Several of her five children and nine grandchildren gathered recently in the Pasadena home of Tatoulian’s son Edward and listened as she told them that Hadjin in the early 1900s was a town of 35,000 Armenians.
She had one older brother and one younger sister, and the family farmed grapes and tomatoes. At the age of 10, Tatoulian left for school in Istanbul. Five years later, in 1915, she learned in a letter from home that Hadjin’s people were being deported to Syria. When news of massacres came later, Tatoulian was certain that her family had died with others in marches across the Syrian desert.
Three years later, Tatoulian said, she received a letter from her family saying they had survived and were leaving Syria to return to Hadjin, where the situation had improved. Tatoulian waited and then wrote back that she too wanted to come home.
She ignored her mother’s warnings that Turkish soldiers were once again invading Armenian villages and that a trip would be dangerous. Shortly after she arrived home, Tatoulian said, Turkish soldiers surrounded Hadjin.
For nine months, the soldiers laid siege to Hadjin while townspeople fought back, awaiting an impending rescue by nearby French forces. But the French never came. Tatoulian said the resistance held the Turks at bay by rationing a meager supply of guns and bullets and by using their mountain as a natural fortress through which they tunneled passageways to transport food and weapons. Tatoulian was wounded by the same bullet that killed her girlfriend.
Today, the siege at Hadjin is one of few stories of resistance that survivors can tell their grandchildren, who invariably wonder if the Armenians fought back.