The story of a life: Toros Toranian

After leaving his hometown of Aleppo and settling in Armenia due to the Syrian war, Armenian writer, publicist, prose writer, public figure, author of 120 books and doctor Toros Toranian continues to create with the same vigor, diligence and dedication and participates in the cultural events that take place in Armenia. Recently, Toranian added his new books released this year to the library of the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. It has already been a couple of months since the author released his books entitled “Essays about the activities of Dr. Professor Suren Danielyan and the “Diaspora” Scientific and Educational Center”, “Interviews with Armenians who were cordially received by the Republic of Armenia as a result of the war imposed on Syria from abroad” and “Anahid Topchian: Novelist, Prose Writer”.

In the interview with Hayern Aysor, the merited intellectual shared the very touching and interesting story of his life and talked about his rich, impressive and substantial career.

“I was born and raised in Aleppo. My roots trace back to Cilicia. I don’t remember my father because I was 2 when he died. During the Armenian Genocide, the Turks expelled my grandmother from our village, which was called Nerses Shnorhali. It was very close to Hromklay and used to be called Tchipin, but the Turks changed the name and called it Saylak Kaya. My mother told me how she and the other children would go out to the street for walks and how their parents would search them and find them in Hromklay. During the massacres, my mother was about five or six years old. With my uncle in her hands, my grandmother walked until the Suez Canal in Egypt and handed my mother over to a Kurdish family, telling them that it would be better for my mother to stay with that family instead of dying on the road. My grandfather was a soldier of the Ottoman army. He left the army, escaped and went to his village. They had told him that his daughter was living with a Kurdish family. He went to take his girl, and the Kurdish family didn’t go against him. The Kurds told the girl that her father had come after her. The already Kurdish-speaking girl said the eyes were her father’s eyes, but the beard caused confusion. However, the family convinced her that he was her father. My grandfather had trouble reaching Aleppo with the child in his arm. The armistice had been signed until then. In 1918, the Turks were defeated, and the English and French said the Armenians could return to their residences. The people were transported to Aleppo in a ship and later in buses. My grandfather, grandmother, maternal uncle and mother reunited in a church. They returned to Tchipin village, which had a church and a school, that is, the 6-year Kilikian School. My father had attended that school. Suddenly, the Kemal movement began, and the Armenians were deported again. We reached Aleppo where I was born on February 29, 1928. I grow old once every four years. The master Martiros Saryan was also born on that day. I didn’t know Armenian until the age of 5, but I learned the language and attended the Boghos Gulbenkian National School, the benefactor of which had named the school after his deceased child Boghosik. He was the owner of large factories in London. After the passing of his wife, Verzhin, he opened the Verzhin Gulbenkian Maternity Ward. For adult men who couldn’t go to school, he established a factory where they could chip wood with saws and learn at least a kind of craft. In Aleppo he also established the Yeprat Daily and served as editor for two years, after which he handed the job to another person. That wonderful man was one of the great devotees of the Armenian nation. So, for us, Aleppo became our second Armenia. We preserved all the customs of the Yergir (Land). Today, Aleppo is in ruins. I also attended the American college in Aleppo for two years. I couldn’t pay the tuition and started cleaning classrooms. I finished the 8th grade and continued my secondary education at Melkonian School of Cyprus. Later, when I was married and had two children, we left for Bulgaria. My wife and I took courses at the local university. I was in my third year of studies, and my wife-in her second year of studies when we came to Armenia. We studied in the Department of Philology of Yerevan State University for a year, and our children attended Yeghishe Charents School. Afterwards, my wife, Armine and I consulted and decided to become doctors. We studied and graduated. In the beginning, I went to Paris where I had a close friend, Garbis from Van. On the occasion of my graduation, he bought me a ticket to Paris and Van. I went to Van, wrote a book about it, and that book made me popular. Garbis gave me a house, found me a job as a night doctor and said I could go with my family. However, I consulted with Armine, and we decided that since our parents were old, it would be better for us to go to our birthplace. We left for Damascus and I started working as an anesthesiologist because Damascus was in need of anesthesiologists. In my turn, I trained anesthesiologists, and Armine trained female doctors. We lived until the Syrian war. I lived with my Armine for 60 years. We read books together for 60 years, and our children also love to read. Now we are here with our extended family. My son and his family are here with their two daughters, the eldest of which was transferred to the 10th grade this year. My daughter and my brother and his family are also here. My great-grandchild, Areg was born in Armenia and is already 3 years old. My other great-grandchild, Noy lives abroad, but he is an Armenian national. Before settling in the Homeland, I had always visited Armenia. I have participated in the congresses of the Union of Writers of Armenia. I have had ties with great Armenian writers, been hosted in their homes and held interviews with them. I have toured the world, given lectures and made speeches. I have been to China and India twice, Australia, South America and Brazil twice and have given lectures devoted to various topics. I have given 60 speeches during each visit. In London I have given a lecture devoted to Paruyr Sevak and shown his photos. I have also given a lecture devoted to Hamo Sahyan…I have talked to and disputed with Sevak for one night and have had interesting conversations with Hamo Sahyan in his home…I became dedicated to literature and am still involved in the field. I write and publish books devoted to various topics. I wrote eight books this year alone, and only three have not been published since I am looking for a sponsor. Let me share a story about my age. A couple of days ago, I went to a meeting at Yerevan State Medical University (I am an alumnus of the Department of General Medicine at Yerevan State Medical University and have been a member of the Union of Writers of Armenia since 1968 when I was a student). I visited the University’s former rector, academician Vilen Hakobyan, who was amazed when he learned about the tremendous job that I had done and said he had to organize a medical consilium to find out how I had managed to achieve so much before the age of 90…Thirty years ago, Armenian writer Andranik Tsarukyan asked me when al that vigor would cease to exist, and I told him to ask the source of the mountain that comes day and night. Tsarukyan smiled and said I drew it perfectly and suggested that I write something about that…Thirty years later, I wrote about it and printed it in Andi magazine. Currently, I am living in Armenia. I am a repatriate and a Diaspora Armenian, but I am Armenian…Being a Diaspora Armenian, I want the people in Armenia to have a clear picture of the Armenian Diaspora. I am preparing to write a novel about my life and title it “Going to the Land is the Right Thing to Do”. That will be the first part of the book, and the second part will be entitled “The Novel of My Life”. The government will be publishing it and has promised to include it in the plan for the year 2017. I have 300 books that have been published (I have edited books and am the author of the prefaces of some books), of which 120 are my own. There is still a lot of work to do. I have to continue working. I have had a large library. I left a library in Aleppo, but I haven’t lost my hope with Aleppo. My sixth book will be released in about two weeks, and my seventh book is devoted to Ruben Sevak. This was the long story of my life that I presented as briefly as possible.”

…This is truly the long story of the great life of an unwavering cultural figure-a story that also serves as a database of encyclopedic knowledge and rich heritage for the generations with its many pages of substantial information.

Karine Avagyan

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