As preparations are under way to mark the centenary of the Armenian genocide, The Guardian invites Armenians worldwide to share the stories of how the Armenian Genocide shaped their family history.
The Guardian reminds that 1.5 million people lost their lives in state-organized violence at the hands of Ottoman forces. The massacre, which is commemorated on 24 April 2015, also saw hundreds and thousands of Armenians displaced.
In special mass at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis called the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century”, a message which Turkey received with “great disappointment and sadness”.
The Guardian writes: “If you are in Armenia, or part of the Armenian diaspora living abroad, we want to hear your stories of how the genocide shaped your family history. Have you held on to artefacts, letters or photos from the time? Did your family escape, and how has that affected where you live today? We’d also like to hear how you commemorate the anniversary – and if you are doing anything special to mark the centenary.”
Click here to share your story.
Born from Mother,
I was born from Mother
Escaping known Genocide.
Astonishingly by great luck,
That was miraculous crack.
My mother always prayed and said,
“Some are born to live
No one can take souls to sharks,
Even to a devilish devil flying in the dark.”
The director of customs department in town,
In a government job—Empire of Ottoman,
A graduate of college and a respectful man,
Walked to work at dawn never came back to mourn,
Has been taken from there, slaughtered unsown.
When my grandma Zaruhi,
Twenty-four spring years, then
Heard that her husband vanished,
With most of relatives, kin keen,
Started thinking how
To protect her four kids
Within her heartbroken domain.
How to secure an elder daughter’s life.
She took my mother, Victoria, to her great uncle’s hive
(Garabed Dabaghian*, famous lawyer in town),
In high-ranked area, thinking the child will survive.
My mother started crying, obsessed to return home . . . dive.
As she was only four years,
Attached to Mother’s park,
Tiny blond girl had fear
Of nightmares and the dark.
She said I had real luck.
My obsession kept me alive to lark.
(My grandfather named her Victoria
As she was born in the Victorian era.)
After she returned home
From her uncle’s family dome*,
Old women, brides, children, toddlers
Vanished the next-day at the “earliest crack at dawn.”
Gendarme came at night and stood on the door
After counting all households, one by one in core.
More than thirty-humans, living in a large house.
So no one can leave, no one can escape roar, rouse.
They took them in carts, nobody knows where,
Disappearing from Diyarbakir’s century-home mare.
Who were the gendarmes? Not government men?
Was he not Turkish? Probably a spaceman!
He was a police officer sent from police headquarters
To the influential families to kill and confiscate
As much as their hands can reach, catch,
Hence, from small pin to a largest ranch.
Written to be halal** in their fatwa*** known the Hamidian****.
Killing, beheading, raping, searing, even hanging, torturing,
Using belongings of massacred Armenians,
Adding literary books, burning treasure words down.
Grandma was terrified and started escaping,
From hand to hand, from roof to roof,
Bribing endlessly the Turks aloof,
To keep their lives hidden even in a groove.
Prayers were not to reach ‘genocidal carts’—
Deported to be thrown in Der Zor desert to starve, die!
They constantly suffered, till arriving Aleppo, a safe Arab land.
All her jewels were gone, with Ottoman liras in gold,
Started working in a factory weaving clothes
To look after four kids—diseased, hungry, shocked
With her, old Mother Manoosh, lamenting
Sons, daughters, relatives, neighbors . . . she lost.
My uncle Haig was only a few months old;
Grandma used to cover his mouth with a cloth
To stop the baby’s crying sound, loud and odd,
So the gendarme cannot hear, find and slay his throat;
As he was hungry, breast milk dried alone;
He remained small, short with starved bones.
Another child, Eugene, she was two years old;
She vomited continuously until dehydrated to rot!
Perished on reaching Syria, may be from cholera!
This is my childhood stories; hearing them every night;
We never heard stories of a happy fairy-tale land.
But was replaced by murderers, the way that they killed,
The ways they raped innocent girls, angels, sweet,
Incised the throats of young lads’: clever, angel, dear.
For sure every gendarme was one by one paid,
Bribed by well-known Ottoman government,
Killing every Christian, swiftly head after head.
How we can forget the dishearten childhood stories*****!
Our brains impregnated with endless fears, stays since!
Dreaming, the devils like in excess greed
After hearing tales that impedes the heart beats—
From Granny, Zaruhi, so kind and cherished,
More accurate yet horrible than recent movies.
At that era, there was no TV to watch, near to cheer,
Other than a large radio on a high table to hear.
Dr. Sylva Portoian
From my Poetry Collections:
“A poetic Soul Shined Of Genocides” (2008)
“Bring-Out Our Genocided Skull & Artful Hands”(2015)