Guest blog by Greenwich-resident and Armenian Genocide survivor-descendant, Alyssa Keleshian
The first ever, big budget, wide-release feature movie depicting the Armenian Genocide— complete with A-list, Hollywood celebrities and a renowned, Academy Award-winning director— is in theaters nationwide now. As the granddaughter of an Armenian Genocide survivor, I am proud to share this incredible story with you, in hopes that you will flock to the theaters to support this monumental film, The Promise.
This week is especially important, as it marks the 102th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Depicting the Armenian Genocide, The Promise, directed by Terry George (Reservation Road, Hotel Rwanda) starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, is a monumental film.
An unprecedented 100% of the proceeds from this $100 million film will go to non-profits, human rights, and humanitarian organizations. To learn more about this ground-breaking film, please visit http://thepromisetoact.org/the-film/
This marks a milestone, not only for survivor-decedents, but for anyone concerned with human rights and stopping acts of genocide taking place today. History is repeating itself and unless we become aware and recognize the past, these atrocities will continue to occur in the future.
The Promise, directed by Terry George (Reservation Road, Hotel Rwanda) starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, is a monumental film depicting the Armenian Genocide. It opens in 1914 as the Great War looms— the vast Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople (Istanbul)— its once vibrant, multicultural capital— is about to be consumed by chaos. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) arrives in the cosmopolitan hub as a medical student determined to bring modern medicine to Siroun, his ancestral village in southern Turkey where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived side by side for centuries. American photo-journalist Chris Meyers (Christian Bale) has come only partly to cover geo-political news. He is mesmerized by his love for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), an Armenian artist he has accompanied from Paris after the sudden death of her father. When Mikael meets Ana, their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men, even as Mikael hangs on to a promise from his past. After the Turks join the war on the German side, the Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities. Despite their conflicts, everyone must find a way to survive— even as monumental events envelope their lives.
The film is powerful and it is personal. I am alive because my grandfather and his family survived the death march, survived the starvation, and survived the horrific mass killings. With his mother and 2 sisters, my grandfather walked and walked until they reached the deserts of Syria. Along the way, they witnessed unspeakable brutality– women kidnapped and raped, babies left orphaned on the side of the road by dying parents or thrown up on the air only to be caught on Turkish swords, men beheaded, tortured or buried alive, mass graves– and the true atrocities of what war and genocide do to the human spirit.
He would tell me about going to a nearby canyon where the Turkish gendarmerie would force people to jump to their deaths, or the horror of seeing rivers filled with dead bodies and how they would say the Euphrates was a red river of blood. At night, the smell of dead bodies would wake them. His sister, unable to stand the heat and exhaustion, contracted cholera and died. They were not allowed to rest when they were tired along the journey and had difficulty finding water when they were thirsty. My great-grandmother, unable to care for him and his remaining sister, put them in an orphanage in Aleppo, Syria for refugee children where she thought they could be safe and fed.
In the end, the Armenian genocide resulted in the Turks killed three out of every four of its Armenian citizens – 1.5 million in total – because of their Christian faith. They managed to deport them from their homes, confiscate their property and destroying churches all-across the country. By some miracle of faith, my grandfather and his family made their way to America, a country they loved and called Greenwich their home until their dying days.
This brings us to today– The Promise. Armenian descendants of genocide survivors finally have a film that depicts the true story of what happened over 100 years ago. Even though The New York Times during the early 1900’s reported on the systematic extermination of the Genocide, and Soghomon Tehlirian who killed Talaat Pasha (the master mind of the Genocide) was found not guilty by a German court 1921, and even though Ambassador Morgenthau documented the horrendous beheadings and torture the Armenians suffered during his tenure as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, there are still people who don’t acknowledge this part of history. Even the US government refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide for fear of upsetting its Turkish allies. Thankfully 26 countries, including most recently the Pope, have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and demand the same of Turkey.
I urge you to go see The Promise and to never forget. “Our revenge will be to survive” and survive the Armenians did.
Support survivors of the Armenian Genocide and #keepthepromise by seeing The Promise in theaters this weekend. The Genocide Education Project is offering free admission to The Promise this weekend for all Social Studies and Humanities teachers, on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets can be reserved here.
Alex and Ani is also doing its part to #KEEPTHEPROMISE by selling a bracelet exclusively online to help keep the promise to the Armenian people. All of the proceeds benefit the Armenia Fund — the largest humanitarian fund whose mission is to connect people worldwide and create a better homeland for the Armenian nation. To purchase your bracelet, please visit their website here.
Alyssa Keleshian Bonomo is a lifelong resident of Greenwich, Alyssa is a graduate of Convent of the Sacred Heart and Babson College where she earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing and entrepreneurial studies.
She is the Executive Vice President of K Investments, a family-owned real estate investments company. Prior to this, she spent 18 years running luxury marketing departments for leading magazines and brands, including American Express and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Mrs. Keleshian Bonomo is active in the Greenwich community and a volunteer for many local events and organizations, including The American Red Cross, Brunswick School, Putnam Indian Field School and The Bruce Museum. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, the Hudson Valley Bank Business Development Board, the Alumni Board of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and the Board of Directors of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund where she serves as Secretary and previously served on the Board of Directors of Armenia Fund USA.
Mrs. Keleshian Bonomo resides in Greenwich with her husband, Tom Bonomo, and two sons, Harry & Thomas.