Archavir Chaldjian name has various different spellings – Archavis Shalojean, Arshavir Shaljian, etc. and his surname probably means Shawlmaker. Kapriel Chaldjian was married to Zaroui Moskoflian, and the couple lived in Constantinople, as had their families for a long time before them. They had three sons – Archavir, Zareh and Girair Chaldjian. Kapriel had a boutique in the Grand Bazaar. He was well-known, but was a very bad businessman. After that business failed he sold tickets to passengers for boats to cross the Dardanelles. Zaroui, on the other hand, was a very good businesswoman. She made lace and one of her customers was the wife of the British Ambassador. Kapriel had a brother who lived on the other side of the Marmara Sea. Girair described to his children going there for a holiday when he was about five years old. He remembers the Kurds riding down the hillside on horseback, to kill all the Armenian men. Girair and his uncle hid in the loft. The uncle’s waistcoat was on the back of a chair and the Kurds asked Girair’s aunt “where is the man?” The Kurds got very drunk, and Girair remembers his aunt bringing food to them in their hiding place, as he was hungry. Archavir was born in approximately in 1880. He fought the Turks and went to prison. Through the influence of the British Ambassador’s wife, he was released and fled to England in 1900 or 1905. He had been studying at Constantinople University and was able to speak 7 or 8 languages fluently. He travelled through Russia and across Europe to England. He never spoke to his children about this, but his wife said he had a very hard time. He then went back and returned with his mother and two young brothers (his father had died). The mother and one brother (Girair) settled in Paris. Archavir and the other brother (Zareh) came to London. Their mother Zaroui is buried in Bondy cemetery, in Paris.
Archavir Chaldjian’s and his family story written by Rosie Shaljean, Archavir’s granddaughter
Archavir settled in England in 1905 and started a gown manufacturing business assisted by Mr Frederick Threadgold, a benefactor who helped Armenian refugees. He married Rose Annie Harrington in 1910 in Battle in Sussex, and had four children – Jack Archavir, Ronald William, Kathleen Mary and Geoffrey Gordon. At the start of their marriage the couple lodged with Mr and Mrs Threadgold and Archavir is listed as a “Lace Merchant’s Agent”. He changed the spelling of his surname around 1920 to Shaljean to sound French to assist dressmaking business. Girair the youngest of the 3 sons died a few years ago, aged 90. He had two sons, Michel and Edouard, and a daughter, Jacqueline and five grandchildren – Monique, Philippe, Francine, Frederic and Guillaume. Jacqueline married an Armenian, much to the delight of her father! Edouard was 5 or 6 when his grandmother died. Edouard spoke Armenian at home when a child and he remembers Girair playing the violin at home. Archavir’s philosophy was that the UK had given him refuge and therefore he ought to integrate as far as possible. He had married an Englishwoman and most of his friends were English. There was much sympathy in England and elsewhere in Europe for the Armenians and rightly or wrongly his philosophy was to assimilate. He had a hard life. He worked very hard at his business and at first the family prospered. His children can remember him going regularly to Paris and coming back with straw packed crates of wine and other goodies. But then came the depression and from 1928 onwards things got steadily worse. He gradually reduced his workforce and it seems worked himself to death (aged 56 in 1934) trying to maintain his family’s standard of living.