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Chitjian (Zaruhy Sara) Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Other Finding Aids

  • Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives
    Title: Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Collection
    Creator: Zaruhy Sara Chitjian
    Identifier/Call Number: SC.SCC
    Physical Description: 84 linear feet
    Physical Description: 27.4 Gigabytes
    Date (inclusive): 1914-2021
    Abstract: Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian was an educator, immigrant, and daughter to survivors of the Armenian genocide. The Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Collection was created to preserve the material content of the Harry and Ovsanna Chitjian Family Foundation, which works to increase awareness and promote recognition of the Armenian genocide. The materials detail the timeframe before and after the genocide, starting in 1914 and continuing until 2020, and also document the Chitjian family immigrant experience. The collection contains photographs, oral histories, correspondence, collages, artifacts, clothing, clippings, periodicals, books, curriculum, memorabilia, ephemera, and writing by many members of the Chitjian and Piloyan families.
    Language of Material: English, Armenian, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928), Russian.

    Biographical / Historical

    In 2001, Sara and Hampartzoum formed the Harry and Ovsanna Chitjian Family Foundation in an effort to spread awareness about the Armenian genocide, share the legacy of its survivors, and preserve their collection of family materials. It also served to consolidate the records of Hampartzoum's experience of the genocide into his memoir, A Hair's Breadth from Death. The Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Collection contains accounts of the experience of survivors of the genocide, their descendants, and the community of survivors to which they belonged. It consists of materials that were gathered to preserve the legacy of survivors Hampartzoum Chitjian and Ovsanna Piloyan Chitjian, as well as the Indigenous Armenian people of Anatolia.
    Hampartzoum "Harry" Chitjian was born in 1901, in Ismael, to Mardiros Chitjian, who was a block printer, and Tervanda Chitjian. In 1903, Hampartzoum's family moved to the village of Perri, near Dersim in the Kharpert region of Turkey. They lived there until 1915, when they became targets of the Armenian genocide. Hampartzoum was 14 when his father, Mardiros, placed him and his three brothers in a Turkish school believing it to be their best chance for survival. Hampartzoum was not allowed to write or speak Armenian and had to appear to convert to Islam. He was later separated from his twin brother Kaspar and two younger brothers, Kerop and Nishan, who were nine and six years old. The Turkish authorities killed Nishan within weeks, as well as many from the village of Perri who were marched to the desert and killed, including Hampartzoum's father, Mardiros, his step-mother, and sister. Kerop survived the genocide and rejoined his brother years later at an orphanage. Hampartzoum eventually immigrated to Mexico where he met and married Ovsanna Piloyan.
    After immigrating with Ovsanna and their two children to Los Angeles in 1935, Hampartzoum owned and operated several markets over a 10 year period, and eventually became a real-estate agent. After the death of his wife Ovsanna in 1998, Hampartzoum began writing his memoir in earnest with the help of his daughter Sara, who published it shortly after his death in Los Angeles in 2003.
    Ovsanna Piloyan was born in 1906, in Malatya, Turkey, to Sarkis Piloyan, a tanner, and Hripsimeh Piloyan. Hripsimeh was the second wife of Sarkis whose first wife was killed by Ottoman forces during the 1895 massacre in Armenia. Ovsanna's primary education was cut short with the start of the Armenian genocide when she was nine years old. During that time, Ovsanna discovered her talent for handicraft, weaving carpets and sewing, and eventually became a seamstress for men and women's clothing and accessories. She and her immediate family survived the genocide while sheltering with a local Turkish businessman until 1923, at which time the family was forced to abandon their home. Ovsanna and her family eventually made their way to Mexico where she met Hampartzoum in 1928, and married him in 1929. Ovsanna had two children with Hampartzoum while in Mexico, Mardig "Marty" in 1931, and Zaruhy "Sara" in 1933. She assisted Harry in his business ventures after moving to Los Angeles in 1935, and worked with him as a partner throughout his real-estate career. Ovsanna died in Los Angeles in 1998.
    Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian was born in 1933, to parents Hampartzoum "Harry" and Ovsanna Chitjian, joining her 3-year-old brother, Mardig "Marty," in Mexico City, Mexico, and immigrating with her family 2 years later, in 1935, to Los Angeles. Sara attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles from 1949 to 1952, earned a BA in psychology from UCLA in 1956, and her teaching credential from UCLA in 1959.
    Sara began a 34 year-long career as a school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1960, and was one of the first teachers in the district to teach ethnic and Armenian studies curriculum. She continued to be a vocal advocate for bilingual education and ethnic studies programs throughout her teaching career. Sara had a particular interest in supporting Armenian education in the district, founding the Armenian Educators Association in 1978, the Armenian Urban Center in 1979, and successfully securing April 24th, the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, as an excusable day of absence on the academic calendar.
    Sara was an active philanthropist, and provided scholarships for the Genocide and Human Rights University Program at the Zoryan Institute, was a benefactor of the Armenian Studies program at UCLA, founder of the Research Program in Armenian Archaeology at the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archeology, and established endowments for an entrepreneurship program at the American University of Armenia, the study of the Armenian genocide at the University of Southern California, and the stewardship of the Chitjian Family Archive at California State University, Northridge. In 2014, Sara started the Zaruhy Sara Chitjian Charitable Foundation, a grant funding organization to further her philanthropy. Zaruhy Sara Chitjian died in Los Angeles in 2021.

