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Dr. A. Hasmig Dikranyan Becidyan

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Hasmig Dikranyan Becidyan was born in 1913 in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul as the first child of Vahram, from one of the prominent merchant families of Dikranyan Brothers in Erzurum and to Nvart, the first daughter of Hovsep Madatyan (one of the three directors of Erzurum Sanasaryan College) and Sofia Pastırmacıyan. Dr. Becidyan’s parents had moved to Istanbul in 1911 because of her father’s business and her grandparents moved in 1914 when Hovsep Madatyan was elected as one of the members of the 1914 Ottoman Parliament. Since Armenian deputies other than Krikor Zohrab and Vartkes Serengülyan were not sent to deportation  and thus to death, the election of Madatyan as deputy served as a kind of life guarantee for the family.[1]

Hasmig Dikranyan Becidyan

After finishing the British Girls School for her primary and middle school Hasmig  transferred to the Scutari American Academy for Girls for her high school education as a boarding student. Her science teacher there, was no other than Turkey’s first female physician, Dr. Zaruhi Kavalciyan[2]. She graduated in 1931 as one of the top two students of her class.  In later years of her life Hasmig Becidyan would always remember Dr. Kavalciyan as a positive influence on her for pursuing her profession.

After graduating from high school she enrolled to the Istanbul Darülfünun (College) School of Dentistry. Dr. Becidyan, along with Dr. Verjin Döşemeciyan[3] and Dr. Mannig Yazmacıyan, is one of the first three Armenian women who graduated from Istanbul University’s School of Dentistry in 1934.[4]  While attending dental school she interned during summers at the practice of Dr. Sami Günzberg, Atatürk’s dentist.[5] Another interesting fact about the students graduating the same year is that they were the first students of Ord. Prof. Dr. Alfred Kantorowicz, who was one of the 68 German Jewish university professors that had been kicked out of German and Austrian schools of higher education because of their Jewish origins and were brought to Turkey to modernize the higher education system. Dr. Kantorowicz’s specialty was orthodontics and Dr. Becidyan and her classmates were the first dentists in Turkey to learn this specialty.

Hasmig opened her first office at her parent’s home on Süleyman Nazif Street and started her practice. In 1939, after marrying the printing house owner Kevork Becidyan, she moved her practice to the Üstündağ apartment on Zafer Street and started seeing  patients there until she shut it down in 1948. Unfortunately from when she graduated in the 30s to when she shut down her practice in the 40’s, the family suffered a lot because of the “Twenty Classes” conscription[6] and also due to the “Wealth Tax”[7] imposed on minorities.

“What I recall about my family’s history from those days is my maternal grandfather’s bankruptcy and the transfer of his brother who had had a stroke to Sirkeci for deportation to Aşkale on a stretcher. My grandfather’s family was the owner of the then famous Aris Shaving Soaps and they were forced to sell everything because of the Wealth Tax imposed upon them, but they were unable to pay the full amount. My maternal grandfather was never able to recover from this calamity. Eventually he and my grandmother built a small workshop in their house, where they used to manufacture hand cream, facial powder, cologne and sell them to pharmacies, but they never reached the PeReJa level. They barely survived until their last day on earth. My father was lucky in this regard as my paternal grandfather and his four sons were able to pay the tax imposed upon them. An interesting memory is related to Gen. Şükrü Kanatlı (Commander of the Land Forces of the 1950s). Şükrü Pasha was my grandfather’s friend (and her daughter was one of the junior maids of honors at my parent’s wedding). When the Wealth Tax lists were announced, he went to my grandfather and said “Kirkor Efendi everything I own except the riding boots on my feet are at your disposal. Tell me how much money you need and I will give you as much as I can afford.” My grandfather was very touched by this and thanked him for his sincere friendship but said that he had already taken care of everything. This is another recollection from those days. Unfortunately this topic was not spoken at home (as the 1915 genocide was not spoken of), therefore I don’t have more details.” Wealth Tax Memories-Testimonies, Compiler: Rifat N. Bali, Libra Kitap, 2012 page 128

 

After shutting her practice and ending her professional career voluntarily, Dr. Becidyan spent her time first to raise her children, and from 1960 onwards she worked as a volunteer at the Surp Pırgiç Armenian Hospital as a member of the Blue Angels for many years.[8] Because of her medical background she was asked to take care of the needs of the hospital’s surgery section. .

She was also one of the founders of the Turkish American University Graduates Association  and was the treasurer of the ladies auxiliary of the club for quite a few years.

In 1988 she moved to the USA to be with her children and passed away in 1990 due to heart problems.

 

By 1948 Dr. Becidyan had shut her dental practice, sold her dental patient’s chair, and left dentistry. I guess it was somewhere in 1965 or 66. We were rummaging in the attic of our apartment in Şişli when I noticed a doctor’s bag sitting in one corner. When I opened it, I saw that it contained dentist’s tools. I asked her, “Why are you keeping these things after so many years? What are you going to do with them? “My son,” she said, “we are a nation that has seen deportations and genocide. If they deport us again, I will be able to extract teeth and feed you all.”

 

Written & Translated by Nurhan Becidyan


[1] 95 MPs who were going to be in the Parliament were identified after 9 March. As for the Armenian MPs, five of them were known: Bedros Hallacyan and Krikor Zohrab from Istanbul, Ihsan Onnik from Izmir, Stepan Chirakchiyan from Ergani, and Dikran Barsamyan from the central sanjak of the province of Sivas. The elections were completed in the second half of March in Kayseri; Professor Karabet Tomayan was elected as an MP. Matyos Nalbantyan, who was the candidate of the Patriarchate, was elected in the Kozan sanjak of the province of Adana, and Artin Boshgezenyan, who was the candidate of the CUP supporters, was elected from Aleppo. The MPs of Muş, Bitlis, and Maraş were elected in April. Kegham Der Garabetyan (Dadrag-Asoghig) was elected as an MP with a majority vote in Muş; Minas Cheraz (Kiraz Effendi), who was the candidate of the Patriarchate, was elected from Bitlis; and (H)Agop Hırlıkyan yan was elected from Maraş. The MPs for Erzurum and Van could only be determined after the parliament opened. Vartkes Serengulyan (Hovhannes) was elected in Erzurum with 154 votes and Oseb Medetyan [Hovsep Madatyan sic] became an MP with 128 votes; but what attracted attention, was that Karekin Pastirmajiyan (Armen Garo) could not be elected. Vramyan and Vahan Papazyan (Goms) were elected in Van. Therefore, 15 Armenian MPs served in the 3rd period Parliament. This number was one short of the one promised by the CUP to the Armenians.

http://turksandarmenians.marmara.edu.tr/en/armenians-in-the-1914-parliamentary-elections/

[2] For more information about Dr. Zaruhi Kavalciyan, the very first female medical doctor of Turkey, who taught various science courses at the Scutari American Academy for Girls between the years (     *     ) please see the following LINK & LINK.

[3] For a bio of Verjin Döşemeciyan see LINK

[4] The İstanbul Darülfünun was founded in 1863 as an equivalent to a Western style university. But in 1933, after the founding of the Turkish Republic it was found out to be inadequate, therefore shut down and replaced with the more modern İstanbul University.

[5] As related by Dr. Becidyan whenever important patients came, Dr. Günzberg would welcome them wearing tails (white tie).

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twenty_Classes

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varl%C4%B1k_Vergisi

[8] Surp Pırgiç Armenian Hospital’s Volunteer Women. Women from the prominent Armenian families of Istanbul worked as volunteers as the Blue Angels.

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