Touloumdjian collection - Nicosia, Cyprus
This rich and rare collection was put at our disposal by Sona Touloumdjian (née Nadjarian) and her son Hapet Touloumdjian, who currently reside in Nicosia, Cyprus. The collection is truly unique since it has mementos that give us a notion of Armenian life in Mersin (a port city in Cilicia), including grand pieces of furniture which belonged to the family and which they used in their house in Mersin. They were able to transport all of these with them when they moved to Cyprus in 1921. The Touloumdjian household in Nicosia is furnished with original items from Mersin, which are more than a 100 years old. Houshamadyan’s experience was distinctive since history was all around in this apartment situated in a modern multi-story high building… Every corner displayed mementos from the past life the family lived in their native city of Mersin.
Part of the collection, mainly photographs, is from Sona Touloumdjian’s side of the family and some of the mementos are from Sona’s husband’s Avedis Touloumdjian’s side of the family. Sona Touloumdjian’s father, Sarkis Nadjarian, was born in Kharpert/Harput around 1895/6 and died in Cyprus in 1985. During WWI, Sarkis was a volunteer in the Eastern Legion (Légion d'Orient, which was later called Légion Arménienne) and went to Mersin, where he met Sona’s mother Siranoush Nadjarian (née Nevrouzian), who was born in Mersin around 1900 and died in Cyprus in 1987. Sarkis and Siranoush got married in Mersin and later moved to Lebanon. There are some photographs in the collection, which date from the time when the couple resided in Beirut, Lebanon. Sona Touloumdjian (née Nadjarian) was born in Beirut on the 1st of April 1927, and her sister Sirvart Nadjarian was born on the 21st of August 1930. The Nadjarians continued to live in Lebanon until 1980, they then moved to Cyprus and settled in Nicosia.
Sona Touloumdjian (née Nadjarian) married Avedis Touloumdjian in Cyprus on the 22nd of November 1964. Avedis was born in Mersin on the 1st of February 1913 and died in Cyprus on the 31st of August 2013. After WWI, Cilicia (including Mersin) was occupied by the French armies and was ruled by a French administration. The Touloumdjians continued to live in their native Mersin until the French army left Cilicia. As such, in the light of the decision to leave Cilicia to the Turkish authorities, towards the end of 1921, the local Armenians emigrated from Cilicia, mainly to Lebanon and Syria. During this period, some Armenian families also found refuge in Cyprus. When Avedis’s family moved to Cyprus from Mersin (in 1921), they transported a big part of their household items with them, including the pieces of furniture shown in this collection.
Touloumdjian family photographs
Seated from left to right are: Avedis Touloumdjian’s maternal aunt Perlantine Tchertchian and her husband (name unknown). Standing from left to right are: their adopted daughter and Perlantine’s sister (name unknown).
1. Tensouf Nevrouzian (née Tchertchian, she is Siranoush’s mother, Sona Touloumdjian’s grandmother) photographed in Mersin, right after her wedding.
2. Tensouf Nevrouzian (née Tchertchian) after her engagement. Her husband Israel Nevrouzian worked as an attorney at Regie - the company that had the monopoly on the production of cigarettes in the Ottoman Empire.
Hand-drawn charcoal portrait of Tensouf Tcherchian and Israel Nevrouzian.
1. Standing from left to right are: Hapet’s brother Setrag Touloumdjian and 2 of his friends (names unknown).
2. Hapet Touloumdjian.
This photograph was taken in Beirut, seated from left to right are: Siranoush Nadjarian (née Nevrouzian) and Sarkis Nadjarian. Standing from left to right are: Edward Nevrouzian (Siranoush’s brother) and Samuel Nadjarian (Sarkis’s brother).
The first image on the left is a charcoal portrait of Siranoush hand drawn in Beirut by Siranoush’s brother, Edward Nevrouzian, in 1923, based on the original photograph on the right. The original photograph was taken in Mersin before Siranoush was married.
1. This is the wedding photo of Siranoush Nadjarian (née Nevrouzian) and Sarkis Nadjarian, in Mersin in 1920. Siranoush was born in Mersin around 1900, whereas Sarkis was born in Kharpert/Harput around 1896. During WWI, he joined the Eastern Legion (an auxiliary unit of the Allied forces located at the Sinai front) and had gone to Mersin where he met Siranoush and they wed in 1920. The couple later moved to Lebanon where their daughters Sona and Sirvart were born, later they finally settled in Cyprus.
