Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
March 15, 2010

By Kay Mouradian, EdD

February, 1914

Two years ago Bulgaria defeated Turkey in the first Balkan War and seized Adrianople. Six months later Bulgaria moved her army to another front to fight the Serbs and Greeks in a second Balkan war and Enver Pasha, Turkey's Minister of War, led his troops back to Adrianople. Enver retook the territory without firing a shot. Adrianople had once again become part of Turkey.

Talaat, Turkey's Minister of Interior, arranged for the Governor General of Adrianople to honor the American Ambassador who had come to Adrianople to meet his wife as the train crossed the border into Turkey. Knowing that Henry Morgenthau had an unusual and companionable relationship with his wife, Talaat wanted her first day in Turkey to be a memorable one. He ordered the Governor General to have Turkish dignitaries in full uniform to greet the ambassador's wife.

A long, loud whistle blew as the steaming train slowed and made its way into the station. Several heads peered out from opened windows and Ambassador Morgenthau canvassed each passing car looking for his wife. Then he saw her. She was wildly waving a huge black hat.

He ran toward her, leaped and grabbed her hat. Running alongside until the train came to a full stop, he wanted to throw kisses toward her but restrained his emotions, not wanting to be demonstrative in front of the Turks. But his face reflected his joy.

Hopping onboard the train, he rushed to her, reached for both of her hands and looked into her eyes with deep affection. She was as lovely as he had remembered, perhaps a couple of pounds heavier and a few more gray strands in her sable hair, but her face glowed. `Josie, I've missed you so,' he said drawing her into a huge bear hug. He planted a quick kiss on her thin lips and quickly led her off the train onto the station's wooden platform and stood in front of several Turkish dignitaries in full uniform who were watching her every move.

`Why are they here?' Josie's voice reflected her unease.'

Ambassador Morgenthau smiled. `To welcome you, my dear,' he said and walked her toward the waiting entourage.

`Welcome to Turkey, Mrs. Morgenthau,' the Governor General said. Clicking his heels, he bowed and said, `I hope you have had a pleasant trip so far.'

`Yes, thank you.'

`I have had the pleasure of entertaining your husband. He arrived yesterday and it was my privilege to spend the day with him and take him to see my city. My friends in Constantinople admire him and after spending one day with him I understand why!' He extended a friendly smile and presented Josie with a bouquet of flowers. Then he introduced America's new ambassadress to his staff.

After the formal and brief exchange, the Morgenthau's waved goodbye and boarded the train. From the window they watched the Turkish dignitaries standing stiffly side by side on the platform as the train pulled away.

Settled into the first class compartment and excited at being together after the long separation, both Henry and Josie continually interrupted each other as they caught up on news about their family. There was much Henry dared not write in his letters to his wife for fear the wrong eyes would read, perhaps misread, his observations. He learned early on that spies in Turkey were everywhere, and his wife seemed to intuitively grasp this mysterious and intriguing way of life in Constantinople. By the time they arrived in the cosmopolitan city three hours later, the American Ambassador knew that his wife began to understand the life of a diplomat in Constantinople.

When the train pulled into the station and stopped, Morgenthau held his wife's hand and they weaved through throngs of people rushing out of the station. Entering the restricted customs area, Morgenthau opened the familiar door marked private. He immediatley saw the portly white haired Schmavonian talking to the Turkish customs officer.

`Josie, I want you to meet the embassy's legal advisor and interpreter and my good friend Arshag Schmavonian. He is my French-Turkish tongue and he watches over me like a father watches over a son.'

Schmavonian, impeccably courteous as always, clicked his heels, took her hand and kissed it. `Your husband has been anxious for your arrival, and I am delighted to finally meet you, Mrs. Morgenthau. Looking into her gentle blue eyes he said, `Your husband has comprehended the ways of diplomatic life very quickly and it is my pleasure to be of service to him'.

The customs official handed Schmavonian papers stamped with the American embassy's seal. Turning toward Mrs. Morgenthau Schamavonian said, `I may be your husband's formal interpreter, but I am impressed at how quickly his French is becoming fluent!'

