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Written by Artiom Chernamorian
In the photo: Khachatur Aznavuryan in the middle with his granddaughter Karine Hunanyan, Susanna Ananikyan from the left, Khachatur’s mother Babayants Susanna from the right, first from the left above Aram Aznavuryan, Susanna and Amalia Aznavuryan and Khachik Hunanyan. City Stalino (Donetsk, Ukraine), 1953
September last year, during the meeting with the head of the Jewish community in Armenia Rima Varjapetyan we were informed about an article published in their newspaper “Magen David” which tells about a heroic and never highlighted episode of a famous family. We could not help starting research activities.
The story is about the relatives of world famous singer Charles Aznavour. This story began when the part of famous Aznavuryan dynasty moved from Tbilisi to Ukraine and settled in city Yuzovka that was renamed to Stalino in 1924. Khachatur Aznavuryan was living in this city where local Ukrainians called him Christopher Aznaurov.
He was born in Tbilisi in 1890. His father Sedrak was a baker and mother Susanna Babayants was a housewife. The family had four children, eldest son Hayk, Khachatur (Christopher) and daughters Araksya and Arpenik. All children had a wonderful voice and were singing at the local Armenian Church on Sundays.
Christopher (Khachatur) was the first to move to Ukraine; afterwards his brother Hayk and sisters Arpenik and Araksya also moved to Stalino. They all lived in one yard. Like all other soviet citizens the Aznavurovs lived modest typical for the period of Stalin repressions.
In the photo: below right Khachatur Aznavuryan (Christopher Aznaurov), Amalia Aznavuryan, from the left Susanna Ananikyan, above right Aram and Susanna Aznavuryanner. City Stalino (Donetsk, Ukraine), 1937
But Christopher managed to open a small restaurant-cafe during those years and it coincided with the Second World War and the occupation of the city Stalino by fascists.
The Germans entered the city in October 21, 1941 and immediately started the persecution and murders of the Jewish population. Aznavuryans were first living on Larinka Street and later moved to Desyati Linia Street. The granddaughter of the Armenian hero Karine Hunanyan told us the following story of a saved Jewish girl during our meeting.
She did not remember whether it was Larinka Street or Desyati Linia but a Jewish family was living beside the house of Aznaurov’s. And when the so-called “Black Crow” cars appeared and collected Jews from the sanctuaries and the ruins of the bombed city, the Armenians could not save them from the clutches of death, as they would be sentenced to death at once without any trials.
In the photo: from the right Asya Aznavuryan (Asya Aznaurova) and Karine Hunanyan Kislovodsk (Russian Federation), 2008
Fascists formed a ghetto in March 1942 and started the massacres of Jews in Stalino from April till May. The Jewish ghetto was completely abolished at the night of April 30; people were thrown to the coalmine 4-4 Bis.
During those days the “Black Crow” again appeared in the street where the Aznaurovs lived. The Jews living in front where the close neighbors of the Armenians and their youngest daughter Ninochka was the friend of Christopher’s daughter Asya. That day the girls were playing together at the yard of Aznaurovs.
Christopher noticed that the Nazis are taking away their Jewish neighbors and hid Ninochka at his basement. At that time the German soldiers were living in the apartments of the citizens who had to feed them. Two Germans were living in the family of Armenians.
Aznaurov saved the life of the Jewish girl by risking not only his but the life of the whole family. His wife was feeding the child by stealth for 10 days. One of the German soldiers living in their apartment called Walter, told Aznaurov that he is aware that they keep a “Yehuda” in their basement and must get rid of her at once as the Nazi soldiers and the famous SS troops are looking for Jews.
Surprised by the fact that this German soldier did not punish them for hiding the Jewish girl, the Armenian hero took the girl at night to his sister’s house in Gorlovka, again risking his own life. Ninochka stayed there a month and later was hidden at Aznaurov’s relatives’ till the liberation of Stalino in September 7, 1943.
In the photo: Khachatur Aznavuryan (Christopher Aznaurov)
After the war Christopher Aznaurov was arrested by the Soviet authorities being accused in betrayal and for feeding the Nazis and Ukrainian Police in his canteen. One of the witnesses, a policeman said during the trial that he could not understand the guilt of Aznaurov as food was always tasty and the canteen was very clean. An unknown person suddenly appears at the trial, shows his certificate of a guerilla and tells the judge that Christopher was keeping the secret messages of guerillas in his shoes. Thus, he was released after a half year of severe interrogations and torture.
One of the most respected members of Aznavuryan’s family and a real hero Khachatur Aznavuryan passed away on December 31, 1961 at the age of 71. His grave is located in the municipal cemetery of Donetsk. His wife Susanna Ananikyan died 14 years later, in 1975 and is buried next to her husband.
The meeting of Karine Hunanyan, her mother Amalia Aznavuryan and Ninochka took place in Donetsk (Stalino) in 1970. Unexpectedly, a woman approached them, started to hug and kiss them. Then Amalia and Nina had recalled the past and cried. Mother told Karine that this woman was Nina, hidden in her grandfather’s basement.
“Karinochka, if not your grandpa and grandma, I would die like my parents. I would also be thrown to the coalmine by the Germans. I’m so grateful to them. They granted a new life to me, risking their own. I am grateful…..to them”.
Aunt of Karine Hunanyan, Asya Aznaurova lives in city Kislovodsk. She has some health and unfortunately also memory problems.
Now, we are actively looking for Nina in city Donetsk. We have established a contact with the head of the Jewish community in Donetsk Mrs. Tamara Natanovna and the whole archive at our disposal has been sent to them.