Jean-Christian Onossian collection - Paris, France

This collection was submitted to us by Jean-Christian Onossian, and contains photographs that once belonged to his mother and father.

His mother, Yeranouhi (nee Balabanian) hailed from city of Stanos, located to the west of Ankara. The city was also known by the names of Stanoz and Istanoz, and is currently called Yenikent.

His father, Dikran, was born in Ourfa/Urfa, in 1904, to Khatoun (nee Tashdjian) and Kevork Onossian. Aside from Jean-Christian, Dikran and Yeranouhi had three children – Kohar, Armenag, and Mihran. The family lived in the Armenian neighborhood of Ourfa, near the Virgin Mary Cathedral. Kevork Onossian (Dikran’s father) was a cobbler by trade. Dikran was the only member of his family to survive the Armenian Genocide. At first, after the massacres, he lived in hiding in Ourfa, but was later found by the local authorities and placed in a Turkish orphanage. After the end of the war, he was transported to Istanbul, and spent some time at the erstwhile Military Secondary School (Kuleli İdadîsi) in the Çengelköy district, which had been transformed into an orphanage for Armenian children by British occupation forces. In 1919, alongside several other orphans, he was moved from Istanbul to the port of Batumi, then to the city of Alexandropol (modern-day Gyumri), in the young Republic of Armenia. Later, he moved again to the city of Nor Bayazid (modern-day Gavar), on the shores of Lake Sevan. In that city, an agricultural school had been established for the surviving orphans of Armash (in the Ottoman Province of Izmit). Dikran enrolled in that school.

The Independent Republic of Armenia did not survive for long. The situation during the initial phases of the Sovietization of the country was chaotic. Dikran, alongside some other orphans, decided to leave the orphanage and make their way to Europe.

After a journey fraught with adventures, they reached Batumi, where they boarded a ship that took them to Greece. In 1923, Dikran was able to secure a passport from the representation of the Armenian Republic in Greece, thanks to which he was granted passage to France.

Dikran eventually reached Marseilles. He was 17 years old. He made a living as a porter working on the docks. Around this time, he bought his first mandolin, which he enjoyed playing in his spare time. Six months after his arrival, Dikran was offered a new opportunity, and he moved to Castelsarrasin, where he worked as a painter. In the town, he found a large community of Armenian migrants from Stanos. There, he also met and fell in love with Yeranouhi, his future wife (born in Stanos, in 1910). At the time, she was 14 years old, and he was 20. Yeranouhi and her family had left Stanos for good in the late 1920s.

Dikran’s work soon took him to Paris, where he launched a new career as a hairdresser. He married Yeranouhi in 1927, and had two sons – Jirair and Ohanness/Jean-Christian. Dikran passed away in 1961, and Yeranouhi in 1989.

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1) Stanos, 1910. Boghos Balabanian. A black-and-white photograph that was later hand-colored.
2) Dikran Onossian, Nor Bayazid (modern-day Gavar), during his sojourn at the school/orphanage there. A black-and white photograph that was taken in 1920, and was later hand-colored.

A photographic panorama of Stanos (Stanoz, Istanoz, currently called Yenikent), 1906.

Dikran Onossian, photographed in Marseilles, circa 1924.

Students of the agricultural school/orphanage on the shores of Nor Bayazid (modern-day Gavar), 1920, during the years of the Armenian Republic. Dikran Onossian was also enrolled in this establishment. In the upper portion of the photograph, the flag of The Armenian General Athletic Union (HMEM) is visible.

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1) Seated – Dikran Onossian, Marseilles, circa 1922/1923.
2) Dikran Onossian (on the right), Marseilles, circa 1922/1923.

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1) A group of Armenians in Marseilles, circa 1922/1923. Dikran Onossian is standing, second from the left.
2) Dikran Onossian (seated, holding the mandolin), with his friends, in Marseilles, circa 1922/1923.

The Armenian passport of Dikran Onossian, issued in Athens, on July 17, 1923.

The Balabanian family from Stanos, photographed in Castelsarrasin (north of Toulouse, France), in 1923. Standing from left: Yeranouhi, Boghos (father), Shaghen (mother, nee Papazian), Kevork (seated in the center).

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1) The Balabanian sisters and their brother, photographed in the Issy-les-Moulineaux suburb of Paris, 1928. From left to right – Kevork, Yeranouhi, and Isgouhi (born in 1921).
2) Ourfa, 1895 – Khatoun Tashdjian (on the left) and Kevork Onossian.

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1) Marital photograph of Dikran Onossian and Yeranouhi Balabanian, Paris, October 27, 1927.
2) Yeranouhi Onossian (nee Balabanian) and Dikran Onossian, October 1928.
3) Paris, 1933. Dikran Onossian, Yeranouhi Onossian (nee Balabanian), and their son Jirair.

The Yeprad (“Euphrates”) band, Paris, 1930. Second and third from the right, respectively – Yeranouhi Onossian (nee Balabanian) and Dikran Onossian. Dikran was the principal founder of the band. They were hired to perform during weddings and other festivities.

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1) Dikran Onossian (second from the left), with his Yeprad bandmates.
2) and 3) The Yeprad band, founded in Paris. Note the inscription on the bass drum – Yetesia Yeprad Jazz. Yetesia is the historic Latin name of the city of Ourfa, Dikran’s city of birth.