« My Armenian grandfather, who fled Constantinople in 1922, left me a name, just a name and a lot of questions, ” says reporter Marc Garmirian. Like many descendants of exiles, he knows very little about the life of his ancestor, before his uprooting. A trunk stored in an attic and a few photos that tell the story of everyday life in a vanished empire, that’s all that’s left. There is also a passport and a stamp: Marseille, October 1922. This is where Hagop Garmirian’s new life began a century ago and where his grandson’s investigation begins today. .

« The story of my grandfather, shaped that of my family,explains Marc. Almost a hundred years later, I decided to go up the road of his exile, in the opposite direction and by bike, to take the time to meet people. I will tell you the story of this quest, from Marseille to Istanbul. “

Accompanied by Pascal Charrier, senior reporter at The cross, Marc therefore embarked on a long journey in the spring of 2021. Marseille, Genoa, Venice, Corfu, Thessaloniki and finally Istanbul. So many stopover towns to cross, with the strength of your legs, in a newly deconfined Europe, to find clues to its origins, to see the reminiscences of Armenian history on the coasts of the Mediterranean and to cross the road of the exiles of today. ‘hui. A journey to discover in a series of reports and a video documentary in four episodes.

► OUR LARGE FORMATS IN TEXT AND PHOTOS

→ In Marseille (1/9): “Pari djanabahr, that means a good trip”, from Marseille to Istanbul on the trail of an exile

→ From Marseille to Nice (2/9): “They had fled, I think they were ashamed of it”, in the footsteps of the Armenians of Nice

→ From Nice to Genoa (3/9): “My grandfather came from Istanbul”, meeting with the Armenians of Nice

► THE VIDEO DOCUMENTARY IN 4 episodes

Episode 1: Marseille, the dawn of a new life

Marc and Pascal stop over in the Phocaean city, where about 58,000 Armenian refugees landed between 1922 and 1924, including Marc’s grandfather, Hagop Garmirian.

Before joining Paris, was he sent to one of the first makeshift camps, opened by the French authorities, who felt they were overwhelmed by this wave of immigration? Or has he found a cheap boarding house in the neighborhoods around Saint-Charles station? History is repeating itself, because Belsunce, a working-class district of Marseille, still hosts many exiles today.

Marc and Pascal interview the members of the Aram association, who work for the research and archiving of Armenian memory, as well as the filmmaker Robert Guédiguian, whose great-uncle once played a key role in the integration of refugees. Armenians.

Episode 2: Italy, Particles of the Orient

In this second episode, Marc wonders about the absence of transmission within exiled Armenian families. How is it that neither he nor his cousin succeeded in obtaining information about the life of their grandfathers in Constantinople?

Still in search of clues, Marc travels to Genoa, Italy, where he finds a replica of the ship on which his grandfather fled the Ottoman Empire. His journey will then take him to Venice, where treasures of Armenian culture reside. Precious documents that the exiles, who left without hope of return, took with them when they crossed the Mediterranean.

Episode 3: Greece, the orphans of Europe

On board the Ferry to reach Corfu, Marc thinks of Hagop: boarding the constantinopoli, did he imagine that his trip would be without return?

Painfully climbing the mountains of Epirus towards Thessaloniki, Marc and Pascal meet exiles of yesterday and today. A century earlier, Corfu welcomed 2,000 Armenian orphans, rescued from deportation convoys. The stories of Syrians and Iraqis who fled Daesh echo the not-so-distant past.

While nationalism resurfaces in Greece, yet a very cosmopolitan country, the uprooted and descendants of migrants are worried about their future.

Episode 4: Last Days in Constantinople

After 2,000 km by bike, here is finally the Bosphorus Strait and the final stage, Istanbul. The city has changed since 1922. The capital of the Ottoman Empire has turned into a megalopolis of 20 million people. Marc has an old map dating back to 1930 and an address: Kouchdili caddessi, above the pharmacy, in the district of Kadikoy, where his grandfather lived. At the time, out of a million inhabitants, Constantinople had 100,000 Armenians. Does anyone remember Hagop? Will the oldest inhabitant of the neighborhood know anything?

Here, “Everyone is looking for their own lost world, their lost past”, warns Father Hovagim Seropyan, vice-chancellor, responsible for the “special collections” of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.

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