Education: there was nothing mentioned about the Armenian history in the school textbooks
As there was no Armenian school at that time in Turkey, I was going to a Turkish school named after Ismed Pasha in 1939. Later I graduated from the Lyceum of Art. However, I did not get a diploma, as there were some problems with my documents.
But at that age, my mother used to tell us everything about the Armenian writings and literature. Everybody spoke Armenian at our place. My mother would not let us speak Turkish. If we said something in Turkish, my mother would answer only in Armenian. It is interesting that the Armenian territories were said to be Turkish in the Turkish history textbooks, another regrettable point was also that there was nothing mentioned about the Armenian history. We did not study anything about even the name “Armenian” during our classes. Everything was faked by the Turks. I was in my 8th grade when the Second World War started and all the Armenian men at the age of 19-45 were sent to the war. My elder brother also went and thanks God he returned safe and sound after 4 years.
An Armenian man in the Turkish army
I had served in the Turkish army for two years since 1953. I was playing in the Turkish orchestra there. Before me, when my brother was in the army in 1940s, the oppressions were heavy: Armenians were not given guns; they were constantly made to work. However, during the years when I was serving, the oppressions had relented and if one wore a Turkish soldier uniform, there could not be any problem.
Post army life in Istanbul
I returned from the army in 1955. And because my mother was already living in Istambul with my brothers and sisters, I also went to Istanbul. I started playing in the volleyball team. In the beginning I was playing in the Greek team but since 1962 I started playing in the Armenian team called Shishli where everyone was Armenian except one Turkish. Later I played in Premier League. Shishli was an Armenian district in Turkey where the biggest Armenian cemetery was located. I continued to go in for that sport until the age of 43.
As I had a small regression in my Armenian after coming back from the army, I started practicing it again. My mother would find books from her acquaintances and we would read them. Besides, I started working at the Armenian Church. One could often see Armenians there.
I got married at the age of 31 in 1963. My wife was still a student when we married. Our parents were in close relations to each other and that is how we met. She left her education unfinished at the age of 18, which was 13 years younger than me, and we got married. We had three children: a daughter and two sons; unfortunately my daughter died at an early age.
The stereotype that there was no Armenian in Turkey after 1915; physical oppressions of 1915-1922 and the disguised Armenians
I clearly remember what my mother would tell us. They would often gather with friends and talk about the terrible massacres of 1915. We were going to return to Armenia during those hard years, but the roads were closed already. Many Armenian families stayed in Turkey. For instance, there were 100 Armenian families in Malatia, where we used to live and there were even more in Istanbul.
During the years of Mistafa Kemal (Turkish political, military and state figure, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President) and especially in 1915-1922 the physical oppression was terrible. It was impossible to go out. It was absolutely prohibited to talk about the Armenian writings and literature. Armenian schools and Churches all closed down, only some were left in Istanbul. Even the local Churches served as Turkish arsenal.
Armenians would stay disguised starting from those years till 1923. The Turks had gathered our passports and distributed Turkish passports so that the Armenians would disappear. Starting from 1923, during Esmeth Pasha’s rule, the situation mitigated and the Armenians were moved to Istanbul as there was a school and a church there.
The stereotype of a Turkish friend
There are bad and good people in every nation. I have also had many good Turkish friends. In 1958 a crowd of drunken Turkish entered one of the Greek and Armenian districts and they didn’t leave a single window unbroken; they took everything out of the windows. And then, I clearly remember one of my Turkish friends, Doctor Zalaf, hearing about what had happened, coming to my place and saying that the danger was great on those days and that we should go to their place. There were many kind and willing people as in all nations.
April 24 is marked red on the Armenian calendar. 1915 became a fatal year for the Armenians. It is known as Genocide in history during which the Turks massacred one and a half million Armenians. Stepan Kalloshyan’s family was one of those few who could survive in Turkey throughout those cruel years and even after that.
Stepan Kalloshyan’s birth, childhood and family
He was born in 1932 in Malatia (Malatia is an Armenian city in Western Armenia, now Turkey (Malatya in Turkish), the administrative centre of the namesake Malatya district). He was the youngest in his family. His father, Gevorg Kalloshyan, was released from exile for his high quality art: he was a constructor. Unfortunately his father died when I he was three years old. In Turkey his family was in close relations with the family of Hrant Dink, former chief editor of “Agos” newspaper, because the wife of Hrant Dink’s uncle was his sister’s sister-in-law. By the way, when his father died in 1935, Hrant Dink’s grandmother and grandfather were also present (below you can see a photo taken at the funeral; Hrant Dink’s grandmother and grandfather are in the right part of the photo).
His mother, Narduhi Donabekyan, was a housekeeper also released from exile. She had been married twice: her first husband was a catholic; the second one was his Christian father. His father was the son-in-law of the same house his mother was the daughter-in-law; his father’s mother-in-law was also his mother’s mother-in-law. The mother-in-law married the daughter-in-law and the son-in-law knowing that his father’s wife and his mother’s husband were dead. Back then hi mother had one child, Mariam, they were born later, three brothers and a sister, Asatour, Nshan, Manuel, Varduhi and me. Unfortunately it is only Stepan Kalloshyan alive now.