Survivors of the Ghazarian family photographed in Istanbul in the 1920's.

Avo Gazal collection - NY, USA

The Avo Gazal collection depicts members of the Ghazarian and Shahinian families who originally hailed from Sivas/Sepasdia. Avo’s paternal grandfather, Avedis Ghazarian, whose name he bears, was exiled from Samsun, where the family had lived and owned a business.

Avedis was killed during the Genocide outside of the city along with his brother. Avo’s paternal grandmother, Parantsem Ghazarian (née Shahinian, born in Sivas in 1893), survived and made it to Kangal (South of Sivas) with Avo’s father and uncle as infants. Avo's father, who is the older of the two siblings, is Norair and his brother is Hrair. Parantsem was able to return to Sivas thanks to her brother, Mihran Shahinian’s intervention and lived in the American orphanage, where she worked in the orphanage run by American Board of Missions (ABCFM) led by a courageous missioner named Mary Louise Graffam. Hrair Ghazarian never forgot a song they used to sing in honor of Miss Graffam; the family lived there until they could no longer stay in Sivas, thus they migrated to Istanbul sometime before 1923; Parantsem, with her sons Norair and Hrair, and her brother-in-law's son Vahan Ghazarian, who also was under her care, moved to Istanbul. Vahan, then almost a teenager, moved to an orphanage in Greece with the hopes of immigrating to Soviet Armenia but wound up in America where he married and had a daughter and son.  Vahan met his surviving brother years later in Soviet Armenia. Once in Istanbul, Norair and Hrair were enrolled into Armenian schools and Parantsem supported the boys by sewing and doing embroidery at home.

Avo Gazal’s grandmother’s father, Hagop Pasha Shahinian, was one of the representatives from Sivas to the first Ottoman Parliament (1877-1878) and therefore his family had some influence during the Genocide but that did not save him.

Displayed on this page are a few photos of the deputy Hagop Shahinian photographed in Sivas; one is taken circa 1880 and the other is his post-mortem photo also taken in Sivas. The first photograph shows him as an adult between 30 and 40 years old, wearing the uniform of Ottoman officials of a certain rank with saber and fez, where he is portrayed in an atelier with the typical background combining the symbols of tradition and modernity, while the other photo depicts a traditional post-mortem photo with the whole family and household staff surrounding the deceased.

Members of the Shahinian family photographed in Sivas, late 1890's.

The little girl seated on the chair to the right is Avo Gazal's grandmother, Parantsem Shahinian (later Ghazarian, born in Sivas in 1893).

The names as written on the backside of the photograph:

1. Mariam Shahinian
2. Vartanoush Shahinian
3. Zareh Shahinian; one of Parantsem's cousins, who found his way to Iran
4. Hnazant Kantardjian (?)
5. M. Budakhian (?)
6. Parantsem Shahinian, Avo Gazal's grandmother
7. Satenig Shahinian

Members of the Ghazarian family photographed in Samsun in 1912.

It depicts the family of Haci Nazaret Gazarina (Ghazarian), who was Avo Gazal’s grandfather, Avedis Ghazarian's older brother. Although born in Sivas, both brothers had business interests both in Sivas and Samsun. At the back of this picture it says that Nazaret was the owner of the Nersesian Printing House (Istanbul).

All we know from the brothers’ lives in Samsun is that they were both members of the Armenian Social Democrat Hunchakian Party and allocated the first floor of their house to the Hunhak clubhouse.

Both Avedis and Nazaret were exiled from Samsun and killed outside the city during the Genocide.

Avo Gazal's uncle Hrair Ghazarian went to Samsun in the early 50's with a surviving Ghazarian cousin from France, where found their ancestral home which was converted into an elementary school.

Ghazarian cousins, Sivas/Sepasdia, early 1920's.

Avo Gazal's father Norair Ghazarian is the older of the brothers. Norair is standing on the left while his younger brother Hrair is standing on the right. Their cousin Vahan Ghazarian is sitting in the middle. The photo was probably was taken just before they all left Sivas for Istanbul.

Surviving members of the Ghazarian and Shahinian families gathered in Istanbul, 1920's.

