My maternal grandfather Diran was born in Isparta, Southern Turkey in 1905. He was forced out of Isparta with his parents and six siblings when the executions of the Armenians by when the executions of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire started during the First World War. In 1922 they moved to Izmir but only until hostilities with Ottoman army have started. Then they separated the family. Diran was about to be executed but was saved with his closest friends only because he was the son of «effendi Artin»: Arutiun, his father, a well-known public figure and administrator at high levels.
After escaping execution, he managed to run away during the forced marches towards the desert of Mesopotamia. Miraculously he managed to reach Greece where he met all the members of his family.
In January 1924, through the help of a notable Armenian poet, Hrand Nazariantz, they managed to move to Bari, Italy together with about 100 more Armenians. For about two years they were living with a lot of difficulties in terrible conditions until in 1927 « Nor Arax » was founded: an Armenian village where the production of oriental rugs started.
Ashkhen was introduced to Diran through a photograph. He fell in love with her. She came from Istanbul and married Diran on the 2nd of December 1934. (See the featured photo of the marriage of Diran and Ashkhen in the Chapel of « Nor Arax » Bari Italy with family and members of the Armenian community above)
Because she was living in Istanbul, she didn`t witness the horror of the genocide and was shocked when she saw the condition of the Armenians in Nor Arax.
She managed to move with Diran out of the colony and they established a successful oriental carpet company still existing in Bari.
They had three children: Nicoletta Arusiak (my mother), Arutiun, and Rupen.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Bari. Diran was so grateful for the help received in Italy that he called his first born Nicoletta after Saint Nicholas.
I arrived in London and met my husband Wiktor through the carpet business.
All the Armenians fled Nor Arax due to financial difficulties. They moved all over the world. My family stayed in Bari.
My grandfather always struck me by his resilience. His experience during the years of WW1 were very traumatic but he never gave up!
I will never forget his melancholic and grief stricken expression when he spoke of his childhood and beloved country.
DIRAN TIMURIAN: Born in Isparta 15/05/1905 – Died in Bari 9/01/1979
ASHKHEN SAYIAN: Born in Istanbul 12/06/1910 – Died in Bari 27/04/1994
Emilia Wyszynski is a UK Armenians & WW1 project contributor who also wrote a dissertation about the Armenian community in Bari.