Our mother was born in Yerevan, Armenia. She was named Ziazan, which means rainbow—a symbol of new beginnings and new hope since she was born the day after the anniversary of Armenia’s independence: May 28, 1920.
She was the first child of Arshak and Vartanoush Saroukhanian. Her father was an active member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and worked toward the independence of Armenia. Her mother was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. As a military family, they had to constantly relocate. Her life began in Armenia; during the Russian occupation, her family was sent into exile in Astrakhan, Russia on the Caspian Sea. The family fled for freedom to Tabriz, Iran.
Mom was 15 years old when her father was assassinated. Her formal education was interrupted as she needed to help care for her three brothers and support the family. Mom was hired as an apprentice in a friend’s compounding pharmacy, where she would follow recipes to prepare formulations for headaches and manually fill tubes of toothpaste. Then she picked up tailoring and took lessons from a local Armenian seamstress to sew dresses for herself as a hobby. This became mom’s creative outlet as well as her profession.
Mom met Dad, Galust, at a private party in Tehran, Iran. After three months of courtship, they were married on September 16, 1953. They had two daughters, Lida and Edna. Mom and Dad were loving parents, who remained married together for 65 years.
Mom came to the US in 1970 with her family. She attended night school for English as a second language. She was interested in world politics, and she would read both the Armenian Hairenik newspaper as well as local papers. She also took sewing classes to learn pattern making, refined tailoring methods and couture design, all using industrial machines, and thereby making herself employable in a new country. Her sewing métier was quite marketable; she was hired as a sample maker for several boutiques in Manhattan’s Fashion District.
Mom was a dedicated and supportive parent. She made many school uniforms and tailored many of her daughters’ clothes from her patterns. When Edna was a graduate student, Mom took the train from New York to Philadelphia to stay with her and help her adjust to life away from home for the first time. Mom enjoyed meeting her daughters’ friends from elementary school years up to graduate school years. Her benevolent heart continues to be appreciated to this day by one of Lida’s graduate school friends, who Mom housed and nurtured during a difficult time. Mom had a soft spot for vulnerable people and gave them new beginnings and hope.
Mom was loving, empathetic, sincere and bright. She was a polyglot and spoke Armenian, English, French, Russian and Farsi.
We appreciate all the sacrifices you have made for our family, Mom—raising us and then taking care of our children as we built our own lives. We love and cherish you always.
Ziazan Antonian is survived by her husband Galust Antonian, daughters Lida and Edna, brothers Haroutun and Kayzer, and grandchildren Charlotte, Emily, Andrew and David. She was predeceased by her brother Hamayak.