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Goodbye, Antoura: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide

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When World War I began, Karnig Panian was only five years old, living among his fellow Armenians in the Anatolian village of Gurin. Four years later, American aid workers found him at an orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. He was among nearly 1,000 Armenian and 400 Kurdish children who had been abandoned by the Turkish administrators, left to survive at the orphanage without ad When World War I began, Karnig Panian was only five years old, living among his fellow Armenians in the Anatolian village of Gurin. Four years later, American aid workers found him at an orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. He was among nearly 1,000 Armenian and 400 Kurdish children who had been abandoned by the Turkish administrators, left to survive at the orphanage without adult care. This memoir offers the extraordinary story of what he endured in those years—as his people were deported from their Armenian community, as his family died in a refugee camp in the deserts of Syria, as he survived hunger and mistreatment in the orphanage. The Antoura orphanage was another project of the Armenian genocide: its administrators, some benign and some cruel, sought to transform the children into Turks by changing their Armenian names, forcing them to speak Turkish, and erasing their history. Panian's memoir is a full-throated story of loss, resistance, and survival, but told without bitterness or sentimentality. His story shows us how even young children recognize injustice and can organize against it, how they can form a sense of identity that they will fight to maintain. He paints a painfully rich and detailed picture of the lives and agency of Armenian orphans during the darkest days of World War I. Ultimately, Karnig Panian survived the Armenian genocide and the deprivations that followed. Goodbye, Antoura assures us of how humanity, once denied, can be again reclaimed.


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When World War I began, Karnig Panian was only five years old, living among his fellow Armenians in the Anatolian village of Gurin. Four years later, American aid workers found him at an orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. He was among nearly 1,000 Armenian and 400 Kurdish children who had been abandoned by the Turkish administrators, left to survive at the orphanage without ad When World War I began, Karnig Panian was only five years old, living among his fellow Armenians in the Anatolian village of Gurin. Four years later, American aid workers found him at an orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. He was among nearly 1,000 Armenian and 400 Kurdish children who had been abandoned by the Turkish administrators, left to survive at the orphanage without adult care. This memoir offers the extraordinary story of what he endured in those years—as his people were deported from their Armenian community, as his family died in a refugee camp in the deserts of Syria, as he survived hunger and mistreatment in the orphanage. The Antoura orphanage was another project of the Armenian genocide: its administrators, some benign and some cruel, sought to transform the children into Turks by changing their Armenian names, forcing them to speak Turkish, and erasing their history. Panian's memoir is a full-throated story of loss, resistance, and survival, but told without bitterness or sentimentality. His story shows us how even young children recognize injustice and can organize against it, how they can form a sense of identity that they will fight to maintain. He paints a painfully rich and detailed picture of the lives and agency of Armenian orphans during the darkest days of World War I. Ultimately, Karnig Panian survived the Armenian genocide and the deprivations that followed. Goodbye, Antoura assures us of how humanity, once denied, can be again reclaimed.

30 review for Goodbye, Antoura: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    Many people are unfamiliar, or uninformed about the Armenian Genocide (1915-1922). I certainly was much more aware of the WW II Holocaust, which involved my own people and occurred during my early childhood. The twentieth century was no stranger to these events. There were slaughters of Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rawandan Tsusis and Bosnians, to name a few. They were all attempts to curb the growth of alien populations and gain supremacy. In addition to the terms, genocide and holocaust, we are no Many people are unfamiliar, or uninformed about the Armenian Genocide (1915-1922). I certainly was much more aware of the WW II Holocaust, which involved my own people and occurred during my early childhood. The twentieth century was no stranger to these events. There were slaughters of Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rawandan Tsusis and Bosnians, to name a few. They were all attempts to curb the growth of alien populations and gain supremacy. In addition to the terms, genocide and holocaust, we are now familiar with “ethnic cleansing”. Certainly, the legacy of problems in the Middle East today could be blamed on the butchery that occurred in the Ottoman state. Karnig Panian was 5 years old, Christian, living an idyllic life with his loving extended family, when with little warning, they were ousted from their home to a forced march. Many were unable to endure the inhumane conditions and died on their way to the desert concentration camps. There a huge toll on their lives occurred with many, many deaths. “Almost everyone in the caravan had fallen into despair. Men and women, old and young, they all saw the darkness. These people, who just weeks earlier, had been prosperous, living in their homes, praying in their churches, working in their fields and helping the less fortunate, had been turned into a race of emaciated semi-corpses. They were like plants that had been uprooted and cast aside, and they were now dying slowly, shriveling into nothing.” ( p.43-44) Eventually Panian was sent to an orphanage with thousands of other children, where they were starved and treated brutally, punished if they did not observe Moslem rites,forced to change their names to Turkish and forbidden to speak their native tongue.. After release from a later improved orphanage, he went on to become a teacher and wrote constantly. The original manuscript of this memoir was published in 1992 and was written in Armenian.On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, his 2 daughters translated it into English. This book contains a wealth of information, in footnotes, photographs, introduction with a history of Armenia and an afterward by the same expert, Keith David Watenpaugh. An interesting fictional account of survivors of the Genocide in America is viewed in the novel, book:Zabelle /

