Chilingirian/Tsilingirian collection - Athens

A Spoon from Germany: Krikor Chilingirian’s Story – from Djerrah to Dourghouti/Athens

Translator: Simon Beugekian, 25/03/23 (Last modified 25/03/23).
This page was prepared collaboratively with the “Armenika” periodical of Athens.

Krikor Chilingirian was born in Djerrah/Cerrah (Bursa region) in 1897. He was the son of Mannig Chilingirian (nee Shishmanian) and Giragos Chilingirian. Krikor married while still living in Djerrah. His first wife, whose name is unknown, died during childbirth in 1914. The couple had a daughter, Mannig. Krikor’s parents and two sisters were killed either during the Armenian Genocide or in 1922, when Turkish forces re-occupied Asia Minor.

Krikor and Mannig joined the caravans of Armenian and Greek refugees who fled to Greece in 1922. They were accompanied by a sister of Krikor’s, Mariam, and her husband, Shmavon. They all settled down in the Dourghouti neighborhood of Athens. Krikor worked as a laborer, mostly in road building. His work often required him to travel to the city of Veria, in northern Greece. There, he met Srpouhi and married her. The couple had two sons, Sarkis and Apostle.

For unknown reasons, Krikor left his family in Veria and permanently settled down in the Dourghouti neighborhood of Athens. In 1936, he married for a third time, this time to Yeghisapet Toughladjian, who was an orphan from the city of Izmit and had been a ward of the American orphanage on the island of Syros from 1923 to 1928. Yeghisapet’s parents, Tovmas and Srpouhi, were killed during the Armenian Genocide.

Yeghisapet and Krikor’s first son, Giragos, was born in 1937. In 1940, their second son, Konstantinos, was born. Unfortunately, he died in the family home of cold and hunger. He was one of the many victims of the famine that blighted Greece during the Second World War.

Krikor was arrested on February 9, 1944, when German forces and collaborating Greek militia surrounded the Dourghouti/Fix neighborhood of Athens in a punitive operation (blocco). Like many others, Krikor was held in the prison of Haidari. Then, on August 16 of the same year, he was deported to Germany as a forced laborer. We do not know exactly where in Germany he was interned. The family’s oral history recalls that while in Germany, his clothing consisted of a long sack he had found that covered him from head to foot, and in which he had made a hole. Instead of a belt, he had a length of twine wrapped around his waist. Krikor survived these years of brutality. He returned to Athens with the spoon he had used on a daily basis in Germany, and which was carved with a swastika. This spoon is on display as part of the exhibition.

Throughout Krikor’s captivity in Germany, his wife, Yeghisapet, remained bed-bound due to a heart condition. The entire responsibility of caring for the home and the household rested on little Giragos’s shoulders.

Left to right: Krikor, Giragos, and Yeghisapet.
Mgrdich Mgrdichian (Anais Mgrdichian’s father), Yeghisapet Chilingirian, and Krikor Chilingirian. Photographed in the Dourghouti neighborhood of Athens.

During the 1946-1947 Armenian repatriation movement, Krikor’s sister, Mariam, alongside her family, emigrated to Soviet Armenia. Krikor’s former wife, Srpouhi, and their children, who still lived in Veria, also left for Soviet Armenia. Prior to these events, when Greece was occupied by Nazi forces during the Second World War, Sarkis and Apostle had joined the anti-Nazi resistance. After they moved to Soviet Armenia, the Stalinist regime condemned Sarkis to exile. Years later, he returned to Armenia, but his health had deteriorated.

Krikor and Yeghisapet died in 1979, in Athens.

Giragos Chilingirian married Anais Mgrdichian in Athens. The couple had two sons, Mike and Krikor.

Mike Chilingirian is Giragos’ son and Krikor’s grandson. He is the editor of the Armenika periodical of Athens.

Information on Krikor Chilingirian, which appears in a report prepared by the Armenian community of Greece detailing the human casualties and material losses suffered by the community throughout the years of German occupation. The list of names pertaining to the Dourghouti neighborhood was compiled by the community’s spiritual leader, Father Khoren Missakian. Presumably, the report was prepared in the early 1960s.