SOUREN M. VETSIGIAN
AUTOBIOGRAPHY HIS GUIDING HAND, TO SERVE MY PEOPLE
WRITEN 1947 – 1948 PUBLISHED IN BULGARIEN TRANSLATION – 1997, 2001 EDITED by HOREN S. VETSIGYAN 2014 PLOVDIV, BULGARIA
ANNOTATION SOUREN MUKHITAR VETSIGIAN 1905 â€“ 1961
Born in Shabin Karahisar, Turkey. He outlives the horrors of the Armenian genocide of 1915. He remains altogether alone. But with great diligence and faith, and with the help of noble people, overcoming his sufferings and misery, he succeeds to fulfill his desire for intellectual and spiritual rise. After he graduates from Yale Divinity School in the USA, he neglects the opportunity of well-being and successful life there and comes to Bulgaria to devote himself to his suffering people. Throughout the years from 1933 to 1949 he is director of the Armenian National School in the city of Plovdiv. He publishes many articles and a few books. In a time of serious changes his noble activity is hindered by narrowmindedness, self-seeking and baseness. He is deprived not only of his duty, but also of the opportunity to speak and write publicly. He is deeply hurt and this quickens his end. For a period of time he remains unemployed and later works as a simple builder (construction worker). Till the end of his life in 1961 he is store supervisor at a woodwork factory in Plovdiv. He remains well respected by numerous former students and acquaintances; he leaves his example of a life with dignity till now-adays. This autobiography covers the period from the heroic defense of Shabin Karahisar and the Armenian genocide in 1915 till 1949. Besides description of the events, it contains many analyses and comments, often based on written sources. This edition is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide and to the 110th anniversary of Souren Vetsigianâ€™s birth.
FOREWORD BY THE EDITOR This autobiography has been hand-written in the English language in 1948 – 1949. Times changed and it could not be published. It remained unfinished and unedited. Finally, in the 1990s new possibilities emerged. It was translated by me in Bulgarian and published in a limited edition. The books were distributed mostly among Armenians in Plovdiv and people who still remembered my father as e respectable man, who had don his duty. Now, in the era of the Internet, the time has come to publish the English version. I dedicate it to the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide and to the 110th anniversary of my father’s birth. This publication is not directed against the Turkish nation or government. It is obvious that today’s people can not be responsible for what has happened 100 years ago. All the more, the main responsibility for the genocide lies with a limited group of people on power, the ruling party and the central government. It is true that many people used the situation to their advantage. But it is also true, and this is marked in this book, that every Armenian survivor is saved by at least one Turk. Horrible crimes have been committed by many nations all around the world, and are still committed nowadays. But these crimes have been admitted in official history. In many cases there was an attempt to do some kind of justice. All these crimes have been made known and condemned. No man has to say again, as Hitler said in 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” In present times, Turkish people are responsible for admitting the historical truth, no matter how inconvenient it is. And perhaps they have the responsibility to apologize in some way to Armenians. At least by having good relations with neighbouring Armenia. This is indispensable for their progress, in their positive efforts to be a modern nation and a modern state. I learned that nowadays Shabin Karahisar is a nice town. The fortress is kept up as a historical place. A sign mentions the Armenian riot of 1915. I think there ought to be a monument or plaque commemorating the thousands of innocent victims of a cruel time. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
PREFACE Autobiographies are written by great men. I do not pretend to be a great man. But due to the fact that I am an Armenian by birth and an intellectual worker, I have had an eventful life. By nature being peace loving, I have never looked for adventures, and yet, in spite of my wish, I have had an eventful life. First of all I suffered for being an Armenian, then for being an intellectual worker. In both cases I suffered much, but never lost my faith in God, in fact it was strengthened even more. I came to believe firmly in the words of Apostle Paul, that “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord”. I tried to love God and live according to His will and left the rest to Him. And now I can declare that he has never forsaken me. In fact I have written this book at a period of persecution and suffering. My intention is not seeking appraisal of my life by readers, I leave that to God. But by writing this book I hope to throw some light on the recent history of an unfortunate nation, whose member God has purposed me to be. ** Many years ago I was ready to describe my life, but I hesitated to do it. I was afraid that I would be adding to the already existing race hatred between Armenians and Turks. As a Christian I long ago have rejected every thought of revenge, convinced that there must be forgiveness for evil and necessity to look forward in life. But after all I decided to do it. For the following reasons: First, the historic truth has to be known. I have the humble hope that I will shed some new light on the recent history of the Near East. Second, during these years I have seen so many books and articles from the Turkish side, which not only try to justify what they did, but also to shift the responsibility on Armenians themselves. Should we not have to answer to this? Third, if it was not for the First World War, the Turks could not have done these horrible crimes. With this writings I want once more to show the horrible face of war.* * Summary of a earlier preface (about 1935) – Editor’s note
HISTORIC NOTES ON SHABIN KARAHISSAR Shabin Karahissar, where I am born in about 1905, was not a big city, but had a very respectable past. Its origin goes to the times of the Mithridatic wars. Mithridates, king of Pontus, entered in alliance with the Armenian king Tigranes II, and with their joint resources caused a great deal of trouble to the Romans. But finally they both were defeated. Mithridates committed suicide and Tigranes humbled himself before the Roman might. Although other generals also had had success against the Asiatic ally, the decisive battle was won by Pompey the Great. In honor of his victory, Pompey founded a new city, probably enlarging an existing village, and called it Nicopolis, the city of victory. This was one of about seven cities of that name in the Roman Empire. Pompey seems to have chosen this place because on the top of a slope, there rises a huge block of black granite, very steep and in some places reaching a height of 600 feet. From all sides but one this huge rock is inaccessible, therefore an ideal place for building a fortress. Some historians think, that even Mithridates has constructed there some kind of fortifications and has used it as a prison. The fact is that the Roman eagle was carved in many parts of the fortress and the native population by tradition knew that the fortress was Roman. Two thousand years had not been able to abolish all the walls, although much of it was in ruins, and the central tower still stands in majesty overlooking the city and the distant gardens and orchards. It is the most imposing fortress in Asia Minor, after that of Van. Another proof of its uniqueness is that pictures of it used to be printed on cigarette papers sold in the Turkish Empire. The city itself was very picturesque climbing to the skirts of the fortress. From afar it used to look like a pyramid, with the houses built one upon the other. In fact there were many houses that had no yards but the roof of neighbors, and most hoses had entrances from the roof as well as from the street below. The architecture of most houses was the same as in all Armenian villages for ages. But in Shabin Karahissar the rich had also very ornate houses, with ceilings decorated with fine wood work. The streets, like in all oriental cities, were crooked and narrow, and here also very steep, accessible only to pack animals and men. There was no system of garbage collection, neither was there sewer system. Few valleys used to serve for such purposes, and around them lived the poorer people. Naturally those parts were very dingy and smelly. But thanks to the otherwise healthy mountainous climate, the population was quite healthy and sturdy. About four or five miles below the city flows the river Kail in Armenian, or Kelkit in Turkish, which was a distortion of its Armenian name, “Kail Ket” (Wolf River). On both sides of the river, which flowed in a semicircle around the city from a distance, there were beautiful orchards and gardens. There used to grow the famous mulberries, the fruits of which are sweeter than any fruit in the Near East. In the summer the population moved to the orchards, to make their resort and make their winter preparations. In 1915 the city had a population consisting of three nations – Armenians, Greeks and Turks. Numerically the last dominating the others, but this has happened after the city fell in the hands of the Turks in the fifteenth century, when it has also accepted its present name (Karahissar – black fortress).
Nikopolis has never been a part of independent Armenian kingdoms, and yet there are proofs to show, that the Armenians originally were since ages the dominant element in the city. Armenians are an ancient nation. After long subjugation to Persian rule, as the result of the victories of Alexander and later the weakening of Macedonia rule over the Near East, the Armenians consolidate as an independent nation. In the time of Mithridates, he has a large Armenian population under his rule. When the Romans conquer his territories, the province is called Armenia Minor. After the division of the Empire, twelve Armenians have ascended the Byzantine throne, which shows that the Armenians remain a strong element of the population. Ancient cities were built around fortresses, in which the feudal lords had their palaces. Immediately outside the fortress was the business section of the city, where lived the merchants. The poor lived farther away, and the very poor ones even outside the city walls. The Armenians in Shabin Karahissar lived directly under the path that leads to the fortress. That means in time of danger they could have access to the fortress earlier than anyone else, as happened in 1915 also. That means the original population were Armenians. The Turks, who are the late comers, are the next near to the fortress thanks to the fact, that they were the ruling race. The Greeks lived on the outskirts of the city. And the Armenians somehow used to look down upon the Greeks and even the Turks, which might be due to a traditional feeling of original inhabitants toward newcomers. Economically also the dominant element were the Armenians. Almost all the merchants and artisans were Armenians. The Greeks were dealers of alcoholic drinks (tavern-keepers) and masons, but mostly agriculturists. The Turks also were agriculturists and had grocery stores, more than this they were incapable to do. But all government officials, the police, gendarmerie and so on were Turks. Rarely a Greek or Armenian would hold an office.
CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS LEVEL OF THE ARMENIANS Culturally the three groups were more or less on the same level, the Christian element a little higher. Each had its own schools, supported by their own resources. The Turks could get state support. Originally the Armenian schools were founded to prepare singers for the church. Usually a priest or deacon would teach the psalms, the liturgy and reading of the Bible. That was all the education. Later on, when the three Râ€™s (reading, writing, arithmetic) were needed in business, private one teacher schools had been started. At the time of my childhood two or three such schools had remained. Only shortly before the First World War were founded modern centralized national schools. They had separate departments for girls and boys. In the earlier schools there has been strict discipline with various physical punishments. After the French Revolution, more humane ideals in education had penetrated among Armenians, who are very quick to acquire progressive ideas. But in my childhood days physical punishments were still common, although in a milder form. Playing and all sorts of physical exercises were encouraged. The secular spirit also had got stronger and we were not obliged to go to church. The curriculum was more varied and there were hours of singing and drawing. Literacy was quite widely spread, although at a very low level. It was considered enough to be able to write a simple letter or read a newspaper. I have
seen a porter, who could read so fluently, that even merchants would sit around him in coffee houses and hear him read the newspaper. Armenians of Shabin Karahissar had given one of the most eloquent members of the Ottoman parliament H. Shahrigian, and the greatest Armenian architect Toros Toramanian. Beside those it has produced many teachers and editors of more humble rank, but well known to Armenians. Armenians are among the first who are interested and the first to accept officially Christianity. But since centuries the Armenian Orthodox church, like the Greek one, had ceased to be a teaching church. It has beautiful liturgy and is very imposing when one hears once or twice, but when one hears it for years, it becomes tiresome to those, whose minds are not conservative or static. A liturgy that is merely repeated does not stimulate ones thought to action. The pious are passive listeners. So it has come about, that Armenians, who in the fifth century could rise to such heroic heights in the defense of Christianity against the encroachments of the Persian emperors, who in the middle ages valiantly withstood the impact of the Moslem invaders, had more or less lost their zeal and idealism. But worst of all, had fallen into superstitions in common with the Moslem population, that ruled over them. Most of the superstitions dated back from heathenism, although they have been so ably repudiated by the fifth century theologian Eznik. Armenians unconsciously had acquired also the fatalistic philosophy of the Moslems. An article of the author in recent years, denouncing fatalism and determinism, aroused lots of criticism in orthodox circles. Most Armenians couldnâ€™t realize that it is a foreign doctrine. Even though believing in the one God, the loving Father, people were also in bondage to various superstitious beliefs. Every involuntary movement of the human body, especially the eyes, hade some meaning for them. Unexpected coughs or sneezing foretell something. The itching of some part of the body always foretells the future. The nails shouldnâ€™t be thrown away after cutting them. After combing the fallen hair is tucked into crevices. Otherwise evil spirits might make bad use of them. In case of sickness, instead of a doctor, of whom there were already so few, a woman used to be called, who with a knife and a bowl of water, whispered prayers, could chase the evil spirits away. Every spot of nature, where something remarkable could be seen, was considered as the dwelling place of spirits. On one side of the fortress there is a steep path carved by nature that ends under a precipice. On the path there are also certain round spots. They were believed to be the hoof marks of the fiery horse of the prophet Elijah. Once in a year people used to gather below the spot and have a picnic by the cool spring nearby. They would climb once up the path, the more pious ones on their knees, and kissing each spot, go home with the belief, that they had got the assurance of the prophetâ€™s protection. On another rock opposite the fortress there is a cave, where one hears rhythmic blows as of hammer, probably dropping water, magnified by many crevices. People believed that the unseen hands have dug the cave and continue to do so, and that Mary the mother of Jesus dwells there. It is not uncommon in Turkey to see a bush on the wayside, all decorated with rags. There is a tree that has the power to gather evils. So most passers by tear a rag from some part of their clothes and tie on it. Moslems do it most often, but Christian Armenians and Greeks also. A ninth century monk, Gregory of Nareg, has written a prayer book full of meaning and with unique style. It is one of the masterpieces of Armenian literature. It is full of piety and instructions, but few people read or understand it. But often it is put under the pillow of the sick people.