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    The story of the survival of the Armenian people as lived (and recounted) by one orphan boy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Karnig Panian's memoir tells of his family's forced march from the abundance of their orchards in Gurin to the starvation of the caves outside of Hama. Panian continues on alone first to the orphanage at Hama and then Antoura. This book, a slim 180 pages, took me almost all summer to read, not because it is of poor quality. On the contrary, it was necessary and important. For me, this book revealed the profound ignorance I have of the Armenian Genocide. But it is a genocide memoir, and the repea Karnig Panian's memoir tells of his family's forced march from the abundance of their orchards in Gurin to the starvation of the caves outside of Hama. Panian continues on alone first to the orphanage at Hama and then Antoura. This book, a slim 180 pages, took me almost all summer to read, not because it is of poor quality. On the contrary, it was necessary and important. For me, this book revealed the profound ignorance I have of the Armenian Genocide. But it is a genocide memoir, and the repeated abandonment of children to the abuse of their Turkish captors is painful. It is not a story that allows distance. I was astounded by Panian's resilience, the audacity of his hope in the perpetual shadow of hunger and neglect. Each meal he finds is a relief. Each morsel of compassion he witnesses, and I do mean morsel, an insufficient flame of hope. But he and his fellow orphaned peers do hope, again and again and again. I closed the book amazed at the peaceful tone in Panian's voice, remarkable for its absence of bitterness. I think this book will be an option for a Lit circle unit in my World Lit class. I am still deciding, but I want students to have the option to hear Panian's story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paige

    Chapters are divided chronologically. Most of the memoir is focused on Panian's life in the orphanage after their exodus from Gurin to the desert deportation camps. Many footnotes are included and were very helpful. Pages 59-65 and pages 157-166 are strictly black and white historical photographs showing the orphanage, orphans, important leaders, and Panian's later life after the war. The memoir starts when Panian is 5 years old which makes it difficult to trust every detailed recollection. As sta Chapters are divided chronologically. Most of the memoir is focused on Panian's life in the orphanage after their exodus from Gurin to the desert deportation camps. Many footnotes are included and were very helpful. Pages 59-65 and pages 157-166 are strictly black and white historical photographs showing the orphanage, orphans, important leaders, and Panian's later life after the war. The memoir starts when Panian is 5 years old which makes it difficult to trust every detailed recollection. As stated, the bulk of his story lies within the orphanage and sometimes get wordy and listless. However, his life in the desert deportation camp and his life after the orphanage was somberly intruging.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve Ashodian

    Armenians live on As an Armenian who knows little about my families history other than that my great grandmother, who lived through the genocide, survived and would not speak openly about here horrific experience at the hands of the Turks, I was greatly moved and thankful for this story told by Mr Panian. The story despite the horror it shares is a wonderful story of survival and determination to remain grounded in faith and family despite attempts to strip that away. I would recommend to anyone Armenians live on As an Armenian who knows little about my families history other than that my great grandmother, who lived through the genocide, survived and would not speak openly about here horrific experience at the hands of the Turks, I was greatly moved and thankful for this story told by Mr Panian. The story despite the horror it shares is a wonderful story of survival and determination to remain grounded in faith and family despite attempts to strip that away. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in a heart felt story and the happenings of the Armenian Genocide. I feel like it's an appropriate read for ages 13 and above.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Blair Frank