Smiling at what he knew as a polite exaggeration, Morgenthau bowed and said in French, `I welcome you to Constantinople my dear wife.'

`Oh, Henry,' she replied playfully as they walked out the door.

The embassy's Ford Town Car was parked by the curb. `I present to you my darling wife this American Ford!' He opened the door and gracefully waved her inside. `It's a pretty decent car. I was pleasantly surprised. It rides every bit as well as our Mercedes and Packards back at home. As the embassy's chauffeur drove through the crowded streets, Morgenthau pointed to the bay sprinkled with boats speeding through the calm water, and said, `See the boat flying the British flag?'

Josie peered out the opened window as a cool breeze washed over her face. The familiar British flag was fluttering in the wind as the ship slowed its speed and passed a small fishing boat.

`Take a good look, Josie.' That steamer is similar to the one we, I mean our embassy, will have next month. Did I mention to you that I am planning an introductory trip to Egypt, Palestine, Beirut, and Smyrna on our new steamboat?' The grin on his face suggested he had revealed a hidden treat.

His wife was at a loss for words, but he recognized the loving look in her eyes.

Schmavonian, sitting in the front passenger seat, turned and said, `To be precise, Mrs. Morgenthau, the British embassy ship is almost 10 feet longer than ours will be.'

`Yes,' but our 50 footer is plenty large to take us around. Besides, Great Britain is so much older than America she deserves another ten feet,' Morgenthau jested.

After crossing the Galata Bridge, they arrived at the embassy and their daughter, Helen, ran to greet her mother with a loving embrace. Helen's two young sons racing behind their mother yelled, `Boobbie, Boobbie.' Picking them up one at a time Josie smothered them with kisses and reached out to hug her son-in-law. Then, after a quick tour of the embassy and her living quarters, Josie Morgenthau, now to be called Ambassadress Morgenthau, was treated to a traditional Turkish dinner at Tokaltians, Constantinople's finest restaurant.

At the end of this exciting day, Josie was more in need of a good night's sleep than any more celebrations. Alone in their comfortable bed, she pulled up the soft down comforter. Happy to be with her husband again, she patted his hand, kissed him on the lips, rolled over onto her side and fell fast asleep.

* * *

The next day Schmavonian joined the happy couple for afternoon tea. Now that Josie had arrived plans for the important Ambassadorial dinner could be finalized. It was Henry Morgenthau's formal entrance into Constantinople's diplomatic society, and the invitations and seating arrangements had to follow an exact protocol.

Schmavonian pulled a diagram from his briefcase and placed it on the table. `This will help with the seating order.'

`Josie, I nearly made a grievous mistake when I arrived. I wanted to entertain the diplomats and politicians immediately. Fortunately my knowledgeable friend and interpreter, Mr. Schmavonian, saved me from showing my naivety. I did not understand that diplomatic protocol called for me to wait for the first invitation.'

`Your husband not only wants to please, Mrs. Morgenthau, but he also wants to over please!'

`You know my husband well! He is quick to assess people, especially their honorable side, but sometimes I wish he would look at the condition of the water before he jumps in.'

Morgenthau laughed.

`The dinner is the talk of the town and everyone is anxious to attend,' Schmavonian said.

Morgenthau turned toward his wife and with a quiet laugh said, `Word around town has it that I am a personal friend of President Wilson and that image has raised my prestige.'

`That is not the only reason he is joyously welcomed by the diplomats and Turkish politicians. He is considered a host extraordinaire, especially with the American community. We are planning another reception for the American introduce you.

With an affectionate smile, she said, `I look forward to it.'

Ambassadress Morgenthau was about to embark on a social whirlwind she could not have imagined.

Professor Kay Mouradian is a health and physical education specialist
retired from the Los Angeles Community Colleges. Her publications
include Reflective Meditation: a Mind Calming Technique, A Guide for
Those Teaching Yoga in the Community Colleges, and she has also
contributed publications in several magazines and newspapers. Her
first novel, "A Gift In The Sunlight: An Armenian Story", now in its
second edition, was inspired by her mother's remarkable survival of
the Armenian Genocide.
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