Letter: ‘Discovering Zabelle’ Fuses Two Families

Dear Editor,

Last week, you published my essay, “Discovering Zabelle,” beneath which I received a number of comments. One, in particular, written by Sheila Abdalian, caught my eye.

Zabelle Abdalian, 1886-1962
Zabelle Abdalian, 1886-1962

“I am Sheila Abdalian, the daughter of Vahe Vahian (Sarkis Hagop Abdalian). I’m so thrilled from this article—I always lived with [the] hope that one day more relatives would pop up,” she wrote.

Within a matter of hours, e-mails traversed between myself in California, Pamela Barsam Brown (Zabelle Abdalian’s grand-niece) in Colorado, and Sheila in Lebanon. Pamela and Sheila are simply over the moon with having found one another. Apparently, my journey with Zabelle continues in ways I never could have imagined. As written within my essay, it feels as if Zabelle herself has taken me by the hand, and is leading me through a confluence of history, lineage, and mystic memory.

There has been a great kerfuffle in the process of tracing the particulars of familial lineage, much of which has left me feeling as if I’ve been dropped into the Bible of “Begats.” Simply put, Pamela is second cousin to Sheila.

In Pamela’s own words: “A magical convergence of Zabelle’s 19th-century flight of poetic imagination connects forward to her 21st-century Abdalian family and backward to her father’s nephew, Sarkis Hagop Abdalian (penname Vahe Vahian). Despite the devastation of broken families, a consequence of the Armenian Genocide, poetry has fused two families separated by half a world. Beirut, Lebanon journalist and poet Sheila Abdalian introduced herself to [me] on April 8, 2015. We are second cousins lost to each other for over a century, united by Carla Friedman’s indomitable spirit in ‘Discovering Zabelle.’”

“I feel spellbound. What’s happening it’s just a Dream Come True. I always had the hope that one day a missing relative would come and knock at our door—and here this has happened on a very special year that marks the Centennial of the Genocide of our ancestors. It is as if their spirits revolted and passed the forbidden walls of Life and Death to bring us together. I’m so excited to read each revelation you pass on to me,” wrote Sheila.

In the book Scientific Air Possibilities with the Human, through which I first discovered Zabelle, she writes, “Radio has linked this country with others, in vast networks of telegraphic inter-communication, exchanging messages around the world with the speed of light.”

If Zabelle could only see us now…

Perhaps, in her “air-bodiedness,” she can.


Carla Friedman
April 12, 2015


Carla Friedman

Carla Rachel Friedman is a graduate of Naropa University with a B.A. degree in Poetics and Buddhist Studies. Scribbler of words, beach walker, resting somatic bodyworker, hospice care volunteer, and wandering Jew, she presently dwells in a small cottage on the Central California coast.

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  1. Le nom de jeune fille de Ma Grand Mère paternelle est ABDALIAN Makrouhi(1880_1958)
    Il y a des ABDALIAN en Iran et en France ce sont des cousins de mon Père Agop (fils de Makrouhi).

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