Grandma Helen and Grandpa Donald SrWe know Great Grandpa Dikran went on to remarry and were told he had a successful career in the music business, I believe in Chicago, and that when he died his new family refused to allow my Grandma to at least speak with him one last time. We're not sure if it was fear of a challenge to inheritance, or what, but it nailed in the coffin for my Grandma Helen and she wanted nothing to do with being Armenian and would spend the rest of her life trying to erase her heritage til she died a few years ago. Even my Great Uncle joined the military and married briefly after WWII and had a son, Richard, and then divorced and remarried his lifelong wife, Eloise, who is Mexican - and to this day my two cousins I do keep in contact with don't know much about their Armenian roots. George still has the Najarian name and Mary hyphenates to keep it as well, though neither had children, and their other brother died young in an accident. My Grandma Helen would go on to marry my Grandpa Donald Crowell Sr and had two sons, Donald Jr and David. You can see the history of her life during those times and the story of the bakery, Pawtucket Food Specialty Shoppe, here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pawtucketlibrary/sets/72157678832040878/
Grandma Helen's Bakery, from the first shop in the 1960s to the new shop in the 1970s
Grandma and Uncle Dick (above), and me with my Dad and Auntie Mae (below)A little over a decade after my Grandpa died, my Grandma moved to Arizona and remarried, growing ever more bitter about her heritage to the point that she stopped talking to me when I started teaching my own children to cook and speak the little bit of the language. Without the Armenian family to help me more, I know I cook phenomenal Armenian foods, but I can't speak or read and write it well. Also ironically, most of my Grandma's bakery recipes were handed down from the Armenian side, so technically she taught me more of how to be an Armenian chef and baker than anyone. While the ripples of the genocide and diaspora hit my family hard through the past 3 generations, I've found some hope in rebuilding lineage others tried to break. I'm heartened by the fact that I recently found my first cousin on my mother's side through DNA tests, and that through the death of one of the only cousins I really grew up with, found a new second family with his children. I also reconnected with my two Najarian cousins who live nearby here on the West Coast, though they know far more about their Mexican roots than their Armenian. I have also taught my children to be modern witnesses to our past, but it would be wonderful to be able to come full circle with the family we lost a second time.
<3, ~Jonni Khat (Najarian) Santschi