    Not the typical Genocide novel. There's not a large shock and awe factor, but it does give a good glimpse into life for those who become orphaned during these horrendous and unnecessary events. I do believe the Armenian Genocide IS a Genocide and should labeled as such even though only twenty something countries label it correctly. Not the typical Genocide novel. There's not a large shock and awe factor, but it does give a good glimpse into life for those who become orphaned during these horrendous and unnecessary events. I do believe the Armenian Genocide IS a Genocide and should labeled as such even though only twenty something countries label it correctly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    The review I wrote seems to have disappeared... As I read this book, Goodbye, Antoura, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between what is known as the Armenian Genocide by the Turks during WWI and the Jewish Holocaust by the Nazis during WWII. Families were uprooted from their ancestral homes where they had lived for generations and marched away for several weeks to a camp in the Syrian desert. Many died during the march but the survivors were only provided starvation level amounts of food. Man The review I wrote seems to have disappeared... As I read this book, Goodbye, Antoura, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between what is known as the Armenian Genocide by the Turks during WWI and the Jewish Holocaust by the Nazis during WWII. Families were uprooted from their ancestral homes where they had lived for generations and marched away for several weeks to a camp in the Syrian desert. Many died during the march but the survivors were only provided starvation level amounts of food. Many were shot but none were specifically mentioned in this book. The only things missing were the gas chambers. The Turks took many of the children to orphanages and gave them Turkish names, only allowed them to speak Turkish or they would be punished, they were converted to the Muslim faith and punished for any relapses, and they were given almost starvation level meals sometimes just bread. After WWI ended with the Turks and their allies losing, many of the remaining Armenians made the journey back to their homes now under the jurisdiction of the French from the winning side. But as time went on, the French troops eventually were withdrawn and the Turks began attacking the Armenians again to drive them out or kill them. Today we refer to this type of action as ethnic cleansing. To this day, the Turks deny there ever was any Armenian genocide or ethnic cleansing and if asked about it, the most you are likely to get from them is that they will say the Armenians started it and they were just protecting themselves. This happened to us personally when we flew into Istanbul to board a cruise ship. We arrived late at night and two friendly Turks were there to meet us at the airport and take us to the ship. All was fine until we asked something about the Armenian since we had recently watched a documentary about the genocide. Suddenly things were very quiet until one of them said the Armenians started it and the Turks were just protecting their families. It is still a very sensitive issue to them. I particularly like this book because it presented personal stories but also provided a larger context in which the events took place. If you have ever wondered what all the Armenian Genocide was about, this would be the book to read. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    In Karnig Panian’s memoir of life before, during, and after the Armenian Genocide, we see a glimpse into the experience of one individual through the lens of both childhood and adulthood as he remembers them later in life. Though his memoir is but one experience of many varied stories and paradigms of the Armenian people during the genocide, Panian’s work strives to serve as a collective narrative of the spirit, resilience, and character of the Armenians of Anatolia during the genocide. The memo In Karnig Panian’s memoir of life before, during, and after the Armenian Genocide, we see a glimpse into the experience of one individual through the lens of both childhood and adulthood as he remembers them later in life. Though his memoir is but one experience of many varied stories and paradigms of the Armenian people during the genocide, Panian’s work strives to serve as a collective narrative of the spirit, resilience, and character of the Armenians of Anatolia during the genocide. The memoir centers around the years of the Genocide, World War I, and its aftermath, but its writing reflects years of introspection, growth, and knowledge far beyond childhood that inform Panian’s later retelling. As Panian grew older, the world may have found it easy to lump the sufferings of his people into the misfortunes of various people groups in the twentieth century or to write off Armenian pride as simply another example of nationalist exceptionalism. In his memoir, Panian seeks to bring humanity to the increasingly nationalistic struggle between Armenians and Turks by retelling the experience he had lived as a boy. For he and others who lived through the Genocide, survival and remaining Armenian was not “rabid nationalism” or something they felt they owed to any entity, but something intrinsic to who they were. Early in his life, Panian’s understanding of what it means to be an Armenian is shaped heavily by his community, which largely consists of his extended family, and the land they live on. His entire world consists of Gurin and the river valley of Tsakh Tsor, where he plays, attends church, feasts with family, and celebrates life. Once he arrives in the deserts of Hama and goes to the orphanages of Hama, Antoura, Aintab, Beirut, and then Jbeil, he learns of differences in custom and dialect between him and other Armenians. The thread that ties them together is their language, their religion, and their knowledge from those who have gone before them that they are Armenian, and