In spite of all these shortcomings, Armenians are one of the most religious among Christians. In faithfulness no nation can excel them. Armenians have kept their religion in spite of the encroachments of the Persians. They have defeated all efforts of the fanatic Arabs to mohammedanize them. Four centuries of subjection to their harsh rule did not break their tenacious hold on Christianity. They have resisted the still more ferocious attack on their religion by the Mongols and the Turks, under whose rule they have lived for six centuries. They have preferred to lose property and even their lives, but have refused to renounce Christianity. In Shabin Karahissar the spot, where people most often used to go for prayer, was a simple grave of a young man, martyred for his faith. His tomb lay in a valley. Every Saturday evening one could see long line of women with children and old men moving up and down the valley for their Sabbath prayer. People that knows to honor a martyr, is itself ready to be martyr for the same fate. The Armenians of Shabin Karahissar have had indirectly great share in the enlightenment of modern Armenians. That enlightenment starts by a priest by the name Mukhitar, who is born in Sivas at the end of the seventeenth century. He has an exceptionally keen spiritual understanding and realizes the religious darkness in which Armenians are living. He also understands that it is because the church had neglected its teaching functions. So as e priest himself, he begins a campaign for religious enlightenment. As is the case with all reformers, he is persecuted by the ruling clergy, backed by the ignorant mob. He flies first to Constantinople, then to Italy. For the sake of his ideal he becomes a Roman Catholic and establishes a monastery at the island St. Lazar, Venice. Later the monastery is split into two, and the ones who leave, establish a monastery in Vienna. Both monasteries call themselves Muchitarian, after their founder, and both work more or less on the same live. They have had first class printing press and have published immense amount of Armenian books of all types, original or translated. No Armenian, no matter what his creed, can fail to appreciate this fact. The oldest and most authoritative biographer of Mukhitar of Sivas*, Archbishop Stephanos, explains what moves him to reformatting zeal. Young Mukhitar is under the influence of two pious women nuns. They in turn have been disciples of two extraordinary celibate monks from Shabin Karahissar. At first they have chosen the life of ascetics. When their father dies, their mother remains neglected. As dutiful sons they could not bear to see their mother in want, so they decide temporarily to interrupt their ascetic life and take care of here. But they are loath to return to their native city, perhaps are afraid of mockery and misunderstanding, and move to Sivas. They start to work as weavers and continue, as far as their new environment would permit, their ascetic practices. Moreover, they begin teaching people around them. Their humble home becomes a school, their loom a pulpit. As usual, the clergy, and the bishop particularly, hate them. But they bore all humbly and patiently and common people would see the light of Jesus in them. So they start a real religious renewal, which by Godâ€™s blessings bore such wonderful fruits. Though the two sisters, their best disciples, they influence on Muckhitar. And that changes modern Armenian history. The city has given several other high clergy men also, although not so great. A teacher, later a celibate priest, became bishop of Armenians in France (Nasareth Cibarian, Bishop Vramshabouh Kibarian). Two others were among the martyrs of 1915. Very few Armenians from Shabin Karahissar saved their lives by accepting the Moslem faith. As in other parts, Turks offered specialist artisans salvation from
deportation and massacre, if they would deny their faith. There may be at most two or three such cases. On the contrary, some died affirming their fait in Christ in dramatic manner. I know two such cases. There was an expert saddle maker by the name Soukias, a neighbor of ours. He has been called by the governor and has received such an offer to save his life. He has asked time to think. The next morning he has presented himself to the governor with a crooked wood, used in saddles, and has asked him if he can unbent it. The governor has answered, that it is impossible. “And so it is impossible for me also to change my faith.” He was put to death. A woman by name Nourikian bribes some Kurds and they save her and her two children from deportation. She is very sick, near dying. The Kurds, contrary to their original agreement, now demand her to accept Mohammedanism. She is in struggle. To save her children, in her agony she mechanically repeats the words dictated by the Kurds. But before she gives up her spirit, she calls aloud Jesus Christ and dies. These are two dramatic cases that come to my knowledge. But God knows and I am sure that many more died with the name of Jesus Christ on their lips. * Here and further on in square brackets is pointed the number of the quoted sources in the supplemented specification.
SOCIAL CUSTOMS IN SHABIN KARAHISSAR Modern means of entertainment, such as theater or cinema, were unknown, except a few amateur theatrical shows. Therefore people were engaged mostly with religious holidays. Christmas and Easter used to be celebrated with great pomp. But the weddings used to be especially great occasions of festivals. Before the wedding, takes place the ceremony of engagement. The boy’s godfather leads a delegation to the girl’s home. The girl’s parents are notified in advance and have invited their best friends for consultation. The elder decide whether to accept the proposal, but the girl also expresses her opinion by accepting or rejecting the engagement ring. The negotiation is lead cautiously, with indirect remarks. If it has been successful, two or three weeks later the boy sends presents to the girl. She reciprocates it. Then on a certain day all relatives gather at the girl’s home. The priest is also present. The boy’s parents give to the girl presents and usually a gold cross. Presents are given to the boy also. The priest blesses the engagement. When the wedding day approaches, the future bride is invited by the relatives in turn, for at least one day. They treat her “as a queen”. The last night is paid to the godmother. On Thursday especially, delegates go around to invite people to the wedding. Saturday evening begins the dressing of the bride. Some of the clothes are sent by the bridegroom. Sunday morning a delegation of women headed by the godmother of the bridegroom arrives at the bride’s home. The bride is made to sit on cushions in the middle of the room and her hands and feet are painted with “hina” – reddish brown, in special figures. While doing it, the women sing melancholy songs, trying to make the bride weep. Then the hands and feet are tied with silk handkerchiefs. They begin to make good wishes and give the bride gifts. The gifts are put on her head, then the godmother takes them and puts them in a basket.
A similar ceremony of dressing takes place at the home of the bridegroom too. The godfather brings a barber, who shaves the bridegroom, and his aids as well. The priest arrives to bless his cloths, shoes and the engagement cross. A golden crucifix is sown on the hat of the bridegroom and he is declared “king”, thenceforth the bride is known as “queen”. In some villages the “king” used to wear also a sword and attendants used to bow before him. Their hats also are made more like crowns. For centuries having lived in bondage, in this manner was expressed their earnest wish to have a king and an independent life. А delegation comes from the bridegroom to take the bride to church. They bring also her shoes and veil. The bride must ride on a horse. Her brother and nearest relatives help her to that. Custom demands that the bride cries at the departure from home. For that purpose musicians on primitive violins play melancholy tunes. The procession starts for the church. Another procession takes the bridegroom, but on foot. After a long ceremony in the church, where the most characteristic is the tying of their heads to each other with a colored string, the procession starts for the bridegroom’s home. On the way the crowd would sing patriotic songs. When they arrive at their destination, the bride’s aids refuse to take her down, unless gifts are promised to them. As soon the bride comes down, a cock is killed at her feet, so that no evil may enter with her. In some villages the cock is thrown over the crowd and whoever can grab it, keeps it as his own. Inside the in-laws lift the bride’s veil, kiss her and lead her to a place of honor. Then begin the festivities, music and dancing. Occasionally the bride and bridegroom have to dance, or offer drinks. The dances are oriental, in circles, and men and women in separate circles. On Monday morning the mother in law takes the bride to the hearth, which used to be dug in the ground a little farther from the wall. She turns her three times around the hearth, saying “My hearth (always) burning, and daughter in law (always) busy”. The wedding might continue many days, at least until Wednesday, according to the financial condition of the bridegroom. All the time the guests have to be fed and provided with beddings. On the last day the couple goes to church again to pray and by evening the wedding ends. In the villages there are some interesting variations. When the procession from the church approaches the bridegroom’s home, it finds the way blocked. To let them pass, some one has to wrestle. Ore all jump over a stretched stick. Whoever fails to jump, promises a gift. If the young people are on horse back, which is the usually case in villages, they play a game by throwing javelins. During the game the bridegroom throws three apples to the bride, trying to hit her, while her aids try to catch them. If they catch at least one of the apples, the bridegrooms relatives have to present a he sheep for the festival, if not, the same have to do the bride’s relatives. After doing so many honors to the bride, one would think how well they are treated thenceforth. In reality they were kept under strict rules of conduct. For years the bride had to keep quite in the presence of her father in law or man guests. She had to kiss the hand of every visitor. Unless permitted, in the presence of a guest she had to stay by a wall, like a punished child, her hands crossed on her chest and her face veiled. If she had to offer something to the guests, she had to wait in front of them, just a step away, until the guest was ready to return the cup or the dish.
It was unusual for the married couple to separate and form a new home, which would be scandalous. Several brides had to live together with their in laws. It would take lots of wisdom for a mother in law to manage them well and keep them at peace, and a bride had to be very patient to bear many indignities. Besides the wedding, which was celebrated as elaborately as possible, people would try to celebrate the religious holidays also in like manner. Christmas trees are unknown to Armenians. The gifts are given at New Years Eve or on New Year. On that night the father of the home would bring as much presents, candies, nuts, etc., as he could afford. After the supper the presents would be distributed. The poor children would climb on neighbor’s roofs, which in most cases used to be earthen and flat, and hang a basket or a bag from the chimney. The family, which lived below, would put in it something and it would be pulled up. The chimneys were in the shape of a big funnel. Directly under it was the peculiar hearth, or “tonir”, dug in the ground. A round hole, about a meter in diameter, and with sides made of two semicircular pieces of baked clay. The tonir would get air through a hole dug at the bottom, which would extend few feet away. Cross irons would be put over the tonir and the pots put on them. After the wood turned into coal, and the sides heated well, the pots would be lowered at the bottom of the tonir and a thick walnut lid be put over it. Then a short legged table over and that covered with a table cloth in summer or a quilt in winter. The food would cook slowly, that is why our foods were so tasteful. The family would sit around on mattresses. On especially cold days legs would be tucked under the quilt. In a country several thousand feet above sea level, with scanty supply of fuel, during winters that last at least four months with heavy snow on the ground, nothing can warm the body better than a tonir. Now, as the family is seated around this tonir, the basket or bag drops directly on the table. The head of the family would put in it something without knowing who has hung it. It was a good way of keeping the self respect of the poor. There were also superstitions in connection with the New Year. It was believed, that exactly at midnight some fountains flow gold, only that barley has to be offered to the fountain and the person going for it has to be worthy of the gift. These people, who had never seen a ship in their lives, except few merchants, used to believe, that at midnight shipwrecked ships rise to the surface of the sea for a brief period of time. People would believe also other various impossible things happening that night. The next week, on Christmas Eve singers go around to give the good news. It would be celebrated three days. Everybody would go to church. Afterwards the father of the family had to pay a visit to all the relatives and friends, while the mother would stay at home to entertain visitors at home. The guests would be received in a guest room, which did not have a toner, but an iron stove. In the spring, just before the Lenten days, people would celebrate the carnival with much eating and drinking. The carnival in Shabin Karahissar was altogether peculiar. Groups of young people would form theatrical groups and go around acting one and the same drama. Somebody would be a bride or queen, another bridegroom or king, with several attendants with various roles. The bridegroom or king would die, and the bride or queen would weep over him. Then her tears would bring him to life. Probably a remnant of a heathen custom. The king may be symbolized the earth, the queen the heaven, her tears the rains, and his revival the spring revival of nature. Probably there were symbols of the sun or other natural phenomena also, but I remember this much only.
Easter was preceded with the Lenten days, which was observed very meticulously. Fasting was obligatory to elders, while children had to eat only simple food without butter, egg or meat. A big head of onion with forty feathers stuck in it would be hung from the ceiling. Every passing day a feather would be pulled out. At a time when calendars were not so common, an excellent device to tell the date. Children were told that if they do not observe the lent, at night one of the feathers would come down to dig their eyes. One Sunday in the spring, besides other people, especially all newly married young men had to go to church. The same night fires were being made on the roofs of the houses. That day peasants would make cakes and feed all animals, even the mice. Then they would take an ax and going to their trees, they would strike them that they might be more fruitful. If the tree for a year or more had failed to give fruit, this ceremony used to take place in a more dramatic manner. Someone with the ax would approach the tree saying: “This tree is fruitless, let us chop it down”. Then some one else would intervene, saying: “Let us try it this year also, may be it will bear fruit”. Thus the tree was frightened to bear fruit. Easter preparations used to begin a week in advance. Children are dismissed from school on Tuesday. The ones that have good voices have to be drilled in reading or chanting special passages from the Bible, all emphasizing the triumph of God over evil forces. Women begin cooking from Wednesday. Many kinds of foods and cakes have to be baked in the “tonir”. It is not all for personal consumption. Most of them will have to be sent to relatives or friends. On Thursday the church service is very interesting. The priest actually washes the feet of all the singers of the church, thus repeating Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After that the feet are anointed with blessed butter. Most of it, in a big lump, remains to be distributed to the faithful. Every forehead has to receive a touch of that holy butter. It is believed that the butter will slowly flow down and by Easter morning reach the mouth, when the lent or fast ends. The churches are crowded. Only the new brides have to stay at home, especially if they are pregnant. Custom strictly forbids their appearance in public places in such condition. They stay at home and sing special lullabies for the expected one. The same night is called night of darkness. People go to church with negligent looks and the old people especially make all efforts to weep for Jesus. Friday before noon is devoted to thorough house cleaning. In the afternoon the church performs the funeral service for Jesus. His symbolic coffin is piled with flowers. In some places the coffin is put out in the yard and the pious pass under it, for health, as they say. Even Mohammedans are seen doing it. The same day people make confession of their sins and ask the priests to read certain gospel passages for their deceased dear ones. Saturday is devoted to dying eggs. It is not a light affair, especially for those, who have new son in laws. An average of 500 eggs would be needed. Great numbers of them have to be sent by the mother of the bride to her son in law. If they can, they write on each egg Happy Easter and the name of the person to whom they are sent. One Easter I have been tortured over several dozens of eggs, which a neighbor had to present. The same night groups of people sing in the streets the resurrection of the Lord and gather gifts for the poor. In the morning the church is crowded more than ever, the service is the most solemn, the triumph of goodness over evil forces.
