‘We Armenians Survived’: COVID-19 Connection Draws Past to Present

ALAMEDA, Calif.—Author Ellen Sarkisian Chesnut’s second non-fiction book—We Armenians Survived! Battle of Marash 1920—consists of eye-witness accounts of civilians caught between the opposing forces of Turkish combatants against the French army.

“I knew my mother’s people, the Shamlians, Topalians and Berberians of Marash, Turkey lost relatives to heartless torture before being summarily killed, but luckily they survived as did an adolescent, Lydia Bagdikian, not a family member, whose memoir is featured in the book,” says Sarkisian Chesnut.

Chesnut first learned of her family’s experiences during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 when she was an adolescent. She always wanted to let readers of history know the truth of what happened. Chesnut succeeded in this with the publication, to overwhelmingly positive reviews, of her first book about her father published in 2014—Deli Sarkis: The Scars He Carried.

“I’m reading Ellen Chestnut’s latest book ‘Battle of Marash’ while in quarantine due to the pandemic. Rather than repeat the excellent previous reviews for this book, I just want to add my personal recommendation for this book which is a heartfelt compilation of memoirs by survivors of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. While this first genocide of the 20th century was horrific, the stories of persecuted Christians and their amazing survival and incredible accomplishments as immigrants [are] heartwarming. In one passage I learned that a co-developer of the malaria drug that is now saving COVID-19 patients’ lives was just one of these incredible survivors. What an amazing people,” wrote readers Jim and Randi, who gave the book a five-star review on March 28, 2020.

Dicran Berberian

The review references three chapters of the book that feature the memoirs of Dr. Dicran Berberian about the Battle of Marash. “It turns out that Dicran Berberian (my mother’s first cousin) was the co-discoverer of the antimalarial drug Plaquenil now known as Hydroxychloroquine. This is being used by some doctors to treat people with COVID-19,” said Sarkisian Chesnut.

All proceeds will help Armenian compatriots in distress in both Lebanon and Syria—Armenian Relief Society (ARS) for Armenian Syria Relief and the Armenian Missionary Association of America for Armenian Lebanon Relief. “By ordering this book, you will not only be getting an informative book filled with inspirational stories but you will be helping Armenians in the Middle East,” said Chesnut.

Jenny Yettem

Jenny Yettem

Jenny Yettem is a former editor of The Armenian Weekly. She currently serves as editor of The California Courier.

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