[History] One Hundred Year ago, when America was a haven for refugees…..the story of Abraham Haroutounian

With all these breaking news, I needed to clear my mind and went through my photo library. During my first visit in New York City during the summer 2008, I had a chance to hop in to attend the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and I still remember that travel document (see picture).
This is a document that resonate as today. This document tells the story of another Abraham. Abraham Haroutounian. By the name, you can recognize the Armenian origin of Abraham. Abraham was another refugee from another genocide. Abraham was Turkish citizen and Armenian national. Abraham was born in Marash (renamed Kahramanmaras), a village of Anatolia and lived through the Armenian genocide that took place from 1915 until 1923. We can speculate that following the march through Syria, Abraham found refuge in Aleppo.
After the World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Abraham likely settled, got married and founded a family. But Abraham was not anymore welcomed in his country and was surely considered a “guest” inside the newly formed Syrian state, a French protectorate. Abraham surely could not forget the horrible genocide he may have witnessed and felt no more secure in this land and seek refuge.
Abraham obtained a immigration visa to the US, with the aim to settle in New York. After obtaining his travel document from the French Administration taking care of Syria, Abraham and his family traveled by boat and landed in Ellis Island, waiting like many other immigrant his clearance and his first step in the United States. I try to imagine what this other Abraham felt when he arrived here in the US, staring at the Statue of the Liberty welcoming new comers as a symbol of democracy, freedom and justice for all.
But I also felt it, when I first came in the US over 7 years ago, with my carry-on, my check-in bag and my cardboard package in which I meticulously packed essential items to survive by my own (pair of sheets, some books, some kitchenwares and a pillow).
Now imagine if Abraham was planning to do the same. As today, Abraham would have been arriving by plane at JFK airport under an immigrant visa. Abraham however would have never leaved his American dream as by now he and his family would have denied entry into the US, on the motive of his Syrian origin.
Whenever you have a chance to visit New York, skip the line for the Statue of Liberty, instead hope in to the ferry taking you to Ellis Island and have a lesson of history. It is a great reminder that those pushing on the travel ban to refugees were also once a son or a daughter of a refugee or immigrant. Remember that any single President of the United States was a son of an immigrant that came in this country with a dream and reaped fruits of hard labor.


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