Remembering the Armenians of Ethiopia

Special for the Armenian Weekly

At the beginning of March, a Requiem was offered for my parents and for the Sevadjian clan, and it transported me back 40 years to when I had last been to a service in the magnificent church of my childhood: the St. George Armenian Apostolic Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, holding the Ethiopian flag in 1910. (Photo courtesy of Alain Marcerou)
Members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, holding the Ethiopian flag in 1910. (Photo courtesy of Alain Marcerou)

The church and the cross on its dome stood out against a perfect blue sky. I went in and lit a candle. The altar curtain was pulled across as it was Lent. I looked up at the azure ceiling and the chandeliers. Light was streaming through the stained glass windows into the chorister’s gallery. It was a moving and beautiful experience. The sonorous tones of Vartkes Nalbandian and the clear soprano of Salpi Nalbandian made me very emotional. It was not possible to have a full Badarak as Vartkes is a deacon, and there is no longer an Armenian priest in residence in Ethiopia.

My mother, Dzovinar Sevadjian, dressed as an Armenian noblewoman of the 5th century at the Red Cross Fair, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1961. She is accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Balian. Mrs. Balian was a teacher of needlework at the Empress Menen School.
My mother, Dzovinar Sevadjian, dressed as an Armenian noblewoman of the 5th century at the Red Cross Fair, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1961. She is accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Bablanyan.

I stood and listened and prayed. I thought of all the Yetovbahayer who had prayed in that church, who had made up the richest and most vibrant foreign community in Ethiopia, their numbers now dwindled to less than 100 souls. Philanthropists, industrialists, businessmen, talented men and women, and most of all, artisans, artisans, and more artisans. What a great number of them there were!

Boghos Markarian, who arrived in 1866 and supplied goods and arms to the courts of Emperor Yohannes and later Emperor Menelik II, was one of the first Armenians to settle in Ethiopia in modern times. By the late 1960’s, the Armenians numbered some 1,200.

There had been Armenians in Ethiopia long, long before then, as early as the 13th century, but a real community with significant numbers was only established in the early 1900’s when many left their ancestral homes in the Ottoman Empire and found a safe haven in Christian Ethiopia. Another wave of Armenians arrived in the 1920’s. Thereafter the numbers increased as people married, invited cousins and other relatives to join them from wherever they had ended up—mostly Syria and Lebanon—after the genocide.

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Vahe Tilbian, who will be part of the Armenian entry at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. (Photo courtesy of Vahe Tilbian)

The Armenians who settled in Ethiopia before the 1920’s, and those who arrived after 1945, were mostly well educated; they were doctors, dentists, chemists, architects, engineers, lawyers, and accountants. Many of those who arrived in the 1920’s as a direct consequence of the genocide were artisans; they were tailors, watchmakers, cobblers, and carpet makers. Thus in almost every trade, profession, and industry, there were Armenians in Addis Ababa. They had come from a very wide area of the Ottoman Empire and brought with them the special expertise of their hometowns.

Addis Ababa boasted a large number of remarkably skilled jewelers. One of the first was Dikran Ebeyan, who had arrived from Constantinople. He had the distinction of making the coronation crowns of Emperors Yohannes in 1881 and Menelik II in 1889.

Should you visit any jewelry shop in Addis Ababa today, you will see filigree work in gold and silver. This skill was introduced and taught to Ethiopian artisans by Armenian craftsmen.

A visit to the Armenian cemetery gives an idea of the origins of the three major waves of Armenian immigrants, mirroring the tragedies that befell their homeland: First came those from Constantinople, Aintab, Arapkir, Kharpert; then Adana and Van; then Marash, Sparta, and Smyrna.

The interior of St. George’s Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2015. (Photo: R.P. Sevadjian)
The interior of St. George’s Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2015. (Photo: R.P. Sevadjian)

It is difficult to overestimate the contribution that Armenians made in their 100 years in Ethiopia. Armenians moved with Emperor Menelik II from Harar to Addis Ababa and helped build a modern capital city. There is not enough space here to describe all their important and lasting contributions, in trade, industry, and government, but a few must be mentioned as they are truly exceptional.