this unites them to one another. Another common trait Panian focuses on throughout is self-sacrifice, that being “born Armenian” meant “making massive sacrifices for each other.” In contrast to the Turkish administrators in the orphanage at Antoura who seem incapable of feeling empathy for or having any mercy on the orphans, even when they see firsthand how desperate for food the boys are or witness inhuman beatings, the Armenian children seek to provide for one another from the start and maintain a sense of communal survival both physically and culturally during their stay. The ability of the boys to form groups consisting of leaders who worked together and shared their food amongst one another to try and ensure the survival of as many of them as possible attests to this trait of sacrificing self-interest for the good of one’s fellow man. These boys likely learned this as children in their Armenian households and during the deportations when their families did all they could to protect them from harm even as they wasted away, such as Karnig’s grandma making him and his siblings her “only priority” when their mother died. Those who do not follow this ethic of self-sacrifice and “put [their] interests above those of all the others” are viewed as “committ[ing] the worst of crimes--betrayal.” Early in his childhood, Karnig does not seem to view the Turks as so wholly other and inhuman as he comes to see them by the end of the novel. He writes of Armenians and Turks living “in peace...side by side,” but that they were aware of casting Turks as “thieves, lazy, uneducated, or murderers” (likely due to lingering mistrust from the earlier massacres in the 1890s). When Turkish officials are deporting his village, Karnig does not speak ill of the first group of policemen that lead them in their march and attempt to reassure them with promises of safety. As he encounters the brutal officials of the death marches in the desert and the administrators at the orphanage, however, Karnig describes the hatred he and fellow orphans develop for the Turks repeatedly. This hatred develops as a direct result of the example the officials set, their revealing of their character as “brutal, sadistic fiends” which only “strengthened [the orphans’] resolve against them.” I think seeing this development in how Karnig views the Turks can help us understand relations between Armenians and Turks today. Firstly, it reveals that Armenians and Turks are not genetically or inherently averse to one another, and secondly, it reveals that these animosities result from years of horrors at the hands of Turks. If Turks were to reveal themselves to be compassionate, empathetic people, then Armenians would have reason to see them differently. However, time and time again in this book, the Armenians are strengthened in their determination to never ally with Turkishness in any way because of the consistent mistreatment they suffer. Whether through death marches, cultural genocide, or civil war, each encounter with different groups of Turks continues to cement the experience that Turks will never allow the Armenians to be at peace so long as they exist as they are. “Because [they] were born Armenian” they would “suffer...for no other reason,” further solidifying the sentiment that Turks and Armenians cannot coexist. Perhaps if more Turks had shown Panian and those around him that they did have value as humans, that their mere existence was not a crime, then maybe Panian and others like him would have not formed such a “deadly hatred for Turks” and a belief in their immutably evil character. Many often say that Armenians have sad eyes. I have had someone tell me that I “look[ed] particularly Armenian that day” when I had been incredibly hurt by them and was very sad. For some reason, Armenians have always held onto this identity of sorrow as part of us, but I think this is because we are a people for whom memory is of primary importance. When Yusuf and the boys escape the orphanage, he tells them they can forget it because it is “nothing but a memory.” But this only prompts Karnig to think of the fate of those he left behind at the orphanage and other Armenians in the region. We do not forget our communities, our heritage, our land. It is why reciting the Hayr Mer, even when Karnig does not really understand the words, remains crucial for him. It connects him to his family and the faith that carried them on through generations. It is why I can go back to Armenia and feel a sense of familiarity in the smiles, words, hearts, and land there. It is how I can stand before a small church in a village outside of a city my family traveled through on their way to America before the Genocide, tell them I am the first in my family to come back since that time, and be welcomed with loud applause and cheers. This sense of collective memory, though it may not be personal to each one of us, drives us to “preserve our very existence” and “keep our Armenian heritage alive.” I think people who do not know Armenians well might think of us as stuck in the past. I see it as the opposite. We value our past and want to honor the lives and sacrifices of those who came before us, and as the future they fought for it seems only fitting we continue to seek recognition for past atrocities. We work towards a future because we have a past: a history that tells us who we are and what we are capable of. We hold so tightly to “our faith, our language, and our identities” because we know what it is like to nearly lose these things and it is why they factor so heavily into our present endeavors in intellectual, cultural, and political spaces. Panian went on to a life of education and esteem in his field, but he balanced his forward-thinking Westernized life in a diaspora community in Lebanon with reflections on where he had come from and the community he had lost at the hands of the Turks. Both can exist, and both have a place in what it means to be an Armenian today.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aileen Noura Vitarelli