    Scope and Contents

    The Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Collection consists of materials preserved by the Chitjian Family Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to aid in the understanding of, and education about the experiences of Armenian genocide survivors, Armenian immigrants in Los Angeles, the descendants of genocide survivors, and the Indigenous Armenian people of Anatolia. These materials reflect Hampartzoum Chitjian's, and Ovsanna Piloyan Chitjian's experience of the Armenian genocide in Kharpert and Malatya, from 1915 until the 1920s. It also includes their individual paths of immigration from Armenia to Mexico in the 1920s, and their immigration to and residency in Los Angeles from 1935, through the beginning of the 21st century. It includes correspondence between members of the Chitjian and Piloyan families, including Sara, her brother Marty, Ovsanna's family, and Hampartzoum's brothers. It also documents Sara's personal educational journey as well as her advocacy and educational efforts, as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), towards promoting ethnic and Armenian studies programs districtwide.
    Sara created an extremely detailed binder system to organize the Chitjian Family Foundation materials. This binder naming and organizational structure has been preserved. Searchable digital copies of her binder outlines are available to researchers. Additional materials related to topics outlined in the binder files but not contained within the original binder folders are arranged alphabetically by subject. The collection is divided into three main series: Chitjian and Piloyan Family Materials (1914-2016), Hampartzoum's Legacy and Writing (1914-2016), and Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Research Materials (1914-2020). Copies, edits, and translations of some original items from series I are kept in series III. Some of the translations have multiple versions as several experts were consulted.
    Series I, Chitjian and Piloyan Family Materials, consists of paper materials, photographs and artifacts that were created by and belonged to Hampartzoum, Ovsanna, Mardig, and Zaruhy Chitjian. Included are the original 298 letters written by the Chitjian family from 1914-1997, the bulk of which were given to Hampartzoum in 1990. Most of the letters were written by Hampartzoum but some were from his twin brother Kaspar, and a few letters were dictated and written by his father in 1914 and 1915. Copies of the original letters in Armenian and Ottoman script, and copies translated into English with multiple versions of edits are kept in Series III.A. Series I also includes Chitjian family biographies, books, clothing, correspondence, ephemera, memorabilia, photographs, scrapbooks, writing, and immigration papers. Select issues of Armenian periodicals such as Nor Gyank, Asbarez, and Nor Seroond newspapers, as well as Bab-Oukhdi, and Nor Malatia magazines can be found. Materials in this series center the personal lives of the Chitjian and Piloyan families, and Armenian experiences of genocide, diaspora, immigration, and community. Materials are arranged alphabetically and following Sara's binder structure.
    Series II, Hampartzoum's Legacy and Writing, contains mostly paper materials created by Hampartzoum Chitjian recounting his experiences, as well as others documenting his legacy and personal accounts as a survivor of the Armenian genocide. It includes correspondence written by Hampartzoum promoting the recognition of the Armenian genocide, maps of his village and the Kharpert region, journaled accounts and collages of his memories of the genocide (the pre-cursor to his memoir), his personal views about traditional Armenian family life and values, culture, language, politics, religion, and community leaders (including people he later mentions in his memoir), notes on books and articles, as well as his recounting of his teaching experiences with Sara. It also includes press coverage about his memoir, and his legacy as a survivor of the Armenian genocide. Recounts include his early life in Kharpert as well as life in Los Angeles during his advocacy for recognition of the Armenian genocide and its survivors. Materials are arranged alphabetically and following Sara's binder structure.