Firstly, there were two great philanthropists whose legacies live on today. One was Mihran Mouradian, a merchant, who built the church that was consecrated in 1935. The other was Matig Kevorkoff, who in 1923 built a modern school to unite the two schools that had previously divided the community. Kevorkoff was a French citizen who grew up in Egypt and moved to Djibouti at the age of 29 to pursue a highly successful career as a merchant of tobacco and other commodities. During the fascist occupation of Ethiopia (1936-41), because of his French nationality, all of his assets were confiscated by the Italians as “enemy property.” Kevorkoff died in penury in Marseille in the early 1950’s.

Among a number of amusing stories of the arbitrary ways Armenians ended up in Ethiopia is that of the Darakdjians. Stepan Darakdjian left Kharpert in 1912 and made his way to Egypt, hoping to immigrate to America. A requirement for a visa to America was an examination for trachoma. While waiting to be seen by the eye doctor, he went to an Armenian cafe, where he fell into conversation with a man named Hovhannes Assadourian, who had just returned from Ethiopia. Assadourian said, “You are a tanner. Why go to America? Go to Ethiopia where they need shoes!” So Stepan Darakdjian made his way to Harar and set up a tannery in partnership with another Armenian called Karikian. Later on, his son, Mardiros, moved to Addis Ababa where he founded a modern tannery in Akaki and a shoe factory called Darmar (Darakdjian Mardiros). Later still, he branched out into many other businesses and became very wealthy. The factory and shops still exist with the old sign of a lion (which looks very much like the Metro Goldwyn Mayer one), but the shops are now called Ambassa (lion).

Two of the earliest settlers, Hovsep Behesnilian and Sarkis Terzian, made their fortunes by supplying arms to Emperor Menelik II during his 1896 war against the invading Italians. The Behesnilian name lives on in perhaps the largest and most successful conglomerate in Ethiopia, HAGBES, founded by Hovsep’s nephew, Hagop Behesnilian, still privately owned, and employing some 1,000 people.

The Armenian community leaders of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the mid-1940’s. (Standing, L-R) Boghos Yeghiaian, Garbis Ebeyan, and Manoug Khoudanian. (Seated, L-R) Amasia Soukiasian, Avedis Sevadjian, Bishop Mampre Sirounian, Samuel Behesnilian, and Haroutioun Nalbandian. (Photo courtesy of Aida Shahbaz)
The Armenian community leaders of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the mid-1940’s. (Standing, L-R) Boghos Yeghiaian, Garbis Ebeyan, and Manoug Khoudanian. (Seated, L-R) Amasia Soukiasian, Avedis Sevadjian, Bishop Mampre Sirounian, Samuel Behesnilian, and Haroutioun Nalbandian. (Photo courtesy of Aida Shahbaz)

In 100 years or so, Armenians ran big industries and businesses, as well as departments of government. Because of their loyalty to the emperors—Yohannes, Menelik II, and Haile Selassie—they were entrusted with work in such important government departments as the imperial mint, the treasury, the police force (complete with a secret service), town planning, and the municipality. There was an Armenian deputy governor of province, an officer of the Kbur Zebagna (Imperial Bodyguard), and a deputy mayor of Addis Ababa. Some 50 Armenians found employment at the Imperial Court because of their expertise (for example, as chauffeurs, not only because they could drive, but because they knew how to properly maintain cars).

With the opening up of Ethiopia to foreign embassies and foreign trade by Emperor Menelik II, there was a great need for translators. Armenians, who had been the best dragomans in the Ottoman Empire, became the translators of choice at many embassies and consulates. Matig Kevorkoff became the honorary representative of the French government in Ethiopia, as well as the nascent First Armenian Republic’s ambassador plenipotentiary to Ethiopia.