Outside in the church yard children and young men too, fight with eggs and gamble with them. This gambling continues for a whole week with its accompanying quarrels. After a solemn dinner, at which all members of the family are present, the head of the family starts again his rounds of visiting. The priests also visit their flock and gather rich gifts. Monday, the second day of Easter, is devoted to the dead. After church the priests with a large body of the people go to cemetery, where prayers are said on the graves. Such in brief were some of the most interesting social customs. A more detailed study of them is impossible, because the people spoken of have vanished from the world. Only remnants have remained here and there, from whom more could not be gathered.
THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT At the end of the 18-th century, partly as the result of the French Revolution, partly as the result of intellectual enlightenment of Armenians, including study of history, and also on account of the economic backwardness of the Ottoman Empire, a revolutionary movement starts among Armenians. It thrives in those parts of the empire, where Armenians are economically in worse condition, being robbed by greedy officials, wild Kurdish tribes, or exploited by Armenian money lenders. Originally the movements start with socialistic aims, to fight all exploiters, are they Turks, Kurds or Armenians. But gradually, as they are persecuted severely and even innocent people suffer being suspected as revolutionaries, their aim change and center on one mainly, to get free from Turkish yoke. And yet when European powers want to intervene for finding a compromise solution, the Armenians are satisfied with a promise of a small self rule in provinces, where the Armenians are the dominant element and most persecuted. This is accepted, although reluctantly, by the Turkish government itself. A Dane and a Norwegian are appointed as governors of the said provinces and they arrive at Constantinople shortly before the First World War. Soon Turkey enters the war on the side of the central powers, denounces its willingness to give self rule to Armenians and sends back the two neutral governors. A year later solves the problem by totally exterminating the whole Armenian population in the empire, with the exception of Constantinople and Smyrnia. Shabin Karahissar was a city where revolutionary movements have thrived best. Its first reason is economic. Being near the Black Sea, although separated with high mountains, it is built on the road to the sea. About 50 miles away is the seaport town Kirasoun, and the trade from several rich cities, like Agn, Arapkir, even Sivas, was carried on through Shabin Karahissar and Kirasoun. Under this circumstances business thrived in Shabin Karahissar. In the 18-th century the government builds a new highway from Sivas, the capital of the province, to Samsoun, another sea port town. All the business from the above mentioned cities, except Karahissar itself, shifts to the new route. The result is disastrous for Shabin Karahissar. Business fell very low. Many merchants moved to Kirasoun or other cities. There was wide spread unemployment. Of course Armenians did not suffer alone. Greeks and Turks suffered with them. But since the government was doing nothing to alleviate the economic suffering, and the government was exclusively in the hands of Turks, the dissatisfaction was turned against them. This was an excellent opportunity for revolutionary leaders to sow their seeds in Shabin Karahissar. With the general
economic deterioration of the empire, the Turks and Kurds found their salvation in robbing the peaceful Armenian population. Sultan Hamid II, the worse sultan Turkey has ever had, did nothing to stop this injustices. On the contrary, making a pretext the activities of the revolutionary committees, although they were of very innocent nature, more words than dudes, encouraged the exploiters and provided them with better arms. The Armenians of Shabin Karahissar had also certain characteristics, which made them adaptable to revolutionary movements. They were jealous of honor, quarrelsome and revengeful. Led by emotions rather than intellect, they were extremists in love or hatred. They knew no middle ways, could make no compromises. They loved freedom and had a national pride that would not make them low before the Turks, no matter how strong they are. In the past they have never been robbed, even Sultan Hamid could not break their spirit. And when in 1915 the general calamity came, Shabin Karahissar fell heroically, being one of the few (five or six) places, where Armenians offered resistance, and this was done under the most desperate circumstances, with no hope of outside help. But about this, hereafter. The first revolutionary committee has been formed in 1890 by Social Democrat Hnchak Party. The first executive committee is composed of four teachers and three merchants. One of the teachers later became a celibate priest and later on, bishop of Armenians in France (Nasareth Cibarian, Bishop Vramshabouh Kibarian). One of their first tasks has been the formation of an armed band to warn unjust Turkish officials of reprisals, in case they continue their policy. The band is composed of eight members of which second in command is a certain Ghoogas Deovletian, later known as Ghoogas Aghbar (Brother Ghoogas), who led the heroic defense of 1915. The organization grows and a second band has been formed under the leadership of Daniel Chavoush. For some time it moves among Armenian villages and warns Turkish officials and tax collectors to be impartial, threatening them with punishment. In few months they are trapped and all but one are killed fighting the enemy. There was a song composed for them. Shabin Karahissar revolutionaries have shown such abilities in organization and courage that one of them, Gregory Garibian, with pseudonym Hrachya Maral, is send to famous Zeitun in Cilicia, where Armenians, perched in mountains, are living a semi-independent life. Sultan Hamid wants to reduce them and bring them to complete subjection, so the revolutionary leaders want to assist them in their resistance. The band of Brother Ghoogas murders an unjust Turkish official and goes to hiding. Ghoogas is arrested and condemned to life imprisonment. He is saved from the gallows, because he has been chivalrous toward the wife of the official and she has wished so. When in 1908 Sultan Hamid II was dethroned and constitutional government was declared by the so called party of the Young Turks, he also like many political prisoners was pardoned and released. I faintly remember as a child, with what demonstrations of joy he was welcomed at home. Seeing what a good ground for revolutionary ideas is Shabin Karahissar, the Social Democratic party sends one of its leaders Aram Achukbashian to establish a central committee here and organize subcommittees in Erzingan, Sivas, Agn, Kemak, Armudan, Arabgir and as far as Kharpourt. He has remained in Shabin Karahissar 12 years (1894 â€“ 1906). The people of Shabin Karahissar have demonstrated that they are worthy of the hopes laid upon them. In 1895 some gendarmes abuse Armenian woman on way
from Tamzara to the city. People make a peaceful demonstration and the gendarmes are punished, a rare event in Turkey, especially under the rule of Sultan Hamid. That same year by the order of the sultan massacres are organized all over Armenia. Many cities and villages are plundered and the Armenians massacred. The Turkish mob dared not to enter in Shabin Karahissar. They could plunder only scattered houses at the outskirts and the prosperous town Tamzara near the city. In 1896 has been formed a new revolutionary committee, the Dashnakists. In Shabin Karahissar the two have always cooperated, but elsewhere they were in conflict. The Dashnakists go stronger. They also have given great importance to Shabin Karahissar and sent one of their leaders Dr. Garabed Pashayan to organize the local committee. Beside Brother Ghoogas and Garibian, Shabin Karahissar has produced several other famous revolutionaries. But above all is Antranig, the greatest military hero Armenians have produced in the last centuries. He is born and trained in Shabin Karahissar, but acted elsewhere. At the critical days of 1915 he was in Caucasus, so could not participate in the heroic fight. He is, however, the most famous son of Shabin Karahissar. Antranig Ozanian, later known only by his first name, is born in 1865. He is a carpenter by trade and one of the first converts to the revolutionary movement. One day his father comes home half dead, having been beaten unjustly by a Turk. Antranig, full of rage, finds the Turk and in the ensuing quarrel the Turk is killed. Antranig goes to hiding. At that time Sultan Hamid is doing his utmost to subdue the population of Sasoun, who like Zeitoun, perched on their almost inaccessible mountains, are living poor, but semi-independent life. The Sultan has no reason to encroach on their freedom, because it menaced nobody. If he wanted to have a strong centralized country, he had to begin with the Kurds, who all trough the empire lived a semiindependent life and moreover were a menace to the Christian population. But the Kurds were Mohammedans and ignorant, whereas Armenians were Christian, educated, progressive and rich. So with the help of Kurds, Turkish mobs and regular soldiers surround Sasoun. The struggle lasts long. The people of Sasoun could receive no substantial outside help, except few revolutionary fighters, who for their exceptional bravery and willingness to die for a noble cause, are called by the enemy Jan Fedayee (Self Sacrificers). Antranig is one of those, who smuggles into Sasoun. There he is trained more and brought forth his military genius. At first he is secondary soldier, but as one by one the higher commanders are killed or trapped, Antranig remains to lead the defense. And he does it so well, that he baffles the Sultan. He offers rich rewards for the head of Antranig, as he has succeeded to get in like manner the head of Serop, Antranigâ€™s predecessor. But whoever tries to get his head, loses his own head. Antranig is a master strategist in partisan warfare. With fifty people armed Armenian peasants, he routes thousands of Turks or Kurds. Often he has been besieged in some village, monastery or cave, and yet has slipped out. The Kurds called him â€œPashaâ€?, a title, which the sultans gave only to ministers or great generals. They came to believe, that he has magical powers, that no bullet penetrates him. For really, he would be in every fight on the front line and come out unharmed. Sasoun is not reduced. The representatives of foreign powers intervene and Sultan Hamid concludes peace. But Antranig is still sought. So he lives Sasoun and escapes to Bulgaria. In 1912 the Balkan countries, Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks and Montenegrins unite to free the rest of the Balkans, and declare war on Turkey.
Antranig, in his hatred of the Turks, forms a voluntary corpse and fights valiantly as a part of the Bulgarian army. When the First World War broke out Armenians under Russian rule decide to form a voluntary corpse to fight with the Russians against their mortal enemy, Turkey. The most capable leader of such a corpse could be Antranig, so he is called to Caucasus. He does not hesitate and becomes the commander of the first voluntary corpse. Subsequently six more corpses are formed. Antranig’s corpse is sent to the southern wing of the Caucasian front. There also he demonstrates his inborn ability. He receives high honors and is raised to the rank of a general. Six times he is decorated by the Russians for exceptional bravery. He receives medals from the French and Greeks also. A representative of the American Red Cross questions several Russian generals about Antranig. They say that all generals consult Antranig before beginning any important move. The chief cause of Russian successes is this man’s military genius and bravery.  Many horses have been killed under him, and yet he has come out unharmed. Hence the conclusion of the Kurds and Turks, that he is bewitched and no bullet could penetrate him. A Cossack cavalry division has been acting with Antranig. The Cossacks think he is a saint. One of the great exploits of Antranig is the battle of Diliman. Halil Pasha with 130 000 regular soldiers and 30-40000 irregulars is advancing toward Khay. Antranig has only 1300 soldiers, cavalry and infantry. Khalil’s officers and soldiers are very proud and arrogant, they have never yet suffered defeat. Their plan is well formed and realizable under normal circumstances. Antranig with his small force keeps them at bay three days, until another Armenian general, Nazarbegian, comes with his forces to his assistance. The battle continues one more day and Halil is obliged to retreat. This is the second defeat of the Turks, the first being at Sary Gamish. Antranig’s next sensational bravery is the capture of Bitlis, which has been called the Dardanells on the main land, for one had to pass in winter a very narrow and long strip to rich the city. He sends 400-500 of his men, with improvised skies from simple boards, around to the rear of the enemy, and with a surprise attack routes the enemy completely. After the Bolshevik revolution, when Russians retreat in disorder, the whole Caucasian front is left to Armenians to defend, with very small army. Antranig is entrusted with the high command. Lord Robert Cecil has said in House of Commons, that Antranig did the great service to the Allied cause, by stopping the Turkish army toward the Bakou oil fields. Unfortunately later on the Turks seize Bakou and massacre 30000 Armenians. An American correspondent called him the Armenian Robin Hood, Garibaldy and Washington united in one. The best credit to him comes from the enemy itself. When Armenians are retreating from Kars, the Turkish soldiers shout after them: “Shame on you, to leave such a fortress to us. Surely Antranig is not among you”. At another battle, where Antranig again is absent, somebody with a big voice shouts to the Turks: “O, Turks, your opponents are not Armenians from Caucasus, but Antranig’s soldiers. Think well what you are up to”. The Turks retreat. Once Antranig falls in a trap. He has to retreat by a bridge and the Turks have means to destroy it. But they wouldn’t do it, lest in desperation Antranig does something extraordinary and destroys many of them. This confession has made Halil Pasha himself.