    A very tragic stories about children especially The orphans during The Armenian Genocide. Danish grey weather seem to aid how sentimental this book could be. A story of an innocent orphanage boy who survived during The Genocide Era, mentally strong, vulnerable at times, maintained his identity as true Armenian. Love the part that narrates how resilience he was at tender age, and the ugly truth of an overlooked & horrifying modern atrocity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alisunflowerr

    I picked this book up because I was one of many unfamiliar with the Armenian Genocide (1915–early 1920s) Using the cover of World War I, the Ottoman state sought to annihilate their Armenian population. Panian recounts the events of his childhood that led to his stay at the orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. His account shows us that even the youngest Armenians organized against “Turkification” and forced conversion to Islam through small acts of resistance, persistent use of the Armenian language, a I picked this book up because I was one of many unfamiliar with the Armenian Genocide (1915–early 1920s) Using the cover of World War I, the Ottoman state sought to annihilate their Armenian population. Panian recounts the events of his childhood that led to his stay at the orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. His account shows us that even the youngest Armenians organized against “Turkification” and forced conversion to Islam through small acts of resistance, persistent use of the Armenian language, and an unwavering faith in the Armenian Apostolic Church. This is a remarkable memoir. It is an indispensable tool for awakening our consciences and forging our solidarity with those who have suffered the horrors of genocide. I would recommend this to those interested in the history of children and childhood during war. “Bodies my be slaughtered, human beings bludgeoned and burned, but if even one child survives, then memory survives as well. Memory cannot be assassinated. Truth cannot be denied.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I would highly recommend this short memoir of childhood during the Armenian genocide. The author recounts his idyllic early childhood on a cherry tree orchard in Turkey, followed by displacement to the Syrian border region and life in a Lebanese orphanage in Antoura. I learned a lot about this period of history through reading this. The author's daughter also reflects on current events impacting Armenians in Syria in the afterword. It's written in a similar manner to Elie Wiesel's memoirs. I would highly recommend this short memoir of childhood during the Armenian genocide. The author recounts his idyllic early childhood on a cherry tree orchard in Turkey, followed by displacement to the Syrian border region and life in a Lebanese orphanage in Antoura. I learned a lot about this period of history through reading this. The author's daughter also reflects on current events impacting Armenians in Syria in the afterword. It's written in a similar manner to Elie Wiesel's memoirs.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Peace

    A very important story that gives great insight into the Armenian Genocide. I would highly recommend this book. There are some details in the story that I was a little hesitant to believe considering that much of the events from book took place when Panian was five-years-old. Although, he does a very good job writing the story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate Anthony

    Panian gives the heart-wrenching truth of what happened in Armenia new life in his memoir. a must read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nelida

    A memoir of the Armenian genocide. A description of the crude reality of the Armenian genocide, as seen from the perspective of a 5 year old orphan boy. Through the pages, you will come face to face with the suffering, the hunger, the cruel punishment and physical and emotional pain inflicted. A real page turner.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniela Dominguez

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terje

  17. 4 out of 5

    flora 🥀

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lucia T.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Khadija

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sevgi Köstel

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hourig

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paulette

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Carter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jake Sauce

  26. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Kasparian

  28. 4 out of 5

    h kübra yılmaz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joanna’s Reading Rainbow

  30. 5 out of 5

    Talia D'Amato

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