YEREVAN (Armenpress) — To live and continue to create, be stronger and fight for justice – these are the words that accurately describe Lerna Balikci – the sister of Sevag Balikci, the ethnic Armenian soldier of the Turkish Army who was killed on April 24 in 2011.
Lerna has relocated to Armenia for already one and a half years.
Lerna, who lives in Yerevan with her Istanbul-Armenian husband and their 4 year old boy, says they should have made the decision on coming to Armenia long time ago.
“It is time for Istanbul-Armenians to come to Armenia” – Lerna says in Armenian. She has learnt Armenian after arriving to Armenia.
My parents are in Istanbul, because Sevag is there…..
Speaking on her decision to come to Istanbul, Lerna told Armenpress the absence of any progress in her brother’s murder trial forced her to leave the country.
“I have a little boy, I wouldn’t like him to grow up in such unlawfulness, that’s why I decided to move. My husband wanted to relocate the most. He traveled here for a few times and eventually told me – Lerna, we cannot live here anymore, all of this can end badly. Of course, I wanted to stay there, because Sevag is there, I wanted to live despite everything, however I was very anxious, especially for my child. You never know what can happen, I am especially scared from explosions…..Six years ago someone left our house and never came back. I was scared that someday the same can happen to my son. That’s why I said – we must go to Armenia. I had to come earlier, that was my mistake” – Lerna said.
Sevag’s and Lerna’s parents refused to leave Turkey, they remain in Istanbul. “My parents are there, because Sevag is there. Regardless of everything, a part of me remains there too”, Lerna said.
Sevag is buried, while his murderer remains free…..
Sevag’s murder’s court proceedings are continuing for six years already, without any result, while the killer hasn’t spent even one single day in jail. The case has been transferred to a civilian court from the initial military court after a state of emergency was imposed in Turkey.
Lerna says in the current messy situation in Turkey it is difficult to understand what result the trial will have.
“It’s been already six years, it would be a wonder if a fair result happens” – Lerna said smilingly, however her smile momentarily turned into sorrow, realizing nothing will bring back her brother.
“What should happen after it – Sevag won’t return any more…..We came here for him, we opened a café. He really wanted to do this kind of thing after returning from the Army. Now, by cooking his favorite meals my soul gets calmer a bit. But Sevag isn’t here to try them…..”, she said.
Lerna is convinced that holding her brother’s killer accountable for will to some degree bring closure to their family.
“Millions, even billions of compensations can’t return Sevag. The murdered must be jailed. Impunity will be the reason for new crimes”, she said.
Lerna and her family’s life has changed a lot after Sevag’s murder.
“That man changed our lives, however his life continues the same way today. This is especially painful for me. For six years we entered the courtroom through the same door with the murderer. He was sitting next to me. I was staring at his hands, asking in my thoughts how could he have done such thing……only 20 days were left for Sevag to return from the Army….how could you do it…..I will never forget and until now I still get goose-bumps when I remember how the murderer was leaving the court, while me and my mother were looking at him from behind – Sevag was buried, while his murderer was free”, Lerna said, trying to hide her teary eyes.
She is convinced that the murder was a premeditated act, otherwise how can it be explained that it happened on April 24 – a day which the entire world knows as the Armenian Genocide commemoration day.
The family doesn’t celebrate any holiday after her brother’s death. It was only this year when they celebrated Easter, which, according to Lerna, was for her son Odin, they colored Easter eggs for the child.
She says not for a moment has she regretted her decision. They have been welcomed well in Armenia. She mentioned how warmly they were greeted in shops and markets. And because of their accent, people thought they were Syrian-Armenians.
“True, now there are many Syrian-Armenians in Armenia, however now it is the time for Istanbul-Armenians to come”, she said.
She regrets she didn’t come to Armenia earlier.
“Whatever happens, Istanbul-Armenians must have a plan B – towards Armenia or anywhere else, but it has to be. Everything happened to us in one day. We thought we were living well, however all changed in one day, the day Sevag was murdered…..Something which we never thought would happen, happened…..Whereas all of this had happened to us 100 years ago, however we forgot or perhaps didn’t want to remember it”, Lerna said.
We must continue the struggle, my parents in Turkey, and myself in Armenia….
Every year Sevag is being honored on April 24 in Istanbul’s Sisli cemetery. “On April 24 I am here alone, my parents are in Istanbul, with Sevag. I too would like to be there, but perhaps my struggle must be continued here.
I have to be strong, for Sevag, for my son…..”, Lerna said.
On April 23, Lerna was following the torchlight procession in Yerevan with tears in her eyes.