Armenian bards and poets have composed many songs about him. So, without hesitation we may say that Shabin Karahissar was one of the most important revolutionary centers, and certainly it produced the greatest Armenian military leader. (Editor’s note – these and many other subjects are treated in detail in the author’s manuscript “History of Shabin Karahisar”  )
THE DESTRUCTION OF A NATION
WHY DID THE 1915 MASSACRES TAKE PLACE Every event has one or many causes, and often evil deeds have convenient pretexts. Those, who are responsible for the crimes in 1915 and their propagandists, do not dwell on the causes, because they are unfavorable to them, but they try hard to find pretexts. It is a fact, that before the First World War Armenians and Turks were living as normal neighbors. That means, there was no reason for genocide. But as it happens in individual life also, one does the wrong and then tries to rationalize it, so do the Turks. Let us examine the accusations the Turkish propagandists bring against Armenians. First, they tried to accuse Armenian soldiers, as if they did not fight well. On that pretext all Armenians on the Caucasian front were disarmed and put into labor corpus. Later on they were the first to be massacred in the camps. The truth is just the contrary. At his return from the Caucasian front, the commander in chief Enver Pasha sends a letter to the Armenian bishop of Konia, who had expressed his good wishes for the success of the Turkish army. In it he is thanking the bishop and says that he was well pleased at the way Armenian soldiers were fighting. And he does not fail to mention, that an Armenian sub lieutenant by name Hovanes has saved his life. The exchanged letters were published in â€œOsmanisher Loidâ€? paper, January 26, 1915. It is true, that some Armenian soldiers were deserting the army. But that fault was common to all nations in the empire, including Turks. During my four years in Turkish villages I have seen many such deserters. In the village Geosman had deserted the bravest young men, there was no shame attached to it, they were considered the clever ones. More of this will follow later. It is said that some Armenians possessed arms. All the Kurds and most Turks were armed too. Beside, most of the arms of the Armenians were given by the Yong Turks, so that they might help them in case the reactionary Turks attempt to abolish the new constitutional regime. As Armenians receive a little freedom, they mostly support the new regime. In other cases Armenians had provided themselves with arms to defend themselves against the Kurds, whom the central government had never succeeded to subdue and make them law abiding citizens. It is said, that Armenians formed volunteer corpses on the Caucasian front against Turkey. I wish they had not done it. The Russians did not deserve it. But it was not a great wrong. Only one Turkish subject escaped and joined them. All the rest were from Caucasus or outside the Turkish Empire. If the Turks had treated Armenians better, they might have formed such corpses for them also. Armenians, divided between two enemy empires, had to fulfill their duty, each to their master. The Turks proposed the Dashnakist party, which was cooperating in parliament with the ruing Ittihads, to instigate insurrection among Armenians in Caucasus. They refused it, because it would be useless. No Armenian would take arms against the Christian master, even if he did not treat them well. When the alternative is between Christ and Mohammed, the Armenians do not hesitate. Armenians were accused of pursuing independence. That is falsehood. All that Armenians wished was reformation in Turkey, so that they might live in security and peace. The formerly revolutionary parties had become parliamentary and each was cooperating with a Turkish one. Social Democrats with Ittilaf, and Dashnakists with the ruling Ittihad.
The Turks have tried to show, that the resistance Armenians offered in Van and Shabin Karahissar were insurrections. But deportations had begun long before that. Zeitun was deported in April, although in other parts Armenians were ignorant of it. On the contrary, all Armenian leaders, beginning with the patriarch himself, were preaching patience, and the few cases of resistance were local affairs, the result of the judgment of local leaders, that something evil is planned for them. If Armenians were to make a planned insurrection, the Turks would have much more trouble. Thus, examining all accusations, brought forth by Turkish propagandists, we find out, that they are mere rationalizations and speculations with no truth behind them. Now let us examine the causes, which must be deeper. Turkish propagandists like to represent Armenians as rich money lenders and parasites on the peasants. That there were money lenders among Armenians is a sad fact. But it is also a fact, that 90% of Armenians were peasants themselves and also were victims in the hands of those money lenders. One of the Armenian leaders Keham DerGarabedian, who is born and lives among peasants, makes devastating accusations against them. He goes so far to say, that Armenian peasants suffered more from money lenders, than from the Kurdish robbers, which after 1908 was true. But if money lenders were to be punished, why the peasants were massacred and the richest Armenians living in Constantinople and Smyrna were spared? The real causes of the massacres have to be searched among the Turks. I hasten to say, that I do not consider all Turks guilty. I believe there are many good Turks, as I shall try to show. Every Armenian, who was saved from the massacres, owes his rescue to at least one Turk. Bishop Gregory Balakian in his book called “The Armenian Golgotha”  writes: “One can never trust a Turk, be he peasant or citizen, educated or illiterate, belonging to Ittihad or Ittilaf party, religious or secular, monarchist or republican, they all are hypocrites, deceitful, cunning.” “In six months, the Turkish people with all its classes, beginning with the Sultan, and ministers, and members of the parliament, governors and mayors, assisted with the mob, committed the horrible crime, which their ancestors couldn’t even think of.” And yet, he in many places gives contrary evidence about good Turks. He tells, for instance, of a soldier, who would not fire on innocent Armenians. In other place he tells how he has heard the soldiers accompanying their caravan weeping secretly at night. Dr. Lepsius too tells of a soldier, on duty at the door of a church in Ismit, who is crying over the fate of the Armenians.  Balakian tells: “When as usual I approached the inn keeper to pay for our night’s lodging and asked the old Turk how much we owned him, he surprised me by answering: “Does God permit me to get money from such afflicted people like you?” When I told him, that in other inns, on the contrary, unusually high fees were demanded, he answered: “They must have been Godless people. There is Nemesis in this world. God will punish those, who are responsible for their crimes.” In the village Tomarza the chief of the village and the mullah pay them a visit with a group of old men. They approach the bishop with great respect, even though he is being exiled with other people, and any day his life might be taken. They ask him when their neighbor Armenians will return. “The Armenians”, says the mullah,
“were the salt of our country. They went and we remain tasteless. May God have mercy upon us.” The others repeated thrice “Amen”. Peasants, seeing their ragged condition, begin to curse Talaat and Enver, who were responsible for all. An old Turk, seeing a gendarme beating an Armenian old man, intervenes saying: “Don’t you have the fear of God in you? Isn’t their punishment enough? Why don’t you let him eat his bread in peace? We shall be punished for all these”. A Turkish old woman raises her hands in the middle of a street in some town, shouts curses on those, who have brought such calamity on the Armenians, and asks God to be with them.  An objective and fair study of the facts show, that not all Turks are guilty for the massacres in 1915 and many, on the contrary, did everything to prevent or alleviate it. The criminals were in all classes, but not every Turk or Kurd is responsible. In many places the Turkish population was not enthusiastic over the deportation and massacres. Dr. Lepsius has cited several such cases. The influential Turks in Erzerum, Alashgerd and Van telegraphed to the central government, that they disapprove the measures taken against Armenians. The Islam population of Adapazar gathered at the railway station and tried to resist the order of deportation of their Armenian neighbors. In a village near Caesaria the Turkish peasants threatened that they will accompany their Armenian neighbors, so the governor had to, at least temporarily, withhold his order. In Biza Shehir, a small city on the European mainland, the Turkish population actually could save their Armenians.  Another author, Henry Barby, mentions similar cases in Trapisound. He mentions a Turk Eshadir Oghlou, who took arms and joined Armenians, who have escaped and are wandering in the mountains, and was killed.  Similar testimonies are found elsewhere. All the evidence come to prove, that not only the common Turkish people died not initiate the massacres, on the contrary, in many places, more or less actively, thy expressed their disapproval of it. And this is in itself a proof of the innocence of the victims. If Armenians had had any evil intentions against the Turkish people or government, the people itself would have taken the initiative to punish them. The Kurds, being less civilized, more brutal and devoted to robbery, have comparatively higher share in the massacres. But even they only utilized the opportunity. Besides, in some places they not only refrained from participating in the massacres, but saved many Armenians. All the Kurdish tribes in Dersim saved Armenians. Henry Barby mentions a tribe in Moush, which more than a year defended with arms 700 families.  Now let us see whether the Mohammedan clergy is responsible for the massacres. In the past local robberies and massacres have been preached by fanatic clergymen, but by the order of the Sultan. But this time neither a Sultan, nor the Sheikh-oul-Islam, the leader of the Mohammedan church, gave such orders. It is true, that the Islam religion does not hesitate to use the sword to make converts, and local clergymen utilized the opportunity to offer Mohammedanism, not all are innocent. But the facts show, that the massacres in 1915 were not instigated or encouraged by the Mohammedan clergy. The Sheikh-oul-Islam was against it. Dr. Lepsius and Frants Werfel, the author of “Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, testify to it. [5,19] Mustafa Nedim, the director of a Turkish college in Aleppo, has saved the lives of hundreds of the arriving afflicted and condemns the crimes in strong terms, and he was a religious man. He concludes his book “The Armenian Massacres”  with the following words: “It is my firm conviction that after such horrible crimes God will not
leave unpunished its authors and perpetrators. If I were to write all that I have seen, several thousand pages would not be enough. May the wrath of God be upon the authors of these crimes”. Henry Barby also testifies that Islamic religion on the whole is innocent of the committed crimes. He tells the following touching story: “Turkish volunteers, after kidnapping the beautiful women of the village Avzad, gathered the rest in the church and got ready to set it on fire. A Kurdish mullah came forward and said: “No religion, be it Mohammedan or Christian, allows burning alive women and children”. And thinking he might frustrate their intention, entered into the church himself. The volunteers laughed at him and carried on their criminal work. The mullah was burnt alive with the Armenians.  The Dervishes of Konia (Ikonium), a religious sect, save the lives of 30 thousand Armenians, who originally are saved by the so called “Infidel Governor” Jelal Bey, after he is recalled by the central government. On the whole, Mohammedans also believe in God and feel responsible for their conduct, therefore will hesitate to do evil. It is true, that in the past Mohammedans, and Christians too, have participated in mass murder, but that was due to a wrong conception of God. In this case the Mohammedan religion and its clergy war comparatively innocent of the committed crimes. Let us see how many high officials outside the Ittihad party were responsible for the crimes. In the past, individual governors have initiated persecutions of Armenians. But in a modern centralized country, that could not happen. Some governors of provinces, as well as many lower officials, carried on the order of deportation most ruthlessly. Others did it reluctantly. And a few resisted it most resolutely. This last fact should be mentioned both as a matter of historical justice, also as a proof of the innocence of Armenians. If they were guilty before the central government, the local governors would know it, or they alone had to demand from the central government. The governor of Lidze does not obey the order of deportation and is called by the governor of the province for instructions on the matter. On the way he is murdered. The governor of Mardin is dismissed because wouldn’t obey the order. The governor of Malatia, Naby Bey, in advance resigns his post. He is succeeded by Reshid Pasha, a Kurd, who tries to do everything to alleviate the condition of the deported Armenians, passing trough his city. To do this, he has to struggle against local members of the governing Ittihad party, and he even loses his health. The unfortunate people, who succeeded to reach their destination, were concentrated in Dejr-el-Zor, in the desert of Mesopotamia. The governor of the place, Aly Suad, treats the exiles well and gives them opportunity to earn a living by trade. He is dismissed and replaced by a cruel man, who fulfills the government’s order of exterminating the Armenians. The director of the Pedagogical Institute in Constantinople, Sady Bey, is against the deportation and often has condemned it. In the Turkish Senate Ahmed Risa raises a question about the deportation of the Armenians. Many senators join him. The interpolation is withdrawn only on the condition, that a committee will be formed to study the question. Even more significant is the resistance of provincial governors, valias. The valia of Erzerum, Tahsin Bey, finding out that the first caravan sent out of the city is destroyed on the way, refuses to send more, unless full protection is
assured. Following caravans reached their destination comparatively unmolested. Moreover, he gathers all the property left by the deported in his charge and stores it in the fortress. Later, when General Antranig temporary entered Erzerum, he found all the property intact. The valia of Kastamony, Reshad Pasha, resists the order of deportation for a whole year and the local population supports him. They write to the central government: “For centuries we have lived as good neighbors with the Armenians, therefore we are against their deportation”. At the end the noble governor is forced to resign and the Armenians are deported. The valia of Smyrna, Rahmy Bey, also resists the order of deportation. Because he is assisted by the German general von Sanders, the Armenians in that city at least are saved from deportation. Bishop Balakian mentions also the valia of Angora, who tries to do everything to prevent the deportation. He calls to him local Turkish leaders and asks them if they consider the Armenians dangerous for the pace of the country. They say, they have no suspicion about them. He sends this answer to the central government. Among the governors, who resist carrying on the order of the central government, is the above mentioned Jelal Bey, valia of the province of Aleppo. He pretends not to understand the meaning of the orders and not only does not deport the Armenians under his jurisdiction, but tries to keep safe the caravans passing trough his province. When later on he is transferred to Konia with the same position, he saves the lives of 30 000 Armenians and by the local chauvinists is nicknamed “Giavour valisi”, the Infidel governor. It is fortunate, that some of the telegrams exchanged between Jelal Bei and the minister of internal affairs Talaat Pasha have been found and therefore we can understand the nature and aim of the deportations, as well as the nobility of Jelal Bey. “September 3, 1915. We order you to deal with the women and children also as you were ordered to deal with certain men. We order you also, that the fulfillment of these orders must be entrusted to trustworthy officials. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” “September 15, 1915. We have communicated to you before, that the government, in accordance with the decision of the party, has decided once for all to destroy all the Armenians living in Turkey. Whoever opposes this order will lose his rights as citizen. Without paying attention to women and children, and sick, you must carry the order of their extermination, no mater how cruel or tragic it looks. You must pay no attention to the dictates of your conscience. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” “November 23, 1915. By secret means destroy all Armenians from the Eastern Provinces (that is Armenia), that are found in your province. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” “December 1, 1915. In spite of our expectations that you would cooperate willingly for the destruction of Armenians, we hear, that you send them to Syria or Jerusalem. Such treatment of them is a great mistake. The destination of such rebels is destruction. I order you to behave accordingly. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” “December 12, 1915. Save only those orphans, who cannot remember or recall the terrors their parents have passed trough. The rest you must deport with passing caravans. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.”