Early taxi rank in the early 1930’s—Armenian chauffeurs, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (The buildings in the background are in typical Armenian style.) (Photo courtesy of Varouj Mavlian)
Early taxi rank in the early 1930’s—Armenian chauffeurs, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (The buildings in the background are in typical Armenian style.) (Photo courtesy of Varouj Mavlian)

As has been written about in many articles and publications, Ras Tafari, later Emperor Haile Selassie I, was pleased to bring 40 orphans of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to Ethiopia. In 1923, on his way to Europe, he had seen some of the orphans in Jerusalem and was impressed by the stories of how they came to be there. The Arba Lidjoch—“the Forty Children”—arrived in Addis Ababa in September 1924 on an initial four-year contract to form a marching band, some of them only having learned how to play an instrument en route! In 1930, under the leadership of maestro Kevork Nalbandian, who had composed a new national anthem for Ethiopia, the band played at the coronation of Haile Selassie I. The national anthem of each country that sent a delegation was played upon the entrance of its representative. The band refused to play the national anthem of Turkey—for obvious reasons.

The Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, which deposed Haile Selassie I and installed a Marxist government, devastated the Armenian community. The “Red Terror” meant no one was safe. Life became unbearable. Younger Armenians, who had already left Ethiopia for higher education, did not return. Many of those who were able, took their families and immigrated to other countries. The community was thus scattered to the four corners of the earth, with just a few families staying on, upholding the Yetovbahay traditions.

This year, the Armenians of Ethiopia are being brought to the attention of the world through the unlikely medium of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Republic of Armenia entry will be performed by six Armenian singers: one from the Republic of Armenia plus one from each of the five continents of the Armenian Diaspora. Vahe Tilbian of Ethiopia will be representing the continent of Africa.

Medallion made and donated by B.A. Sevadjian on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Armenians Genocide. (Photo: R.P. Sevadjian)
Medallion made and donated by B.A. Sevadjian on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Armenians Genocide. (Photo: R.P. Sevadjian)

Although few families remain, the Armenian legacy lives on in the name of districts in Addis Ababa: Armen Sefer (Armenian District), Sebara Babour (Broken Steamroller, on account of the steamroller brought in by Sarkis Terzian to build the city’s roads, which broke down and remained in situ for many years), and Serategna Sefer (Worker’s District, on account of my father’s factory). Many of the old houses and hotels built by Armenians in the style of their homes in their ancestral lands have been pulled down. However, there are a few marooned among the new high rises being built everywhere in the city.

If you look carefully, there is something Armenian in many corners of Addis Ababa.

 

Levon Djerrahian and Varoujean Tilbian contributed to this piece.

R.P. Sevadjian is the author of In the Shadow of the Sultan, a historical novel for young adults.

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R P Sevadjian is the author of "In the Shadow of the Sultan," a historical coming of age novel set during the Hamidian Massacres of 1896. Sevadjian is a third-generation diasporan Armenian, whose family left Asia Minor in the 1800s and was scattered across the world, no members remaining in their ancestral homelands. Born and raised in Africa, she now lives in the UK where she is currently researching the Armenians of Ethiopia and the work of B A Sevadjian. Her second novel, "The Darker Shadow," will be published in November. Her book is available on Amazon.

57 Comments

  1. Two former classmates from the Armenian Kevorkoff Varjaran of Addis Abbaba have teamed up to write this short history on Armenians of Ethiopia. They have done an excellent job. Although less than 100 in number, the Armenian community still maintains vibrant institutions such as the church, school, and Ararat club. The ones which have dispersed globally, migrating out of Ethiopia, are still active participants in Armenian institutions in the diaspora.

  2. Sir, you let us know the bond and relation developed between Armenians and Ethiopians. Thank you. My father also used to tell me some.

  3. In 1969 My wife (Sirihui Jamgotchian) and I went to live in Nairobi. While there we met a few Armenians who had migrated from Addis. They were “Hadji” Kherlopian, who had been tailor to Haile Selassie; Vahram Terkerian who had written a book titled “The Secret of the Dardelelles,”and the Hindoian family. They owned the Nairobi Steam Laundry. Thought that some readers might know of these families.

    • Interesting reading…my parents Tomasyan also resided in Nairobi after leaving Addis during the time Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. We were close friends of the Kherlopian, Hindoians and Tekerians. Another family emigrated from Addis were the Saatjians of whom my mother was related.

  4. Thanks for this wonderful article, Rubina. I really enjoyed it. I was 13 when I left Addis in 1975, however my fondest memories are from there.

