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Lunch & Learn: The Luckiest One

Join us for this inspirational true story of Harkiné Hagopian, who survived the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and immigrated to this country to establish a new life. Her remarkable story is told by her grandson, Bob Rollings, who transcribed over eleven hours of interviews with Harkiné to write and publish her memoir, The Luckiest One.

Lunch and Learn is a free to the public program, however, registration is requested. Email Delesha Thomas at dthomas@carnegiecenter.org or call 812-944-7336.

 

Story of Harkiné Hagopian, 1915 Armenian Genocide survivor

Visual Narrative by Bob Rollings

 

Tragically, the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany was not the first genocide of the 20th century, nor the last. In many ways the Nazi’s modeled their atrocities against the Jewish people of Europe on the Ottoman Turk’s atrocities a generation earlier against the Armenians of Anatolia. Hitler justified his plan to slaughter Polish innocents in 1939 with a dismissive reference to the 1915 Armenian Genocide: Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? Today’s Middle Eastern violence, which regularly splashes tragic news worldwide, links historically in many ways to the political, ethnic, and religious hatreds which metastasized one hundred years ago in Ottoman Turkey.

Harkiné Hagopian lived an idyllic childhood in Anatolia at the beginning of the twentieth century, an Armenian child enjoying Turkish baths and summer vacations at a nearby monastery. Lively, athletic, and full of life’s promise, Harkiné prepared to graduate from her beloved grade school in 1915 when it was abruptly closed and its teachers imprisoned. Engulfed by WWI as an ally of Germany, the Ottoman Turkey empire was to disintegrate over the next six years, during which time it exterminated 1.5 million of its Armenian citizens. Stalked by incomprehensible evil, Harkiné improbably survived, returning to a shattered home no longer as an innocent schoolgirl, pregnant with her second child. She considered herself “the luckiest one.” Raising that child and eventually four more as an American immigrant, she died peacefully at the age of 98.

Harkiné speaks through the ages with her life story, retold in its entirety by a memoir The Luckiest One (search Lulu.com). It sparkles like a fictional fantasy: Arab sheiks with harems, Turkish baths, murderous marauders in the desert, a mountain pass on a donkey, salvation by the sacrifice of a beautiful sister and will of a clever husband, a stranger from another social class. Most astonishing of all was that event so shockingly brutal it didn’t have a name until almost three decades later: Armenian Genocide. Harkiné came to face the indiscriminate and unrelenting eye of incarnate evil. Her legacy is a testament to the ultimate failure of Ottoman Turkey to extinguish the Armenian people. Facing incomprehensible evil, Harkiné proved that good does sometimes prevail.

Contemplating any genocide is heart-wrenching: revulsion is an appropriate response to stomach-turning crimes against humanity. However, Harkiné’s story can be told in all its poignancy without showing gruesome images (out of respect and common decency to the memory of innocent victims). This presentation is a visual narrative with dozens of rare, historical images forbidden by Ottoman Turkey. Portions of the presentation are accompanied by authentic Armenian music. Although the historical circumstances are grim, this story is ultimately an uplifting account of the survival of good over evil amidst profound sacrifice and personal loss. As the first genocide of the 20th century, this is an unforgettable warning that such events not be repeated.