“January 15, 1916. According to reports, you gather in orphanages children of suspected people also. Since the government considers dangerous their existence, you are acting against the government’s desire by feeding and clothing those children, and saving their lives. Be it due to compassion, be it due to misunderstanding of our orders, your actions are not pardonable. I order you therefore, that you should not accept those children in existing orphanages, neither should you open special ones for them. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” “March 7, 1916. It is necessary to destroy all the children you have gathered, but without arousing suspicion. You should do it, as if you will put them under the case of the committee for supervising the deportation. Minister of Internal affairs, Talaat.” The telegrams are eloquent. On one hand, they show what a monster Talaat is, and on the other, what a noble and clever man is Jelal, who pretends not to understand the nature and aim of the orders, and persistently tries to save the lives at least of a few thousand children. All the evidence goes to show, that the members of the ruling Ittihad party are responsible for the horrible crimes, beginning with Talaat and Enver at the top, until the most ordinary members. In one of the telegrams Talaat confesses, that it was the decision of the “Gemiet”, the Committee. Of course, whoever participated in it is again directly to that degree responsible. The uniformity of methods used in carrying out the plan of deportation, show that it was ordered from a higher center. First secretly are massacred in their units all mobilized Armenians. In the settlements, first unexpectedly are arrested the leading Armenians, tortured and murdered. Then the males are arrested, taken out of the city or village and murdered. Then, the women and children who remain without protection are deported. On the way bands of criminals, specially formed for the purpose, would rob, kidnap and murder the victims, as many as they could. The order says that more of them should be destroyed on the way. And if, in spite of all, some succeeded to reach their destination in Mesopotamia, they were left to die of hunger and thirst. Under the tropical heat, being so near to the river Euphrates, the victims were denied the possibility of drinking its water. The American consul Morgenthau proposes to feed victims at the expense of Americans, but this is not permitted. So, the many thousands of people who miraculously reached their destination Der-el-Zor, died there of hunger and thirst. In this manner nearly a million and a half Armenians, half of the existing Armenian population in the world, perished within few months. These are more than the suffered losses of many other nations in the two world wars! Now another fact also is being suppressed – after the end of the war, in 1919, under pressure by the victors, the new government organized Extraordinary military court against the ones guilty for the genocide, the leaders of the Ittihad party. And they are found guilty. Most of them have run away. Few of them are sentenced by default to death, with no following sequence. Why did the Ittihad party initiate the massacres? The first motive was to rob an economically more prosperous element of the empire. Just as many people during wars get rich by doing business on the black market, so the Turks have often tried to get rich by robbing their Armenian neighbors. In oriental tales often a poor man finds by luck a pot of gold and unexpectedly gets rich. The Turk’s luck often led him to the pot of gold of his Armenian neighbor. But whereas in the past this robbery was done in limited scale at single localities, this time it was done thoroughly and everywhere.
The massacres were also a means of getting rid of a population, with which they could not compete economically. As long as there were Armenians, the Turks could be neither merchants, nor artisans. They simply couldn’t do these. If the Armenians were to be exterminated, perhaps the Turks would, out of necessity, learn trades. The third cause was the awakening of national consciousness among Armenians. The former serf, now more enlightened, was demanding reformations in the manner of government. When for a brief period in 1908 – 1915 this opportunity was given, Armenians made such cultural advance that aroused the envy of the Turks. Clubs were established, books were published. In the whole empire the students in 1915 were 242 thousand. But the small Armenian nation had 120 thousand students. Chauvinism was the last and most important cause for the massacres. The Mohammedan religion, compared to Christianity, has many faults, but still preaches justice and mercy. Also, the fear of appearing before God and giving account of one’s deeds. Chauvinism has no conscious and recognizes no God. Therefore, while carrying on the deportations and massacres, the Turkish press and consuls abroad could write official denies. Talaat and Khalil, the minister of foreign affairs, owned their lives to Zohrab and Vartkes, two leading members of the Parliament. And yet they sent their benefactors to exile and death. In his telegrams Talaat orders “not to pay attention to the dictate of conscience”, to show compassion to orphans is a mistake. No wonder Talaat could boast so cynically that he could achieve in a few days what Sultan Abdul Hamid could not achieve in 30 years. That, which Mongolian greed and Mohammedan fanaticism did not do in 600 years, chauvinism did in 3 months. But the above mentioned causes could not by themselves have such effects, if it was not for the war. In war hatred is let loose and murder is legalized. Moral laws are suspended and even otherwise civilized nations commit crimes, for which later they might be ashamed. Talaat confesses that Turkey entered the war with such criminal intentions. The German ambassador in Constantinople, the criminal Wangenheim, telegraphs to his government: “Talaat without any reserves declared to me, that his government has decided to utilize the war in such a way, as to get rid of all its inner enemies (implicit the local Christians) by thoroughly exterminating them, without diplomatic intervention, as in the past, by European powers”. [7,9] Therefore the last, but very important cause of the 1915 massacres was the war itself. The unparalleled crimes of 1915 were organized by chauvinist Turks and carried on with the cooperation of criminal elements all through the empire. Therefore the guilt is shared by many Turks and Kurds. But other nations are also directly or indirectly responsible for them. The greatest share of the guilt goes to the German government of Kaiser Wilhelm. The only power in the world, which could have suppressed the Turkish fury, was Germany, and it was not done. Individual Germans condemned the crimes. Only the efforts of that wonderful missionary Dr. Lepsius in benefit of the victims should make Armenians grateful. Other such individuals were the consul in Aleppo Reozler, who encouraged and cooperated with the noble governor Jelal Bey, or the consul in Damascus Laydnet. General von Sanders has a great share in saving the Armenian population of Smyrna. Marshal von Der Golts threatened to resign his command of the Mesopotamian forces, unless the Armenians there were left unmolested, and he
quite succeeded. Ambassador Count Mermich, who succeeded Wangenheim, protested against the crimes, but it was too late. Heinrich Firbucher proves with documents, that Enver and Talaat asked in advance the consent of the German government for the deportation, and they got it. The criminal ambassador Wangenheim in his telegrams pleads for the cause, representing them as military necessities. When Dr. Lepsius returns from Constantinople with full knowledge of the purpose of the deportation and puts the facts before the Minister of foreign affairs Zimmerman, so that he might intervene to save at least those, who were yet dragging a miserable existence in the desert, Zimmerman answers: “What can we do? Our treaty with Turkey depends on Talaat, Enver and Khalil. If these three do not go with us, our treaty will be annulled. But, that we can not afford to do.” The German government then knew about the crimes and could prevent some of them, if it wanted, but it did not. The German people, engaged with their war, were mostly ignorant about what was happening in Turkey. The letters, which Dr. Lepsius has written to certain members of the German Reichstag, never reached their destination. The representatives of the press are told to keep quiet about the internal affairs of the Turks. The death sentences of the organizers of the genocide are not carried out, so some Armenians – people’s revengers, take them in their own hands. Solomon Tahlerian assassinates Talaat in Berlin. There he is brought to court for murder. At the trial it becomes obvious, that the German people did not know even a fraction of what was done to Armenians. One of the witnesses, Christine Terzibashian from Erzerum, begins to describe the experiences of their deportation caravan. Our men were killed with axes and were thrown in the river, she says. The presiding judge cannot believe it. “After the murder of our men, continued the witness, when darkness fell, the gendarmes came and chose the prettiest women and took them away by force. If anybody resisted, she was bayoneted. The wombs of pregnant women were cut open and the children thrown away”. At these words great consternation appears in the hall. The conscience of the German common people could not bear to hear about the atrocities. Knowing all these, the German officials in Turkey, who alone could do something to alleviate, if not prevent altogether the atrocities, refrained from doing so, for political and military reasons. The second share of responsibility for the massacres falls on the Tsarist Russian government. Armenians not only loyally fought in the Russian army, but also formed seven voluntary corpses. What did the Armenians get in return? Treachery. The retreat from Van, the province with the largest Armenian population then, taken by the Russians, was done with no good military purpose. It only obliged 300 thousand Armenians to run away in Caucasus, leaving everything, where they died from hunger and pestilence. Soon after this strategic retreat, Van was recaptured, but of course, without the Armenian population. The army, that had freed Van, could rescue also the population of Mush, where again the Armenians were the majority. Even the Armenian corpses, put under the command of Antranig, could have done it. It was not done, and the Armenians of those provinces were wiped out. The cynical Russians flattered Armenians to form voluntary corpses. But when part of Armenia was occupied by them, they began to flirt with the Kurds. The Armenians were ignored. The peak of it is that instead of letting Armenian refuges to
return to their lands, the Russians planned to bring Kazaks to live in those lands and cultivate them.  In a letter the minister of foreign affairs Sazonoff admits, that from among the great powers they most of all made use of the Armenian question, undoubtedly for their imperialistic aims. And after that, he makes the astounding declaration, that since Armenians are no more the majority in their historic land, it would be wronging the Kurds and the Turks to create an autonomous Armenia or give preferences to Armenians. The guilt of the French and the British is of a different nature. They, as victorious powers, could have done justice and could have undertaken protection of the survivors, alone or by the League of Nations. But they failed to do so. Their economic and imperialistic interests had more weight than doing justice to a small ally, who had suffered most in the war, and to whom they had lip-service pointed as the pioneers of western civilization in Asia and the most faithful friends of the Allies. France began to flirt with Moustafa Kemal and evacuated Cilicia, thereby becoming the cause for a second massacre in that area. The British, after arresting several hundred Ittihad leaders responsible for the massacres, fed them a few months in Malta and released them, probably in exchange for some economic or military deal with Turkey. The only great powers, who did any good to Armenians, were the Soviet Russians, who saved the remaining Armenian population in Caucasus from further destruction by the Turks, and the USA, who through the Near East Relief Committee saved the lives of at least 60 thousand orphans and probably that many widows.