2. Standing from left to right are: Hagop Touloumdjian (he was born in Mersin and died in Cyprus, he is Hapet Touloumdjian’s son and Avedis’s brother), a cousin from America (name unknown), Avedis Touloumdjian (Sona’s husband, who was born in Mersin in 1913 and died in 2013 in Cyprus). Seated from left to right are: Eliza Touloumdjian (née Tchertchian) - Hapet’s wife and Sona’s mother-in-law, and Setrag Touloumdjian (Hapet’s brother).
From left to right are: Franchesco Nadjarian (Sarkis Nadjarian’s brother), Neshan Resdikian (Sarkis Nadjarian’s cousin), Neshan’s mother Eva Resdikian, the little girl leaning on her is Sarkis Nadjarian’s sister Yeghsa Nadjarian, and brothers Hapet and Samuel Nadjarian.
The Eastern Legion years
The Eastern Legion was established in November 1916 in Egypt by the initiation of the Allied forces. Sarkis Nadjarian was part of the Eastern Legion. In the beginning, the legion is entirely made up of Armenian soldiers, who, during WWI, were deployed at the Egyptian front under the French flag, against the Ottoman army. Later, Syrians and Lebanese also joined this unit, which had an auxiliary status to the French army. In January 1918, the Eastern Legion had around 3800 soldiers, out of which 2650 were Armenians. In January 1919, this military unit got divided into two parts: the Armenian Legion, which was based in Cilicia, and the Syrian Legion, which operated in Lebanon.
The writing on the photograph reads:
A group of Armenian volunteers in Cilicia (Adana)
Photo H. Fermanian (Adana)"
1. This photo shows the Eastern Legion, to which Sona Touloumdjian’s (née Nadjarian) father Sarkis Nadjarian had joined.
2. Back side of the photo. Dating from 24/06/1918, Légion d'Orient. It reads:
"Mr. Hampartsoum Mikaelian in the memory of the Eastern Legion in which I live.
Photographs 1 to 6 show Sarkis Nadjarian photographed in his military uniform. The first photograph was taken in 1919 as mentioned on the back of the photograph.
1. Sarkis Nadjarian with his comrades. Sarkis can be seen in far left corner of the first row.
2. The writing on back of the photograph from 1917 mentions that this group photograph represents those soldiers of the Eastern Legion who used flag semaphore - a telegraphy system conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags.
A printed document with the photographs and names of all those Armenians who fought in the Eastern Legion from 1917 to 1920.
1. A postcard sent from Sarkis Nadjarian when he was fighting on the frontline.
2. A postcard from Sarkis Nadjarian sent to Siranoush Nevrouzian, his fiancé, from Adana.
3. A postcard-photo of Sarkis Nadjarian and fellow Armenian fighters.
1. The postcard is addressed to Sarkis Nadjarian’s paternal aunt, and was sent to her from the time when he was serving in the Eastern Legion.
2. Dated July 8, 1920, the postcard reads: “To my dear fiancé, as a present for the unforgettable warmth of love and our future happiness.”
3. The names of the people appearing in this photograph are mentioned on the back: Sarkis Nadjarian, Serop Zorian, Kevork, Haroutyoun. The photographer is Mangoyan. Sarkis has also added the following: “Longing for these days with my beloved friends, 1919.”
A postcard with the image of mount Ararat.
Dated April 6, 1947, the postcard was sent on the occasion of Easter from Cairo to Sarkis Nadjarian and his wife. The name of the sender is illegible. It seems that the sender is influenced by the general atmosphere of repatriation to Soviet Armenia, which reigned at the time; he/she wishes that God “Would gather all of us in the bosom of our beloved Mother Armenia, where we’ll be able to wander around the mountain Ararat with eternal ideas of Liberty and Independence, and kind inspirations.”
Dated September 1915, the image is of the French fleet dedicated to saving Armenians of Mousa Ler. The identity of the marine officer is unknown.
The writing in the bottom right corner of the image reads: “September 1, 1917, the boat Amiral Orly of 85 American Armenian volunteers, is drowning after being hit by a German submarine torpedo missile. The volunteers were only able to save their own lives.”
Sarkis Nadjarian in his military uniform.