  5. Good story about the Armenian community here in Ethiopia . A lot of it devoted to telling what those people have done to Ethiopia and nothing about the ever welcoming people of Ethiopia who endowed those migrants with prestige and wealth. Not a single thank you to the country and the Kings and its people that extended its trademark Ethiopian gesture towards any guest and unfortunate fellow people.
    Instead you tell of the fortunes that your grandparents made and the limitless civilization they brought to Ethiopia.
    There is no better civilization than showing compassion to fellow unfortunate human beings

    • Yes he should have mentioned how welcoming and hospitable Ethiopians are. I believe Armenians are good people who peacefully lived with us.

    • I had the great pleasure of reading Rubina’s article. Well written and truthful. Tekeba, I can assure you unequivocally that Rubina and her family, including most Armenians, are very appreciative of the way our dear Ethiopian brothers and sisters provided refuge to our grandparents who escaped Turkish atrocities and came to Ethiopia. Rest assured that no matter which continent or country you might visit where Armenian-Ethiopians reside, the memory of Ethiopia is always in their heart. By chance, I posted a short script on Facebook yesterday expressing my heart-felt feelings towards Ethiopia. Please read and see how I feel. Most of my Armenian friends, including Rubina, feel the same about Ethiopia.
      “Today, August 31st, 2015 marks 40 years from when I arrived to Canada as a landed immigrant. I had only realized 40 years had passed when I accidentally came across some personal documents. How fast these years have passed. My new country Canada, has offered me freedom, and I received the best education and unlimited opportunities. Canada has been good to me and to my whole family in every sense.However, I know one thing for sure; Ethiopia, the country that welcomed my great-great grandparents and the place where I was born and raised, will always be my HOME. A true home filled with many memories, a home which I can never erase from my heart.”

    • Gashe Tekeba,
      I agree with you fully. However, the author has failed to represent my feeling as well by not acknowledging the great bigheartedness of the Ethiopian people and the Imperial Government for giving the Armenians to flourish after the devastating 1,500,000 million Armenians that parishes in the Armenian genocide. Myself, I am the son of one of those survivors. I was born and raised and lived in Ethiopia in “Arada Sefer” with the common people. As a child I played in the streets with Ethiopian children and share our foods with each other. I learned to speak Amharic from the time I was born and to this day I am fluent in reading, writing and speaking the rich Ethiopian language.

      Unlike the wealthy Armenians my father was a simple saddle maker (Koricha Seratenia) and shoemaker. We lived among the Ethiopian people and by no means my parent ever denied the splendor of the country and the gentleness of the people. We were not wealthy and we did not have any aloofness regarding Ethiopia and its people.

      I ask that you receive my regret and come to realize that many others like my family treasured the new life Ethiopia gave them. Had it not been so, we I would not be here today to express my rise in Addis Ababa and being given the chance to become the old man I am now. To this day I feel a great love and compassion and proud to have been born in Ethiopia.

    • I agree with you fully. However, the author has failed to represent my feeling as well by not acknowledging the great bigheartedness of the Ethiopian people and the Imperial Government for giving the Armenians to flourish after the devastating 1,500,000 million Armenians that parishes in the Armenian genocide. Myself, I am the son of one of those survivors. I was born and raised and lived in Ethiopia in “Arada Sefer” with the common people. As a child I played in the streets with Ethiopian children and share our foods with each other. I learned to speak Amharic from the time I was born and to this day I am fluent in reading, writing and speaking the rich Ethiopian language.

      Unlike the wealthy Armenians my father was a simple saddle maker (Koricha Seratenia) and shoemaker. We lived among the Ethiopian people and by no means my parent ever denied the splendor of the country and the gentleness of the people. We were not wealthy and we did not have any aloofness regarding Ethiopia and its people.

      I ask that you receive my regret and come to realize that many others like my family treasured the new life Ethiopia gave them. Had it not been so, we I would not be here today to express my rise in Addis Ababa and being given the chance to become the old man I am now. To this day I feel a great love and compassion and proud to have been born in Ethiopia.