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF SHABIN KARAHISSAR The massacres of Armenians in 1915 were carried on in all parts of the empire. In Shabin Karahisser events took a different course, because here the Armenians, like those of Van, later Urfa and Souedia, and maybe a few other places, were not passive onlookers on the approaching calamity. They reacted against it although the end was again defeat and tragedy. The first event, that shook the Armenians of Shabin Karahissar, was the murder of Archimandrite Sahag Odabashian, who was going to Erzerum to head the church there. He had no connection with revolutionary organizations in the past and was more or less neutral in politics. He was only a faithful follower of his master, and in those days he was going to lead his flock. In Sivas the bloody governor Muammer, after entertaining him with usual Turkish hospitality, releases some criminals from prison and sends them after the prelate to murder him on the way. The deed was done. The murders were rewarded by being pardoned and subsequently they became very rich by robbing Armenians. This aroused consternation and anger among Armenians in Shabin Karahissar. Soon followed a second serious event. A corpse of volunteer Turks, going to the Caucasian front, had stopped in a village called Pourk, with wholly Armenian population. After some days of eating and drinking, the unruly volunteers had tried to encroach on some women, which had led to quarrels and armed fight. The volunteers evacuated the village, but soon, with the assistance of Turkish mobs from nearby villages, besieged it. After several days of fighting, the government interfered. Some of the young Armenians escaped to the mountains, the rest were disarmed and the
leaders imprisoned. Under torture they were asked to tell where they had got the arms. Certain revolutionary leaders were betrayed, so they went to hiding. Soon after this, extraordinary measures were declared and all communications with the outside world were broken. At the end of May strong bands of gendarmes began to search Armenian houses. They were looking for the few revolutionary leaders, for arms and for deserters from the army. Some deserters surrendered and they were put to prison. Some also surrendered the arms, which they possessed. Then, one morning, the Armenian bishop of the city, who was considered also the political representative of the people, was arrested and sent to Sivas, accompanied by 25 gendarmes. After him were arrested several prominent Armenians also, and sent to Sivas. They all have been executed there. At the beginning of June suddenly 300 Armenians were surprised in their shops and arrested. The same day Turkish volunteers made a demonstration against Armenians. The same day the servant of the bishop returned and told that the bishop was murdered. By some miracle the servant had escaped. The same evening was spread news, that the arrested 300 Armenians have been tortured to extort confessions. The next day, June 3, Armenians did not go to open their shops. The city was ominously quiet. Gendarmes were moving in the streets searching houses. A band of them came to our part of the city. We knew that one of the sought had a relative carpenter near us. It was possible that he was hidden there. Surprises were expected. My mother took me and my younger brother to our roof, from where we could observe the movements. The gendarmes entered that house, then a rapid shooting, and the gendarmes began to run away. From nearby houses young men rushed out with whatever arms they possessed, with guns, revolvers or only swords. My mother became pale. â€œWe are lost!â€? she said in a sigh and led us hastily down. She made a bundle of clothes, we hurriedly went out and she locked the door. We never went back. At that time I was ten years old, my brother was eight. Father was not with us, but apparently mother knew where he was and did not worry. We did not go far. We entered a tall house in our neighborhood, where other people were coming, too. We also, with the rest, found some place. In the meantime men and children of both sexes were busy at fortifying the building. The men were putting flat stones behind the windows and children were piling earth behind them. Soon I also was at work. From the top windows we could see that in other parts of the city also there were similar movements. Events began to happen very fast. A band of young men, lead by Shabouh Ozanian, assaulted the building, where were imprisoned those 300 Armenians. Most of them were released, but some, including Shabouh, were killed. In the meantime, those who had been imprisoned in the official jail had been taken to the yard to be shot. A young man, Karnig Bielerian, jumps at the commander of the gendarmes, wrests his revolver from his hand and shoots him on the spot. All are shot dead except two, who succeed to climb the walls, and have told what had happened. The same day, by some foresight of Armenian leaders, a group of young men had been sent to occupy the fortress. The fighting in the city lasted only three days. Armenians were not obliged to undertake any more attacks. They had no motive to do so. They could wait. The Turks, on the other hand, felt themselves too weak to attack. So we were left comparatively at peace.
Then the Turks resorted to base means. By stealth of night they had reached some abandoned houses at the outskirts of the city and started a fire. The houses were built so close to each other, and so much of the materials in them were combustive, that fire spread very fast in a semicircle. But soon the wind carried the fire to their quarters also and they could not have pleasure and had no time for robbing Armenian houses. The fire created terrible panic. People rushed trough the narrow streets, which were full of smoke and danger from falling houses. The crowd was rushing here and there for a way out from this hell. In these critical moments men’s voices began to shout: “To the fortress! To the fortress! ” At last a way had been found and people rushed toward the fortress. The path leading to the fortress was above the Armenian quarters, but in normal conditions the Turks could very easily watch and control it by firing in that direction. But now the smoke was so thick over the city, that the Turks could not see the path. Only random bullets would occasionally hit somebody. My grandmother was lost somewhere in the rush. That day and the following night most Armenians were on the fortress, between 5000 and 7000. Men and strong women had salvaged quite an amount of food and fuel from the houses directly under the fortress. The next morning, when the curtain of smoke was lifted from the city, we could see that almost the whole city was destroyed. Only distant quarters, especially where the Greeks lived, were saved. The afflicted people began to settle in caves or shelters of the rocks. The leaders were busy at the organization of the defense. The food had to be put under common management, ammunitions too. Duties were distributed. By unanimous consent as leader of all armed forces was appointed Ghoogas Aghbar (Brother Ghoogas), the veteran revolutionary. Humayag Karagheozian and Vahan Hususian, the son of the richest Armenian in the city, one of the hanged in Sivas, two intelligent young men, were his deputies. The management of the food was put in the able hands of Caspar Chungashian, the mayor of the Armenians. All the rest were put to some work according to their ability. The food that had been salvaged was not much. But fortunately the population of the village Dzibery, on the southern side of the fortress, climbed the fortress too, and brought with them most of their cattle. Every day food was distributed from a common kitchen. Fighters used to receive about 100 grams of bread, few spoonfuls of rice-soup and a bit of meat. For little children instead of bread and meat was given flour and sugar. The rest received only the soup and bread, the same quantity for all. This food, as can be judged by the reader, was very insufficient, but people bore it heroically. No complains were made. But just the same, people were getting weaker and thinner, eyes began to sink into their sockets, babies were crying all day long. This was slow mortification. The problem of water was just as difficult. The water from the only well in a safe place, the so called “Culhuvar Sarnitch”, with its forty steps, was insufficient, and reserved for the wounded and sick. Only once I have descended its slippery steps, to get water for my sick uncle. It was very deep and dark, and also full of terrors. Our mothers had been telling us frightful tales about it, perhaps to lessen our temptation to descend in it, for probably the lake at the bottom was deep enough to drown a child. After filling my copper pot, I turned to look up. My uncle looked as big as a hen. By the time I climbed up, though now with grater courage, hardly a cupful of water had remained in the pot.
The next sources of water were the so called “Sura Sarnitch”, a row of half a dozen springs, which at early spring would have so much water, that they would form a beautiful cataract down the fortress. In the summer the water would diminish. Even it would satisfy our urgent need, but the springs were exposed to the enemy fire. To go there during the daytime would make one a sure target. And to go at night was dangerous, because the path wound the edges of precipices. With great labor and sacrifice, mostly women and children working, we had made some kind of a wall, at the most dangerous and exposed places. But it was too low, even children had to bend behind them to hide from the enemy bullets. Beside, at least the leader of a group needed a lantern, and that again made the group a target. And yet, our thirst was so great on those hot rocks under the June sun, that often, we children at least, would take the risk to go there for a drink of water. The safest supply of water was from a so called “Gananch Geol”, or as the name indicates, Green Lake. It was a stagnant lake, perfectly green with water plants, with worms and insects and with nasty taste. All day long one could see women seated by it, sieving the water trough cotton cloth and drinking it with controlled disgust. Under such conditions the heroic people of Shabin Karahisar were struggling to prolong their agony. With arms and ammunitions the situation was not better. Very few men had modern guns. Most of them had old-fashioned fire arms with a limited amount of ammunition. My father, for example, had a gun nicely ornamented, but so oldfashioned, that soon became unfit for use. Others had only revolvers. Artisans were busy filling empty shells with gunpowder and bullets, but their supply was also limited. Even under these circumstances the enemy did not have the courage to storm the fortress. On the fifth or sixth day came a delegation from below, which in the name of the governor of Sivas promised amnesty if we surrender. If not, we will be bombarded by artillery. We had no hope of salvation of any source, but the promise could not be trusted, so it was rejected. Then, one day, field glasses revealed the approach of regular soldiers, with artillery. A division from the Caucasian front was being brought, with full equipment, machine guns, 7 centimeter guns. Two heavy guns were placed on opposite sides of the fortress. One on Kaya Bashy, beyond the town, a little higher from the fortress, from where could be seen all movement on the fortress, and it did most of the damage. The bombardment began. The first day it created quite a panic among women and children. By and by we got familiarized with terror, though it was as dangerous as ever. Falling on solid rock, every shrapnel would burst with great explosion, scattering not only its pieces, but also pieces of shattered rocks. All movement at daytime was paralyzed. We were not safe anywhere, for the sheltered caves were very few and they were used as stores or hospitals for the wounded. Our only safety was in lying down under thick quilts, covering our heads also. Only darkness would give us some chance to move around for urgent needs. After a few days of bombardment, the Turks considered the time appropriate for a second offer to surrender. It again was accompanied by a promise of amnesty. Again it was rejected. It was nearly twenty days since we were on the fortress. Two or three days after rejection of the offer of surrender, the Turks dared to make a general assault on the fortress. Early in the morning began a coordinated artillery and machinegun fire. Then, with the help of ladders, soldiers began to climb the fortress. The attackers
were by thousands, as they were assisted by the Turkish mob from the city and villages around. While the defenders were at most 400, including the ones armed with revolvers alone. In one place the Turks actually climbed on the fortress and entered among the people, creating a terrible panic. But it did not last long. Assistance coming from other points drove the invaders back down the precipices. That dayâ€™s main hero was Humayag Karagheozian, who having remained all alone, his soldiers being killed, with hand grenades and a gun could hold the enemy long enough, until a rescue party arrived. But he was killed too. The day ended in complete victory for the Armenians. I saw young men frantic with joy, running here and there, showing the guns they had captured. After the first feeling of joy, came the sadness over the dear martyrs of that day. They were buried that night very solemnly. Thus whenever the enemy tried by force to climb the fortress, it was repulsed with great losses. These desperate people, perched on the fortress, were invincible for armed forces. But there was an inner enemy, which would defeat them sooner or later â€“ that was famine. The enemy also knew it. Every passing day was weakening us more and bringing nearer to death. The Turks did not need to attack. Nor to offer surrender â€“ that would come under the pressure of hunger and thirst. And that day came. The military council had a serious meeting. Surrender was out of question. What other alternative was possible? They found the following solution. By night, with a surprising attack, the fighters would try to break the line of the enemy and escape, warning the enemy, that if they treat the women and children in uncivilized manner, they would retaliate on the Turkish population on their way. When the sad night of separation came, there was much weeping and sighing. Women were begging to accompany their husbands. Exception was made for nobody. The younger and prettier women were provided with poison to use in case of necessity. Before dawn the following morning, the Armenians began an assault from all sides, to confuse the enemy, and then forced their way down the main path, led by Brother Ghoogas himself. We could hear the terrible noise of shooting, but could see nothing. The result for the Armenians was tragic. About 300 fighters and approximately the same number of unarmed younger people were escaping. The move of so many people down a narrow path could not remain unnoticed. The path was taken under heavy fire. Moreover, entering into the ruined city, they found the main road fortified. There, with a last act of heroism, Brother .Ghoogas leads the assault on the barricade with hand grenades in his hand, opens a way for the group, but he falls dead. The group remains under the leadership of Vahan Hususian. After breaking through the barricade, the group subdivides into smaller groups, with instructions to reunite again at an appointed place. This part of the plan is achieved quite successfully. The group needs food and passes nearby Greek villages. The Turkish soldiers are at their heels. The wandering does not last long. The enemy comes in great force and the worn out Armenian fighters withdraw into the forests of Lidjise. There the fights continue in great fury. The last leader Vahan also falls heroically. The rest scatter around in small groups, some go to hiding. Few groups survive. Some have succeeded to escape to Caucasus. Others have been wandering in mountains, frustrating many efforts to be captured. Some eventually have passed to Dersim among friendly Kurds. Only two or three such survivors are known. I have met one of the survivors in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Such was the end of the heroic defense of the fortress, which lasted about 25 days. (Editor’s note: These events are described in details in the book “The fall of the aerie” by Aram Haigaz , who also participates in them.)
Here falls the curtain on the heroic scene and opens the tragedy. But before that however, an evaluation is fit to be made. There are four places, where for sure in 1915 Armenians offered resistance. Van, Shabin Karahissar, Urfa and Souedia (Musa Dagh). Perhaps there are a few other places. A historian mentions Sasoun, Balakian mentions also of peasants near Yozgat, who under the leadership of a certain Samuel Chavoush took shelter on the mountain Chat with all their herds and flocks and successfully defended themselves until 1918, when they went south and joined the British . Unfortunately very little is known about them. (Editor’s note: In the foreword of  are mentioned also the region of Shadakh and Pesan Valley.)
Van was near the Russian front and could cherish great hopes of salvation. Urfa and Souedia were drawn into the fight much later and had time for preparation. They had seen the deportation of Zeitun. For them there was no other choice. When the alternative is only between honorable and dishonorable death, it is easier to choose. Shabin Karahissar and Van had no warning. We had absolutely no idea what was going on. Perhaps there were moments, when our men were regretting their rash action, not knowing, that our calamity was a part of the general calamity befalling Armenians everywhere. Souedia (Musa Dagh) was near the Mediterranean Sea and a French cruiser saved them. Many from Van likewise were saved by the Russian armies. Urfa and Shabin Karahissar were desperate. Urfa had no fortress for shelter, but they did not have such merciless enemies like hunger and thirst either. If Shabin Karahissar had a warning like Urfa and had gathered food on the fortress, it could resist for months, although that wouldn’t alter our fate. Therefore, we may conclude, that the defense of Shabin Karahissar was the most desperate and therefore the most heroic.