Parantsem Ghazarian is seated in the middle. She has her youngest niece on her lap, standing behind her is her brother Mihran Shahinian. Standing next to Mihran on the right is his oldest daughter Mariam who ran a photo studio in Istanbul. The boy standing in front of Mariam slightly to the right is Norair Ghazarian while the boy seated in the front with his hands on his lap is Norair's brother Hrair Ghazarian.   

1. The wedding picture of Mihran and Dikranouhi Shahinian. Mihran is Avo Gazal’s grandmother's brother and the son of Hagop Pasha Shahinian. The photo was taken in 1909, in Sivas by the local photographers the Enkababian brothers.

2. The wedding photograph of Avo Gazal’s paternal grandparents: Avedis Ghazarian and Parantsem Ghazarian (née Shahinian) taken on 12/23 October 1909, in Sivas by the Enkababian Bros.

Avedis Ghazarian's calling card.

This one is addressed to Mr and Mrs Hosvep Boghossian (?) Amasya, Samsun. It is dated: 20 June, 1914.

Brothers Norair and Hrair Ghazarians photographed in Istanbul in the 1920's after they moved from Sivas/Sepasdia with their mother Parantsem Ghazarian and their surviving cousin Vahan Ghazarian.

The graduates from Getronagan high school in Istanbul, 1934.

Although brothers Norair and Hrair Ghazarian were not the same age, after moving to Istanbul and attending Getronagan, they were put in the same class and graduated together. Hrair Ghazarian, who was the star student of his class, is the second graduate from left stading in the first row. While Norair, who did not like formalities, did not join the photo session, perhaps he did not have a decent suit to be photographed in due to their modest living conditions.

1. The school diploma of Parantsem Ghazarian (née Shahinian) from the national Hripsimian school in Sivas, dated: June 25, 1909. It is noted on the diploma that Parantsem was born in Sivas in 1893, it is also noted that she finished the academic year with high notes (the highest being 10). The diploma is also signed by Torkom Archbishop Koushagian (1874-1939), the prelate of the Armenians in Sivas. He was the Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem from 1931 till his death. The paper was printed in Samson at the Jemil printing house.

2. Recommendation letter from July 11, 1927, for Parantsem Ghazarian written by Nina E. Rice, who was the superintendent of the Girls' Orphanage in Sivas, who says Parantsem worked for 3 years in the Near East Relief orphanage as a teacher and care taker, and is highly capable of working in a similar position. The American orphanage was in Sivas till the 1920's, then the Near East Relief moved all its operations to Lebanon and Greece.

Hagop Pasha Shahinian's portrait.

Here the deputy is photographed in Sivas around 1880. He is between 30 and 40 years old, he is wearing the uniform of Ottoman officials of a certain rank with saber and fez, he’s portrayed in an atelier with the typical background combining the symbols of tradition and modernity: the floor is covered with oriental carpets, Shahinian sits on a European-style armchair, behind him stands a little table with a Turkish mocca set, beside him stands a clock, the object which, more than any other, symbolises the new age in the Ottoman Empire.

The above photograph in uniform was turned into a wall-size oil painting which hung in Parantsem’s brother’s surviving family members’ flat in the Ferikoy district of Istanbul. After the death of the elder cousins, the painting was donated to the museum run by the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Sivas, 1898, Hagop Pasha Shahinian's post-mortem photograph.

The recently deceased patriarch is dressed for the last time in his honorary uniform and placed on a chair amidst his entire family and personnel of his household for a last photograph. In Sivas/Sepasdia, as in many other towns and villages, it was the custom to take pictures with the deceased. The little girl next to him on the left is his daughter Parantsem, who is Avo Gazal's grandmother.

The funeral photo of Mariam Shahinian from January 19, 1909, in Sivas. She is presumably the wife of Hagop Pasha Shahinian.

Avo Gazal got this bok on the Bible from his uncle, Hrair Ghazarian's library among other books, which he inherited and which were shipped to New York from Istanbul.

The book's author is Makaghia Ormanian the previous Patriarch of Istanbul, the book was purchased in Sivas and the stamp from the Lousaper Library in Sivas (Librarie Loussapair) is visible on the second page.