  6. My mother grew up in Addis around the Armen community. This was in the 50s. Loved reading this article. Unfortunately, it says very little about the local Ethiopians. Christianity was the bond between the two people and Ethiopia has also given to the Armenian families a lot.

    • Great story about the Armenian community in Ethiopia. We acknowledge with appreciation African peoples generous welcoming since time immemorial.

  7. [conjit]
    [Tekeba B]

    You are right: Armenians ought to thank Ethiopian people for welcoming our brethren into their country, and providing them the opportunity to contribute to Ethiopia.

    I will re-post here my comment from 2013:

    https://armenianweekly.com/2012/08/04/one-mans-attempt-to-capture-ethiopian-armenians-dying-legacy/

    {It is quite a statement that every one of our Ethiopian guests has had nothing but warm memories of their interactions with Ethiopian-Armenians.
    Thank you Emperor Haile-Selassie I and Ethiopian people for giving shelter to many survivors of the AG.}

    Again: Thank You good people of Ethiopia.

  8. In 1956, in the Maison des Etudiants Arméniens in Paris (Bd. Jourdan), where I was one of the residents, I met a young painter called Boghossian. His mother was Ethiopian and his father Armenian. He spoke a perfect Armenian. He was talented and became a well-known artist. Eventually, he became an artist-in-residence at Howard University, Washington DC. He died there quite a few years ago.

  9. I want to thank Rubina for writing this article! I was only 14 years old when me and my family left Addis Ababa in 1969. Fortunately, we did not have to endure the bad things that were going on in the government right after we had left the country. We were related to the Darakdjian’s, and my dad worked for them after he left his own business. It’s great to read Rubina’s perspective in the eloquent manner in which she has contributed to this article in remembering the great Armenian Community that once existed and thrived so successfully!

  10. Thank you Rubina for the excellent brief history of the Armenians from Ethiopia. I still remember fondly the times spent at your family’s property in Akake. I left Addis in 1968 to California,and his article brought back very warm memories of Ethiopia.

  11. Anoushig Rubina, Abbris!!! You have done a very beautiful job.
    I hope you will write more, and more!!!!
    I do not know if you still remeber me? your piano instuctor in Addis for a few years,” Ashken Mouradian” before we moved to San Francisco Califonria, USA.
    You played at the Yared Music school too, for our recitals!!
    Keep up the goooooooood job we need people like you.
    Sending you warm regards
    Ashken Mouradian

  12. Yet another good and enjoyable article to read.
    Well done Rubina.
    This article I presume was just a thought Rubina wanted to share, reading some of the above irritating comments raised certain eye-brows. I presume Rubina wanted to remind us of some families that offered so much to the community and to the economy of Ethiopia, a much respected Armenian community by the Emperor and the rest of the citizens. Rubina`s article had nothing to do to `Thank` anyone or boost her families earned wealth – she could do that on another article, alas we should encourage people like Rubina or any other Rubinas to write and enlighten us with their thoughts and feelings. Keep up the good job Rubina, a big BRAVO.

    • Well said Gregory. The purpose of the article was different to the expected “Thank you Ethiopia”. That one might come in the next edition. Until then, let’s accept the facts and rejoice in the fact that both Ethiopians and Armenians benefitted from each other with mutual respect.

  13. An interesting account of Armenians in Ethiopia.
    I would like to have my input regarding the forty orphans – Arba Lidjoch – who arrived in Addis Ababa on September 24, 1924. In 1918, my grandfather, Hovhannes Kahana Simonian, from Van had marched from Van to Baqouba with thousands of Vanetsis. At Baqouba, he was assigned the task of gathering some 800 orphans, boys and girls. On February 11, 1922, the orphans, my grandfather and his family set sail for Jerusalem, where the late Emperor Hale Slassi sees the band and contracts the forty orphans as his personal band. My grandfather accompanies them on their journey to Addis Ababa and stays with them for a year before returning to Jerusalem in 1925 to continue with his duties.

  14. As an Ethiopian doctor now in U.S., I owe my existence thanks to the care of Nalbandian Pharmacy on Bole Road, over half century existence, for taking care of countless Ethiopian customers over the years. The lectures of Mrs. Nalbandian to our parents on maintaining blood pressure and sugar levels has kept many alive through the years.

    THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU!

  15. My mother and her family, 2 sisters, brother were born in Ethiopia.. Always wanted to go there but never had the chance. Chorbadjian Family ! my uncle stayed there and had 4 children, but they left after the revolution started

  16. Dear sir,

    My mother’s uncle Kapriel Jidejian & his family lived in Sudan. Any news or stories about them ?

  17. I am wondering if you are the daughter, Rubina, of Bedros Sevadjian? I met you several times at your parents’ house; at Kevork Sevadjian’s house and at weddings and baptisms at the Church. I was Mardig Sevadjian’s “American” girlfriend and I went to the American Community School in Addis from 1970-1971. I loved talking to the Armenians and their stories of how they had come to Addis. Mr. Darakjian’s sister, Hokur, told me an incredibly courageous story of how she finally made it to Addis on foot. Running and hiding and barely finding anything to eat. The Armenians are truly a strong people to have been displaced so many times and yet they thrive. My compliments to you on a great story.

  18. My Grandfather Ervant Dir-nigogosian his brother Kerope Dir-nigogosian left there country Armenia to scape the genocide of Armenian . Settled in Ethiopia Harerege, Hirna. Mr. Ervant (yervant) had a club and a restaurant in Addis Ababa Piyasa. now ELPA building foreigners; Italians, Germanys, French … used to come to dine and play cards, poker, Roulette…during five years occupation of Italians the higher officials of Italians and Germany used to come. Mr. Ervant (Yervant) used to gather valuable information from them and pass it to Ethiopian warier. when the Italians fond out they give him only twenty four hours to live Ethiopia because his French Nationality at that time. and he was migrated again to ciphers and lived till 1950’s. is there any way you can help me to gather a documentations on the history of Armenians in Ethiopia. also My father Artin Ervant used to work in Darmar(Anbesa)for Mr. Darakdjan Modiros and Asko.

  19. God bless them, I never had any idea. I do see them as a good Ethiopian, they loved Ethiopia and did so many good things. They suffered a lot against the Muslim Turkish killed over one Million Christian. Coming to Ethiopia a blessed Christian country as a second home. Again we will not forget them.

  20. Fascinating history. Needs to be preserved before all Ethiopian Armenians are gone. I remember Ethiopian Armenians moving to Massachusetts in the mid 1970s.

  21. A GIANT Thank You to the kind Ethiopian people and the former monarch, Haille Selassie. They have accepted our people with open arms and gave us shelter and security.
    To All my Ethiopian friends here, our sincere apologies for Not returning the kind gesture afforded to our people.
    This “small unintended mistake” will NEVER destroy the brotherly love between our two peoples.

  22. This big genocide anniversary seems to have brought to light a fascinating array of stories. I always knew there really were Armenians everywhere, but Ethiopia? There are plenty of Ethiopian taxi drivers in DC, and lots of refugees here in Seattle where I live, but I never imagined “our” people were also Ethiopians. What a revelation. Searching the globe for Armenians can be interesting AND disappointing, as it was for me in Singapore several years ago. My eyes lit up when I saw the Old Armenian Church on a map. Rushing to that location, I found only a disused church and the remains of a somewhat neglected cemetery. There must be many such locations around the world with no one but ghosts to remember the once vibrant communities.

    • Actually, before the construction of their church, Ethiopian families would often attend services at my church in DC. Our churches are very close.

  23. Thank you to our kind and hospitable Ethiopian brothers and sisters. I have met several Armenians whose parents and grandparents lived in Ethiopia as refugees and will forever remain grateful.

  24. This article has deep meaning to me as my father and youngest sister were born there, and so many of my relatives. I have such fond memories of living there for two years from 1967 to 1969 getting to know my grandfather before he passed away, uncles, aunts, and cousins. So many Ethiopians I met spoke Armenian, and I learned to speak Ethiopian. I remember Haile-Selassie stopping at the Armenian church in his Rolls Royce and going in. So many memories came to mind reading this article. Thank you.