THE SURRENDER The fighters having gone, there remained on the fortress women, children, the elderly, the sick and the wounded. A white flag was set up on the central tower as an indication of surrender. Time passed, but the Turks did not come up. Perhaps they thought it was a trick. We were therefore obliged to send a delegation, composed of two priests and several elders. They took another white flag and went down. The rest of us waited in tense expectation. After an hour or so the delegation returned, followed by gendarmes and soldiers. In front of the main gateway of the fortress there was a wide stony place. We were ordered to gather there. First of all the priests were taken aside and led to the near by cave. The next thing we saw, they were piling quilts and blankets at the entrance of the cave. They set a fire, and people began to whisper in fearsome tons, that the priests are being burnt alive. Next came the order for the men to separate from the women, and they were led away behind some rocks. Not even the sick and wounded were spared. By us lay a wounded young man, a neighbor of ours. Gendarmes began to drag him away. He
was crying in agony. His mother and sisters were begging the gendarmes to have pity on him. They did not pay any attention. He was dragged on the stony ground. For a long time we could hear his agonizing cries. When all the men were taken apart, a second order was given for the separation of boys also. That seemed an even more frightful order and mothers got alarmed. They began hastily to put on girls dresses on boys. Many who had daughters also perhaps succeeded in doing this. But my mother was trying to conceal me in one of her dresses, which was too big for me, and she could not make a good head dressing. Besides, all that was taking place in the presence of the gendarmes, who might have watched all this in amusement. The gendarmes stood in two files on both sides of the gate and the women were ordered to go down passing between the rows. The women began to rush down with the intention of creating confusion and thus preventing from too carefully examining the passers by. But the gendarmes were many and were doing their work quite efficiently. So many boys were detected and taken aside. While we also were pushing through the gate, a gendarme pulled away my headdress and discovered that I am a boy. I was pulled away rudely, got a knock on my back with the handle of a gun and was pushed into the ranks of the boys. My brother, whose hand I was holding very tightly the whole time, came with me, although otherwise he might have been allowed to go down as too little. When I turned to see my mother, she had already disappeared. The onrushing crowd had carried her along. I did not cry. Neither do I remember other boys doing so. Crying is a means of attracting the attention of elders, for arousing compassion in them. In our condition crying would be altogether useless. Perhaps also we were already accustomed to face terror. Or maybe the extreme fear inhibited tears. At any rate, there we were, waiting stoically, without fretting, worrying, crying or struggling. When the last of the women had gone down, we were led toward “Gananch Geol”. After a little we saw the men coming in order from behind the rocks and marching down the path toward the gate. They looked very gloomy and seemed more frightened, than we were. I saw grandfather pass by. Poor man, he had become so thin and pale, though he used to be quite strong and healthy, in spite of his advanced age. He cast a sad look upon us and silently passed by. Then came uncle, he was a sickly man. When he saw his son, who was with us, he began to weep. He beckoned him to approach, took off his watch with its long silver chain, gave it to his son, and walked on without saying a word. Hardly the first ten or fifteen men had past out of the gate, when we heard a rapid shooting. We were quite frightened and puzzled, but kept quiet. The last men had gone out. Only we children had remained on the fortress, with few gendarmes. We had no idea what was the plan for us. Suddenly a gendarme came up running and handed a written order to the chief guard. He read it and turned to us, saying: “My children! His majesty Padishah has pardoned you. You are free to go. Shout long live the Padishah!” All in one voice we shouted “Padishahoum chok yasha!” and ran down the fortress as fast as possible. We passed trough the gate and entered the path that led down. A ghastly sight met our eyes. The whole path was strewn with the dead or dying bodies of the men, who but a few minutes before had been led out and were shot down. We had to jump over corpses all the time. I saw grandfather fallen on his face, his cloths stained with blood. I had hardly time to whisper to my brother: “Do you see grandfather?” That was all, the crowd from behind was pressing on us. We had to run with the rest. No one knew exactly where we should go, we were following the ones ahead of us.
In the midst of the ruined city was left standing the massive Armenian Church with its stone fences all intact. Hardly had we entered the yard, with a glance we could see the confusion there. Children were looking for their mothers, mothers for their children. Shouting, crying, praying women were running here and there. A confusion hard to describe. It did not take long for our mother to find us. She embraced both of us in her arms and began to kiss us alternately. With a glance I could understand, that she was not in normal condition. She was very pale and her lips were violet. She looked terribly frightened, as she said: “Oh, my lambs, I found you again, but I have taken poison!” As soon as we heard these fatal words, we burst into hysteric tears. Thus far I had born everything in calm resignation, but the thought of mother’s approaching death was too much to bear. The world suddenly grew dark, everything else vanished from the perspective of my mind, except one horrible reality, the approaching death of our mother. Days after we learned from our aunt the reason why she had taken poison. When we, the boys, were separated, mother has been terribly upset. She has been all the time saying: “I am afraid they will do something to the children”. After the women have settled in the church, mother has continued to fret and worry about us. Soon they have heard the shooting of the men. Some had run down the streets in vain efforts to save their lives. Some had passed the church, from where the women could see them. My uncle, for example, had been killed in the market below, which means he had ran about a quarter of a mile before he was shot down. My cousin, some days later, having gone to get water from the fountain in the market place, had seen his corpse. When the first of the boys had entered the churchyard, a great commotion had been created among the women throughout the church. A misinformed woman had replied that the boys too had been massacred. Her husband gone, his destiny uncertain, the sons also murdered, my mother had said: “What shall I live for after this?” Saying so, she had pulled out from the secret folders of her dress a tiny vial of poison and had begun to drink it. My aunt had jumped at her, pulled away the vial and shattered it on the stony floor. But it had been too late, mother had had already enough of it. Mother took each one of us by the arm and led us into the church. There, near the altar, on the base stone floor, she sat down and made us also sit by her. All this while not for a second had we stopped crying. There was absolutely nothing else I could think of, except the approaching death of mother and the fact that we would remain orphans. Mother couldn’t remain seated anymore and stretched herself on the floor, and we remained seated on each side of her. She began to tremble all over her body, and the trembling changed into convulsions and painful contractions of her limbs and muscles. The poison was acting. What terrible pains, what sufferings she was enduring! At first she had our hands in hers, holding them tenderly. By and by she began to press them strongly. She would try to raise herself supported on her arms, but in vain, she would fall back again. Her eyes had lost their glimmer and brightness, as though a dark curtain had fallen on them. They revolved in their sockets so frightfully and rapidly, that we began to be afraid of her. Her fingers were now contracting and stretching mechanically and she was pulling our shirts. My tears had stopped by this time. My beloved mother had become an object of fear. Two impulses were struggling within me. The impulse of filial love and duty, which would have me remain there and weep; and an unconquerable terror that would prompt me to run away from this frightful body, that no more could recognize us. It was no more our beloved mother, but a frightful object, that was clutching and
grasping, never losing the tenacious grip of the fingers. With all the power I could muster up in my fingers, I would try to undo the grip of her fingers, one by one, but as fast as I would undo one, she would grasp with the others. I had forgotten to think of her death or our destiny. I was only thinking what would I do, if she were to die with her fingers clasping my shirt. At last she died and I was a little relieved. For it was terribly hard to watch her tortures. I began to look around me. On the bare floor of the church were settled families. The scene that had just been enacted before me was being repeated elsewhere also. In some cases whole families had taken poison to avoid vengeance from the Turks. Every member of the rich Hususian family, except Vahan’s mother, including the four years old daughter, had taken poison. So had done the wife of Humayag Karagheozian, one of the most beautiful women in our city, together with her twin daughters, beautiful creatures. Some were already dead, others were yet in convulsions. A lady had poisoned only her son, Gregory Arakelian, a classmate of mine, and apparently had lost her mind, had failed to drink of it herself. So she was lamenting pathetically the death of her only son. In the meanwhile we were seated beside the stiff and cold body of our mother. Sometimes I tried to weep again, but my tears had dried up. My brother was in the same condition. The fact that we could see so many similar scenes repeated around us, had made us resign to our loss. Toward evening some women came and carried away the body of my mother. I did not follow them to see where they would throw her. But the next day I saw others, victims of the same calamity, thrown by some Turks in the ruins of nearby houses. So I am sure, that my mother’s grave also was in the ruins of a house.
THE FINAL SEPARATION AND DEPORTATION About a week we were kept in the church. Although it was a large building, it could not accommodate such a big crowd. At night we hardly had room to stretch. The city did not have a sufficient supply of water yet. In the churchyard there was a fountain, but it was not enough for the needs of thousands of people. We could not wash ourselves properly, we had just enough for drinking. So no wonder we all got filthy and lousy. We were forbidden to go out to buy food, but Turkish women used to bring bread and sell it at exorbitant prices. The little money that was in mother’s keeping was taken by my grandmother and she was taking care of us. So our miserable life dragged on for a week or more. It was a positive relief to all, when one day gendarmes ordered us to move out of the church. The crowd began to move in slow steps down the main street. On both sides we could see nothing but ruins. Death and desolation all around us. When we came out of the city to an open space, from which our house might be seen, I cast a glance toward it. Our dear home was in ruins, only some walls were standing. Soon we came to a crossroad. One road led toward Kirasoun via Tamzara, the other toward southeast to Erzinjan. On this last road there were soldier’s barracks. The gendarmes once more ordered the boys to be separated from the women. They were taken to the barracks, while we, the children, to the public park, on the way to Tamzara.
We were left free in the park, but could not go out. Turkish women as usual brought food to sell. But we had no money, it was with our grandmother, thinking the separation is temporary. So we were left with the loaf of bread, which the government was giving us every day. It was black bread made of half burnt flour, but hungry as we were, we would eat it. Soon I fell sick. For days I lay on the bare ground under the shadow of a tree, with no one to take care of me, except my poor brother. He was sitting by me all the time, not that he could help me, but because he had no one else on earth. I had fever and lay unconscious most of the time. Of course I could not eat the bread, but nothing else was given. How long have I remained in that condition, I can not tell, but when I regained consciousness, though not perfectly recovered, great changes had taken place around us. While I have been lying in unconscious condition, gendarmes have come and gathering the boys, have taken them away. Probably I was left there as dead or near dying. Few others had hidden themselves in bushes or on trees and had remained. My cousin had gone with the rest. Had we known the purpose of their being taken away, we might envy them. Years later I learned, that the Turks, having desire to bring up a new generation of “jenicharies”, or professional soldiers brought up from childhood, have chosen the children of Shabin Karahissar as fitted for such a life, judging from the conduct of their parents. They have been taken first to Enderes and put in an orphanage. But because of the inadequate care for them, some have died. Others, like my cousin, have run away. The remaining have eventually been taken to an orphanage in Sivas, which was called “Officer’s Training School”, where from small age they had began to receive military training. My sickness destined me, with others, to another kind of life. One day we saw a large caravan of deported Armenians halted at the park. They were from the seaport town of Trebolu. The gendarmes gathered us, the remaining children, and included us in this caravan. We were surprised very much, that there were men in the caravan. They were yet fresh on the way and did not have such miserable looks. In spite of the fact, that we were mostly orphans, helpless children, these Armenians received us very unkindly. They thought our resistance on the fortress was the cause of their calamity. Of course, then neither they, nor we could know that all were suffering according to a general treacherous plan. So we had a very hostile reception and we, who needed so much comfort, were being tortured even more. The caravan took the southeastern route, the one that joined the main highway from Sivas to Erzerum. There was evidence that our people also had passed that way, because all along we could see unburied corpses on the waysides. The first night we halted on a meadow. Before darkness the caravan was attacked by a Turkish band. I recognized some of them. They were among the volunteers from Shabin Karahissar, who unable to defeat the Armenian fighters with arms, now had come to take their revenge from these unarmed people. The gendarmes offered no resistance. So they entered among the people and robbed them of their jewelry or money. I saw with my own eyes how they cut the arm of a woman to get off her bracelets. Panic had struck everybody. Shrieking, weeping, cursing was heard from all sides. I was quite indifferent, I had nothing to lose. After they had gathered enough booty, they left us. Thenceforth the caravan was every day subjected to some kind of robbery by Turkish peasants. Kidnapping young women was common. Several old women
dropped on the way and were left behind, for the whole crowd was obliged to go on foot. In every village Turkish peasants as usual were offering food at exorbitant prices. We had no money. So the first day at least we went hungry. I didn’t care to eat, because my sickness had killed my appetite, but my brother wanted to eat and I had nothing to offer him. It happened however, that the first night we were seated by a woman with twin daughters, of two or three years old. The children couldn’t walk much and the poor woman was sometimes picking up the one, later the other. She had noticed that we had nothing to eat, while she was rich. So she made an offer of feeding us all along if I were willing to carry one of her daughters on my back. Even that was godsend for us and I accepted the offer. From thenceforth in sick condition I also had to carry a child on my back. And yet I was glad of it, because my brother would be fed. We continued our march for two or three days more in that condition. One day at noon the caravan stopped on a meadow by a spring. After resting a little, as I looked around, I noticed that some of my friends were talking to an elderly peasant under a big tree. One of them beckoned to me also to join them. When I approached, they said to me: “This man wants to take us to his village. We have decided to go. If you wish, you also may join us”. Without hesitation I gave my assent. “Do you see that hill?” said the man, “if you can climb it unobserved by the gendarmes, you will find me waiting for you behind it”. Saying these, he started away by a path that circled the hill. There was no time to lose. Five of us, the others two brothers and their uncle, headed toward the hill. Whether the gendarmes did not see us, or were too lazy to chase us or shout after us, we managed to climb the hill and descended by the path behind. Sure enough, the friendly Turk was waiting for us. Without lingering there, we started to his village.
