90s!
We hope readers will agree that the following absolutely charming photographs of Araxi and her adoptive mother Mary Hubbard attest to the value of using an attractive and cheerful youngster as a Poster Child for fund raising.
Mary S. Hubbard was a recipient of a Gold Medal along with 19 others who served as field workers for the Near East Relief in 1922 (see “Medals for Relief Work, twenty members of Near East Society to be honored” in New York Times, 9 January 1922 pg. 21).
The following Valentine photograph is from the back cover of The New Near East volume 6 no. 5 February 1921). The others are reproduced with Araxi’s permission from scans from “Triumph from Tragedy.”