  25. Very well written history this is. I’ve the greatest respect and admiration to the whole Armenian community who settled in Ethiopia and beyond. Most of all those who came to Ethiopia and made it their home after the repressive persecution in their own land. My parents where very close to the Armenian community and they were instrumental in most aspects of our development in Ethiopia. My parents unforgettable memory was when the Nalbandian band played on their wedding day. What touched them the most was how they left their mother’s funeral to be at the wedding to preform as they have given their word they will come beforehand. The fascinating thing also about them was their unshakeable loyalty they’ve shown to my family and the country as a whole which the history above indicates clearly. May they be all blessed where ever their generation may be.

  26. To our Ethiopian brothers and sisters who have criticized the author for not thanking the Ethiopian people for giving us Armenians a safe heaven, let me tell you that has not been done intentionally. As an Ethiopian-Armenian, I know for a fact that I am not alone in feeling immense gratitude and love towards your wonderful people. The Ethiopian in me runs much deeper into my soul than you can imagine. Every time I hear Amharic spoken on the streets or see an Ethiopian Airlines at a random airport, my heart jumps. During the Olympics a few years ago, I was returning from a trip with friends and stopped by at a restaurant. The TV was broadcasting the 10K race, and a few of the runners were Ethiopians. I lost my appetite and was glued to the TV, cheering MY countryman to win, and when he did, I started to weep like a child, surprising myself and drawing concerned stares from people around me. No one could understand the powerful emotions that had prompted those tears. That’s how deep our love of Ethiopia and its people is! Incidentally, this mutual friendship and respect can be traced way before the 20th century, when our Christian faith bound us together at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

  27. thanks for the article, I have read about the Armenian Genocide which I sympathize with them, and now I have read about them how they arrived here in Ethiopia and their great contribution for the development of Ethiopia,

  28. አገራችሁን የኢትዮጵያን ባለ መርሳታችሁ ሁላችሁም ልትመሰገኑ ይገባል።

  29. This is a fascinating and really well researched post. I lived in Addis in the early 1960s and had four Armenian classmates, at Nazareth School for Girls. Always welcoming and hospitable, and the Ethiopians even more so. What has struck me, many times, is the enormous friendship and respect between your two cultures.

    I have my mother’s beautiful gold “Star of Mogadishu” brooch, crafted by Armenian jewellers, which she was given when we left Addis in 1964 – a very special memento.

    I wrote a book about my former classmates, “An Ethiopian Odyssey” published in 2006, to fulfill a dream about providing water in Ethiopia (half the royalties go to WaterAid.) It was very moving to find Silva Hagopian living in LA: she shared her memories of Addis and then the decision to move to LA for the book.

    It was also great to meet Mary Nalbandian, Vartkes’ wife, who hosted me when I launched the book at Nazareth School in Addis.

    I’ve been back twice to Addis since 2006, and I love the Ethiopians – such welcoming, cultured people. The Nalbandians are a very special family too, the pillar of the Armenian community there.

    I hope that, one day, your genocide will be recognised by many more countries including my own: the UK.

  30. Dear R.P.Sevadjian; Do you have the photo of Dikran Ebeyan (the skilled jeweler who make Emperor Yohannes IV & Emperor Menelik’s Crown)

    • Tedia Gebeyehu, yes, I have (not very good one). Let me know how I can send it to you.

  31. Interesting story! I wonder if there is a relation with the word Haiq and the ancient monastery of Estiphanos in North of Dessie. This site was one of the largest center of excellence in Christian teaching since 900 AD. Water bodies in semetic languages are referred as Bahr regardless of size and the word haiq is not available in any of our semetic languages. But the word Haiq is synonym with Arman..what if the name Haiq was derived from Armenian presence and by coincidence other water bodies elsewhere outside the village of Haiq are named Haiq…if the hypothesis is true then the attachment dates back many hundred years..

  32. i am very much interested in the story of armenian community in ethiopia.And i like to thank armenians for their marvelous contribution to the development of ethiopia.I am specially grateful for their participation in building marvelous st. George Church. And i will like to hear someone armenian interested in making any contribution in Church construction in ethiopia presently undergoig

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