The Chitjian Foundation

The creative direction and deployment of the most comprehensive online digital source of a first person Genocide survivor account available online with physical archives located at CSUN and affiliation with USC Institute of Armenian Studies, UCLA Research Center for Armenian Archeology and AUA, The American University of Armenia.

The Chitjian Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian and the indigenous Armenian people of Anatolia.

To view this extensive online library of information Click Here

Ovsanna and Hampartzoum, 1930

Ovsanna and Hampartzoum in their senior years.

Sara Chitjian in her 20’s.

Sara Chitjian in her senior years.

The Felt Khachkar

During the Armenian Genocide, a young girl Ovsanna Piloyan, was forced to leave her home in Malatya. Like most of the Armenian population that was exiled from their homeland during the Genocide, young Ovsanna escaped with only the few items that she could carry with her.

A wool blanket offers her comfort and security as she moves from villages to towns and to countries, eventually crossing continents and the ocean to find herself in Mexico where she marries Hampartzoom Chiltjian and begins reconstructing her life. From Mexico, her family travels and settles in Los Angeles. All the time the wool blanket is with her, becoming the bedding for her new life.

Artist Gregory Beylerian has transformed the fleece into a felted cross that stands at the center of the portal. Master felt artist, Sara Smelt, guided the artist through an ancient process of transforming wool into felt. It represents the transformation from death to life. Inside the felted cross are pieces collected from the city of Ani, soil from Armenia, coins and other artifacts. In each of the seven glass niches throughout the museum you will find the wool encapsulated. Following this art installation, each of the capsules will be donated to museums and institutions of higher learning to bring awareness to genocide and to promote the message of peace as found in the 100 Year Journey.  – Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Details of the workmanship

Felting process guided by Contemporary Felt Artist Sara Smelt:

Additional felting support by Judith Beylerian and Catherine Bodart

100 year old wool, pieces from Ani, Armenian coins and other artifacts.

35 x 45 inches

The Creation Process

The Felt Khachkar was created by the guidance of Contemporary master Felt Artist Sara Smelt using the ancient method of transforming wool into felt.  This practice is 1000’s of years old and likely invented in the Anatolia region where the oldest shoes made with woolen felt were discovered.

Carting the 100 year old wool, which is a process by which the fibers are being combed apart into long strands. The Ventilator mask is to protect the lungs from the small airborne fibers that break free into the air.

Dyed wool and other detail elements are added to the carted wool base to create the foundation design of The Felted Cross.

Detail lines are being laid out with a pencil and implemented using a felting needle to push dyed wool fibers into the felt.

Many months of work to implement the fine details using a felting needle by Judith Beylerian and her mother Catherine.

After the passing of Ovsanna, her daughter Sara offered the wool to Fr. Vazken Movsesian to use as a tool to share the story of the Genocide with new generations who are distanced from the atrocities by time and culture.

This wool, is now the centerpiece of the portal. The 100 Year Journey is the story of this “golden fleece” which comforted Ovsanna and a nation during the miracle from Genocide to Life.

Each of the capsules will be donated to museums and institutions of higher learning to bring awareness to genocide and to promote the message of peace.

The original journey of the wool from Malatya to Los Angeles

map of the 100 year journey

Journey back to Armenia and Anatolia to create The 100 Year Journey Installation.

The 100 Year Journey

The 100 Year Journey Installation has been described as a “portal” constructed with The Felt Khachkar at its center, 4 paintings, 39 works on paper, hundreds of photographs, two video projections, a soundtrack and commentary writings by Father Vazken Movsesian. This project has been produced in collaboration with Father Vazken Movsesian, founder of In His Shoes Organization. The ceiling of this installation was covered with drawings and prayer flags submitted by 1000’s of school children

“The 100 Year Journey is not only an exploration and celebration of a peoples’ proud ancient and spiritual history, it is a dialogue of peace. I imagine that this is what my ancestors wanted most during their darkest hour. Therefore I think it is our responsibility today to honor the past by contributing to a peaceful tomorrow. If you are against genocide then you are for peace.” – Gregory Beylerian

To learn more about this extensive Genociode Memorial Installation constructed for the centennial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide Click Here.

Installation view of The 100 Year Journey

Inauguration by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.

A Hair’s Breadth From Death

The memoir “A Hair’s Breadth from Death” was originally sprung when Sara Chitjian noticed immediately after her mothers passing that she was forgetting her recipes. She realizes that if she was beginning to forget the recipes that she would also forget her father’s stories. Therefore within a few weeks she asked her father if he would be willing to go over all his stories while she took notes so that she would not forget. From that day forward, it took 5 years working every day compiling Hampartzoum Chitjian’s stories that would eventually and without intention become the book entitled by Hampartzoum, “A Hair’s Breadth from Death”.

A Hair’s Breadth from Death has been translated in 10 languages, all of which are available as a digital download thru this site. This book is an extraordinarily detailed and deeply moving account of Hampartzoum Chitjian’s journey of survival as a young man who experienced the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.

Genocide survivors process their trauma in many ways, for Ovsanna, the wool was her maternal symbolism and for Hampartzoum, storytelling every last account to great detail was his catharsis. Below is one of the most harrowing written first hand experiences of surviving and processing the trauma of genocide.

“One never survives from a Genocide. You may escape physically, but your mind and soul are tormented forever”

– Hampartzoum Chitjian

To learn more and download this memoir for free Click Here.

Hampartzoum Chitjian’s memoir evolved unintentionally during his last five years so that his daughter would never forget. He passed away before seeing his book go into publication. However just before he died he was presented with the first printed prototype of what the book would look like.

Hampartzoum writing his memoirs in the garden