Touloumdjian family mementos
Sona Touloumdjian’s apartment in Nicosia is like a museum… It is full of items and objects that resonate the life that her ancestors led in Mersin. These amazing pieces of furniture all belonged to Sona’s husband’s side of the family. They were part of her mother-in-law’s dowry. When Sona was a new bride, and had moved to Cyprus, she discovered all these treasures, which were hidden away. Her mother-in-law did not wish to keep them, so Sona, knowing their value, took out all the furniture, had the upholsteries changed and decorated her home with them. Most items are in great condition.
One of the grand pieces of furniture brought from Mersin, the dining room buffet, which is currently kept in Sona Touloumdjian's apartment in Nicosia. Sona's reflection can be seen here in the mirror. Some of the other pieces of furniture can also be seen in the back, like the top part of the sofa, the lamp right behind Sona and a charcoal portrait of her grandparents Tensouf Tcherchian & Israel Nevrouzian hanging on the wall.
This 3 seater sofa and chaise longue are also from Mersin, they were recently re-upholstered.
One of a set of 6 dining room chairs recently re-upholstered, and one of 2 living room head chairs recently re-upholstered.
Bronze Ottoman (mangal) heater brought from Mersin. It has a lid, which can be removed; in the old days they used to put charcoal inside to burn. The lid/cover has holes on it so the heat comes out to spread in the room from these holes.
This console is also part of the furniture that comes from Mersin. The top surface is black marble.
Copper or brass bowl, was used for going to the hamam baths, it was used by Eliz Touloumdjian, and a ceramic tableware in blue and white china.
Tray in silver frame with ceramic painted surface, silver engraved tray from Mersin, and a silver fork set from Mersin.
This console with mirror is also part of the family’s furniture collection; it has a marble top. The lamp is also from the Mersin collection.
Hand embroidered bathrobe from Mersin, belonged to Sona Toulmoumdjian’s grandmother, Tensouf Nevrouzian (née Tcherchian). This women's bathrobe has a lot of hand woven and embroidered details. It is made of thick cotton and is ornamented with various flower shapes and motifs.
Burgundy velvet hand embroidered with gold thread and pieces of silk hoods used as frames for portrait photos, and hand embroidered silk cover for cushions or to keep lingerie inside.
Hand embroidered hats from Mersin worn by Hapet Touloumdjian in the house.
Hand woven pure silk fabrics, hand embroidered with bronze wires and silk threads, as ornaments for the tables, and hand embroidered towels from Mersin.
1. and 2. Hand painted silk padded sleeve, used as a cover for nightgowns or lingerie. It belonged to Tensuf Nevrouzian (née Tcherchian), Sona Touloumdjian’s (née Nadjarian) grandmother, and was part of her dowry, which at the time came from Paris. It was usually put on top of the bed linen at the bottom part of the bed. The bows were tied to close the folded sleeve.
3. Hand embroidered velvet napkin/tissue holder.
The invitation for Hapet Touloumdjian and Eliza Tcherchian’s wedding, which would take place on 13-26 June, Mersin in 1910. The invitation was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis Deyirmendjian in Nicosia, Cyprus. It is interesting to see that the stamp on the envelope is from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Inside the wedding invitation card, it reads:
Hapet H. Touloumdjian
Eliza A. Tcherchian
TO BE WED
Mersin 13-26 June 1910
All three rings belonged to Sona Touloumdjian’s mother-in-law - Eliza Touloumdjian. The second one was the Eliza Touloumdjian’s (née Tcherchian) wedding ring; it has her wedding date and name engraved inside. The third is solid gold with emerald and diamonds.
Business cards, the first one bears Eliza H. Touloumdjian’s name, while the second one is the for couple Mr. and Mrs. H. Touloumdjian.
1. Dated June 5, 1920, a receipt prepared by the Mersin Town Armenian Council and given to Sarkis Nadjarian, after Sarkis paid 100 piasters as a fee for his engagement with Siranoush Nevrouzian.
2. Dated September 10, 1920; a permit signed by the French ruler in Mersin, Captain Coulet, granting Hapet Touloumdjian a vacation of 15 days in Cyprus. We get to know Hapet Touloumdjian’s post of the time: the chief of the financial office of Mersin.
Hapet Touloumdjian’s sterling pocket watch.
In these three pages, Sarkis Nadjarian gives some information about the Armenian Legion and about its formation and activities. Sarkis penned this writing on November 28, 1980 in Cyprus.