    Series III, Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Research Materials (1914-2020), contains two subseries of materials collected, organized, and contextualized by Sara for the purposes of facilitating the completion of her father's memoir, and continuing the work of teaching about the Armenian culture and genocide. Materials are arranged alphabetically and following Sara's binder structure.
    Subseries A, Chitjian Family Foundation Materials (1914-2018), focus on the Harry and Ovsanna Chitjian Family Foundation's mission, and include translations and copies of correspondence (the Chitjian letters), oral history transcripts and edits, maps, edits and copies of Hampartzoum's memoir drafts, and the Chitjian Family Foundation papers and indexes. The Chitjian letters consist of nearly 300 letters that were given to Hampartzoum in 1990. Most of them were letters he had written but some were from his twin brother Kaspar, and a few letters were written by his father in 1914 and 1915. The original letters are kept in series I as a part of the Chitjian Family Materials, and all translations and edits are kept in series III.A. Materials are arranged alphabetically and following Sara's binder structure.
    Subseries B, Zaruhy "Sara" Chitjian Personal and Professional Materials (1947-2020), contains personal writing, memorabilia, and ephemera, as well as professional materials that consist of resources and educational materials she collected to assist in teaching about Armenian history and culture, and the Armenian genocide and diaspora. Documentation, correspondence, curriculum, photographs, and other resources related to her Armenian studies mini-classes for LAUSD, in addition to examples of her students' work, can be found. This series also contains travel ephemera and memorabilia from trips to the Middle East, her own class notes and classwork spanning her primary, undergraduate, and sabbatical studies, as well as her collection of newspaper clippings for which her personal categorization is preserved. Sara created a detailed list of article titles that can be found in searchable digitized binder outlines. A collection of papers and ephemera from the scholarly study of archaeology, Armenian history, culture, and genocide, and Sara's related philanthropy, are also included in this series, as well as her own reflections on her parents' experience of the Armenian genocide, and her identity as a descendant of survivors of the genocide, and as an Armenian American. Materials are arranged alphabetically and following Sara's binder structure.


    Series I: Chitjian and Piloyan Family Materials, 1914-2016
    Series II: Hampartzoum's Legacy and Writing, 1914-2016
    Series III: Zaruhy Sara Chitjian Research Materials, 1914-2021
        Subseries A: Chitjian Family Foundation Materials, 1914-2018
        Subseries B: Zaruhy Sara Chitjian Personal and Professional Materials, 1936-2021

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research use.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection has not been transferred to California State University, Northridge. Copyright status for other materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

    Preferred Citation

    For information about citing items in this collection consult the appropriate style manual, or see the Citing Archival Materials  guide.

    Processing Information

    Claire V. Gordon and Katherine Sirca, 2022-2023
    Processing funded by the Chitjian Endowment.

    Other Finding Aids

    Sara's binder outlines and artifacts catalog are available in PDF format.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Albums (Books)
    Audiovisual materials
    Sound recordings