The Raphaelian family in the 1920s, when they still lived in the Armenian refugee camp near Beirut.

Raphaelian collection - Beirut, Lebanon

The Raphaelian hailed from Sis. Bedros and Satenig Raphaelian left their native city, alongside their family, in 1921 or 1922. Like thousands of other Armenian refugees, they found sanctuary in Lebanon.

At first, the Raphaelians lived in the Armenian refugee camp (known simply as the Camp) near the port of Beirut. Bedros already had three children from his previous marriage with Trvanda Tulenian – Haygaz, Arshagouni (born in 1905), and Mariam. He and Satenig (nee Paslian) also had a daughter, Mary.

In 1923, Arshagouni Raphaelian left the family and moved to France, where he lived in the Armenian neighborhood of Oddo in Marseille. For a year, he worked at an oil press. During this time, he obtained citizenship of the Armenian Republic, a status granted to Armenian refugees in France. After earning some money, Arshagouni used that very passport to return to Lebanon and rejoin his family. In 1929, the construction of the Armenian neighborhoods of Bourj Hammoud began. One of these neighborhoods was called Nor Sis (New Sis). The Raphaelian family relocated to this neighborhood, and Arshagouni became one of its most prominent Armenian residents.

In 1931, Arshagouni married Azadouhi (nee Adourian), who, like him, was the child of Armenian refugees from the New Sis neighborhood. During the years of the Genocide, her family had not been deported, and had continued to live in Sis after converting to Islam. Azadouhi had been born in those years of terror. She had initially been named Soultana. After the end of the First World War, French troops had occupied Cilicia and Armenian survivors had returned to Sis. That’s when Azadouhi had been baptized as a Christian and given her true name.

Azadouhi and Arshagouni had a son, Misak. Misak married Aida Hagopian, and they had three children – Bedros, Betty, and Carolyn. Carolyn is married to Garo Derounian, who provided us with the materials in this collection.

Arshagouni was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnak Party). He was the first notary public in Sis. He was a founding member of the Bourj Hammoud city council. In 1935, the meeting that founded the Bourj Hammoud chapter of the Armenian General Athletic Union (HMEM) was held in his house. He was among the founders of the church and school in Nor Sis, and played an important role in the life of the community.

He was one of the proprietors of Café de La Bourse, in the Bourj neighborhood of central Beirut, as well as a café in Bolonia, a popular destination for nature lovers in Lebanon. As for Azadouhi, she was one of the founders of the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon.

Arshagouni died in 1991, and Azadouhi in 2005.

Details from the panorama: in photos 2 and 3, you can see the train track crossing Bourj Hammoud.

A Lebanese passport, bearing the date 1923, issued by the authorities of French-mandate Lebanon. The document belonged to Arshagouni Raphaelian. He used this passport to travel from Beirut to Marseille, where he lived for about a year.

Arshagouni Raphaelian’s passport, issued by the Republic of Armenia. This document was issued to Armenian refugees who lived in Europe, but who were unable to obtain citizenship from the countries in which they lived. Arshagouni left Beirut and reached Marseille in 1923. This passport was issued soon after his arrival, on January 8, 1924.
The notations on the back of the passport indicate that Arshagouni Raphaelian used it to return to Lebanon on September 18, 1924.

Mary Raphaelian’s kindergarten certificate from the Sahagian School of Beirut, dated June 26, 1927. The certificate bears the signatures of Yeprem Dohmouni, the Prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Lebanon; as well as Ghazar Charek, the principal of the Sahagian School.

Notably, the certificate mentions the birthplaces of Mary’s parents, thus certifying her identity as an Armenian. As for Mary herself, the certificate initially noted her place of origin as “Hadjin.” But evidently, her parents later requested an official correction of this “offensive” mistake. The original inscription is crossed out in red ink and replaced with “native of Sis.”

1. Bourj Hammoud, Nor Sis, May 28, 1933. From left to right – Mary Raphaelian (later Achabahian), Mariam Raphaelian (later Koulayan), and Azadouhi Raphaelian (nee Adourian).
2. Azadouhi Adourian (later Raphaelian), photographed in the Nor Sis neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud.

1. The HMEM Bourj Hammoud marching band, Bourj Hammoud, 1940s. Arshagouni Raphaelian is seated in the center, right behind the drum.
2. The HMEM Bourj Hammoud scouts, 1940s.

Arshagouni Raphaelian’s HMEM Bourj Hammoud chapter membership book, bearing the date 1961. His membership number is noteworthy – 1.

1. The 1958-1959 graduates of the Armenian Lousinian School of Nor Sis, alongside the school’s faculty. Aida Hagopian (later Raphaelian) is in the center of the photograph, fourth from the left.

2. The students and faculty of the kindergarten of the Lousinian School. Aida Hagopian (later Raphaelian) is the fifth from the left in the second row (the row featuring the faculty).

3. Nor Sis, the courtyard of the Saint Sarkis Church. Members of the neighborhood council. Arshagouni Raphaelian, wearing a black suit and glasses, is standing in the center of the photograph. To his left is Sarkis Koulayan. The woman standing immediately behind Arshagouni is Azadouhi Raphaelian. To Azadouhi’s left is Mariam Koulayan (nee Raphaelian, Arshagouni’s sister). Haygazoun Hagopian is the sixth from the left, standing. The bespectacled, seated clergyman is Father Yeznig Palayan. The third from the right is Garabed Mkhitarian.

1. Azounieh, the Armenian Sanitorium, April 20, 1965, during a visit by members of the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon. Azadouhi Raphaelian is dressed in a light-colored dress, and is standing behind and to the left of the man.

2. Azadouhi Raphaelian, receiving a medal in 1987 in recognition for her long service to the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon. She is receiving the medal from Aram Keshishian, then the Prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Lebanon (later a Catholicos).

1. Nor Sis, at the Raphaelian home. Left to right – Arshagouni Raphaelian, an unknown clergyman, Haygazoun Hagopian.
2. Third from the left is Father Krikor Faradjian. The fifth from the left is Arshagouni Raphaelian. The sixth from the left is Garabed Mkhitarian, and the seventh is Shake Mkhitarian.

1. The Nor Sis neighborhood, Bourj Hammoud, February 10, 1963, outside the Saint Sarkis Church. Celebrations of the Feast of Saint Sarkis. The man in the center of the photograph, wearing glasses and a tie, is Arshagouni Raphaelian. To his left is Zareh Payaslian the First, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia (1915-1963). The man standing to the left and slightly behind the Catholicos, wearing glasses and a tie and sporting a mustache, is Hagop Ashdjian, mayor of Bourj Hammoud. The clergyman to the right of Arshagouni Raphaelian is Khoren Paroyan, then Prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Lebanon (later a Catholicos).
2. Nor Sis, Bourj Hammoud, outside the Saint Sarkis Church, in the early 1980s. The clergyman in the center is Aram Keshishian, then Prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Lebanon (later a Catholicos). On his left is Arshagouni Raphaelian. On the Prelate’s right is Antranig Ourfalian.