THE DESTINY WE HAD ESCAPED The evidence in this chapter is gathered from a woman Nartos Ernegian, her maiden name Keshishian, whose eldest brother Alexan was the gadfather of the author. She is the only woman that has gone with the caravan till its gruesome destination, has seen everything, and miraculously has remained alive. She lives now with her second husband and two children in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I have made use also of an article  by another survivor, Aram Haigaz, then a boy older than the author. As we saw, after most of the boys are separated, the women are taken to the barracks, where they stay one day. The next day they are deported by the way we later passed. The next day, while passing through a valley, they suddenly find themselves face to face with a mob of Turkish peasants, armed with axes, shovels or arms. They have come to rob the caravan. The gendarmes offer resistance and the caravan, this time, is saved. The Armenians, as a token of gratitude, gather some money among them and offer it to the gendarmes. They don’t feel satisfied with the offered amount and on their initiative gather more. When they reach the village Azbuder, before transferring the caravan to other gendarmes, they once more rob them and surrender them to the others almost half-naked.
In the village the victims are packed in stables, where until morning they have to struggle against various pests, such as lice, bedbugs, mosquitoes, etc., mostly dropped there by former caravans. At midnight gendarmes come in and choosing a few young and pretty women, lead them away for their night’s pleasures. In the morning they are returned worn out with fatigue and shame. In the morning they start on their journey. In spite of the fear of being attacked by the mob, the caravan has become very long and thin, because of the presence of old, pregnant or women with little children. And sometimes the end of the caravan would be cut off by the mob, and members of the same family would be separated. Aram Haigaz describes such a case. “My child”, cries a woman, “she remained with my mother-in-law, and they remained behind”. “How could I bear the loss of two”, answers another, “you also will get used to it”. The other goes on crying and holding her breast. “I had kept it that at night he may suck of it and may sleep better. See, it is full of milk. Oh, if I had known that this would happen, I would not have spared it. Now what shall I do? What will my motherin-law do? Oh, my darling” One of the gendarmes comes to find out the reason of the cries. He gathers some information and turns back his horse to find the mother in law with the child. But it is too late. The gendarmes left to guard them are coming in good humor. They have got rid of their troublesome charges. In the village Aghvanis some Turks come and offer to save the lives of some friends, if they accept Mohammedanism. A few agree to go, but the majority rejects the offer. Nartos and her people go in a stable with the rest. In the morning her mother cannot get up, because she is very sick. The gendarmes do not allow any of her daughters or daughter-in-laws to remain with her. They are obliged to leave her. Nartos is with several children, the one suckling. She could hardly take care of all of them. Thinking, that at least she might remain unmolested, Nartos leaves with her mother her little girl. Few minutes after their exit, a gendarme enters the stable and shoots them both. A similar event is narrated by Aram Haigaz as well. A beautiful woman has drunk poison and is in agony. In her suffering she changes her mind and asks for some sour milk that she may vomit and be relieved. Her mother-in-law stays by her not knowing how to help her. The gendarmes order them to join the caravan, something impossible for the dying woman. The gendarmes scatter the people surrounding them and shoot both of them on the spot. The caravan continues its sad march and similar scenes are often repeated. Whoever would get exhausted or sick would be left by the wayside to die a slow death, unless a gendarme puts a quick end. Children have become unbearable burdens, especially if they are more than one. While passing a river, Nartos notices a woman throwing her sucking baby in it. The stream is weak and does not carry down the unfortunate baby. The mother picks it up and after some time throws it into another river with enough water. Nartos fallows her example and throws her suckling in the same stream, because her dried breasts hardly contain milk anymore. A gendarme sees the child, picks it up and entering among the women makes inquiries whose child it is. This puts her to shame and she takes the child back. But the poor thing has drunk lots of water and is hardly alive. This time she puts it under a tree and continues her way weeping bitterly.
The caravan stops by a village and as usual Turkish peasants bring food to sell. A woman notices Nartos crying and asks the reason. She is too ashamed. One of her sisters answers instead of her, that she had left her child under a tree not far away. This woman happens to be with more sensitive conscience. Sympathizes with her, curses all those who are the cause of these calamities and promises to look for the child and take it to her home. Aram Haigaz also has similar tales. “We had hardly reached the middle of a bridge, when several women jumped into the water with the intention to drown. Then followed a shower of babies, accompanied, some with prayers, others with curses.” “Some women had left their children in a field. The gendarmes had picked them up and gave them to the nearest women, ordering them to carry the unfortunate ones and find their mothers. But it is so hard to find the mothers of abandoned children. They refuse to acknowledge their children, or perhaps they have already fallen somewhere exhausted.” “I threw my child from the bridge at (village) Chobanly,” says one. “I could bring mine only until Aghvanis,” confides another. “It was too heavy. Toward evening I went to get a drink of water with it in my arms. I put it down that I my wash my face a little. Suddenly the idea dawned on me, that the village is so near, perhaps someone more merciful may see it and pick it up. I gave it some water with my hands, kissed it for the last time, and ran away.” Although all along the way the victims are being robbed in various ways, this is yet a minor affair. Now they are approaching areas, where dominate Kurds, and robbing becomes more thorough. When they approach the city Agn, on one of the bridges of Euphrates Kurds stop the caravan. “Either you will give us all your money, or we shall throw you in the river.” And they actually throw some, so they succeed to gather an unusually large booty. They get also all the money of Nartos, except a small sum she has hidden in the belt of her daughter. A Turk gets her earrings and bracelets, as if to bay them, but refuses to pay. She and her sister beg him for at least a little food. He refuses that also and threatens to throw them in the river. When they reach Agn, the caravan settles by the river Euphrates. All the time the fierce stream is bringing corpses, to tell them of the fate awaiting them. Some Turks choose some women, as if in order to save them, and take them away. The next morning they return terribly ashamed and humiliated. When the caravan of Shabin Karahissar’s women and children starts again, Nartos, her sisters and sisters-in-law, after bribing a gendarme, succeed to remain there. That is necessary, because the wounds on her had, which Nartos has received on the fortress, are in very bad condition and need better treatment. While staying there, Nartos meets a woman from Tamzara, the town near to Shabin Karahissar. She is interested to know what has happened to her eldest son, who at the time of the fateful events has been in Tamzara at a relative’s place. The woman tells her all the suffering of their caravan on the same way. The relative of Nartos dies on the way and her son remains alone. In this city, he with some other boys is taken into a Turkish orphanage. Nartos and her sisters go to the orphanage to verify this. At the gate they see a boy from Shabin Karahissar. He confirms that her son is there and asks them whether he may call him. While he has gone to call her son, her sisters advise her to run away. “What shall we do, if he wants to join us?” they ask. Nartos agrees with them and they hurriedly go away, with the feeling, that at least one of her children’s lives will be saved. She has never seen him again, nor knows anything about him.
They remain in Agn for about two weeks. One day, when a caravan of Erzerum Armenians passes there, they are ordered to join them. As it was mentioned, the governor of Erzeroum has been a noble man and has given strict orders to the gendarmes to keep the people. There has been no robbing and killing. All the men are with them. Many people are traveling on horseback. All this makes great impression on the women of Shabin Karahissar, whose men were all murdered. With this second caravan Nartos and her people travel until Arabger. There they notice that her youngest sister-in-law has disappeared. They know it is useless to look for her. That day they camp on a plain, where soldiers also are camping. There for the first time the Armenians from Erzerum also are robbed by soldiers and some men, who have offered resistance, are killed. The rich Armenians from Erzeroum have been allowed to hire pack animals and have been riding all the way. Nartos is very ill and her sisters hire a donkey for her. But she cannot keep herself long on it and falls down. The owner of the donkey, who in advance has got his fie, runs away. Nartos cannot walk and the sisters remain by her. The gendarmes beat her sisters so that they may abandon her and follow the caravan. They are obliged to get her last daughter and leave with her only her little son. Nartos remains on the meadow. When she looks around, she sees several other abandoned sick women like her. There finds her the youngest sister-in-law, altogether naked, accompanied by her small child. She is a pretty woman and has been kidnapped by some soldiers and is let to go in this shameful condition. They shed bitter tears in finding each other in such condition. Nartos takes off some of her clothes to cover her sister’s nakedness. Together they think what to do. The soldiers are still there and to spend the night there would expose them to the same indignities. And yet none of them is strong enough to carry a child. They could do nothing more than abandon the children. Perhaps some merciful Turks will see them and pick them up. The two innocent ones have been sleeping on the meadow side by side. They put a loaf of bread in between, and the two unfortunate mothers run away wailing, to reach the caravan. After two days they reach the caravan again. There she finds out, that her sisters have lost her last daughter as well. Kidnapping of young women has become so frequent, that everybody would try to walk in the middle of the caravan. This creates constant disorder, as women would push each other aside, and losing members of families has become even more common. The next day the little girl finds them bloody all over. Some brutes have not hesitated to abuse a ten year old child. The caravan reaches the bank of Euphrates, where they stop for a long time, because the crossing is done with small barges. They stay there two weeks. One of Nartos’ sisters dies there and they bury her in the sands. Then one morning they find out, that her eldest daughter-in-law, whose two elder sons have been taken by some Turks, has taken off her and the youngest son’s clothes and together jumped and disappeared in the river. Others also have done the same. When the caravan reaches Harpourt (Kharput), a large city, the people of Erzerum refuse to go any further. But it is in vain. They are obliged to go on. Near Mardin a woman from Shabin Karahissar joins the caravan. She tells Nartos and her people, that two weeks ago their caravan was massacred in those places, she has remained alive under corpses. These two weeks she has been hiding completely naked and hungry among rocks. “They will massacre you also,” she predicts. Really,
as the caravan enters a valley, Kurdish mob, armed with all sorts of weapons, attack them to do their final wicked work on the defenseless people. A young Turk wants to take away her youngest sister, so does an elderly Kurd. She wants to go, but prefers the elderly Kurd. He might make her a servant, whereas the young Turk surely would marry her. She goes with the Kurd, the young man follows them. Before massacring them, the mob wants first to rob the people. Nartos and her sisters voluntarily take off their dresses and throw them to the Kurds. Embracing each other to cover their nakedness, they lie down, awaiting the blows. The Kurds murder them all. But Nartos, having been smeared with the blood of her sisters, is considered killed too and is left alive. She faints from her terror and for a long time is unconscious. When she comes to consciousness, she feels that something weighs upon her and she cannot move. She opens her eyes and looks around. She is surrounded by hundreds of corpses, some in agony yet, all naked like her. Suddenly a naked woman begins to move toward her. She was the same woman from Shabin Karahissar, who had managed a second time to come out alive from the massacre. She lifts up the stones, that are pressing Nartos and pulls her out from under the corpses. Nartos is very thirsty and together they go to look for water. By the spring they notice a cave above them on the mountain side. They decide to go there and die of hunger. For days they lie there hungry and naked. The wounds on the head of Nartos are in bad condition. If she lies down, ants and flies attack her and bother her too much. If she were to sit, she might be noticed by passers by. But she chooses to sit up. Then one day some Kurdish women passing below notice them and come up to the cave. One of the women wants money and threatens to kill them. The others prove to be more merciful and after scolding their mate, they invite the unfortunate ones to their village. Nartos hopes that her sister is taken to this village and may find her again, and agrees. The other woman follows her example. When they arrive in the village, they are taken to separate homes. They offer food to Nartos, but she cannot eat after so many days of hunger. At last she can swallow some milk. A few days pass in the village. Nartos is too week to do any work and the Kurds are disappointed with her. They had not brought her to be idle. Taking away the cloths they had given her, they turn her out. In desperation Nartos goes and throws herself into a brook to drown. But the water is shallow. She would dip her head in the water for a few minutes, but then take it out. Life is dear, after all. Thus she remains seated in the brook, shivering from cold, almost crazy from fear and despair. Unable even to commit suicide, she comes out and enters the village. And going around she shouts in Turkish: â€œFor Godâ€™s sake, either kill me, or give me some cloths to hide my nakedness.â€? A Kurdish woman pities her and takes her in. There has been a Turkish woman also, a guest from the city. This woman especially takes good care of the unfortunate one and soon she gets well. Every day the Kurdish woman goes to work and leaves her child with Nartos. One day a gendarme comes to take her away and put her into a new caravan. The Turkish woman saves her by her entreaties. Days pass and she gets used to her new life and she even moves about in the village. She discovers that there are many other Armenian women. From them she learns the tragic fate of her sister. The young Turk follows her until the village, begging her to give up going with the Kurd. She changes her mind and says yes.
This time the Kurd is enraged and a quarrel ensues between them. Finally, so as the quarrel might be settled, at the Kurd’s suggestion they divide her into two. When Nartos hears this, she decides once again to put an end to her life. She begs another woman to show her a deep stream or a well where she may throw herself. She leads Nartos to a deep well and says: “Jump in, if you want.” Nartos does not have enough courage to jump in and sits at the edge. She begs the other woman to push her in suddenly. The other refuses to take on herself the guilt of her death. So together they return to their homes. One day she is asked to marry an elderly Kurd. Her despair is great. She turns for help to the Turkish guest. Her husband happens to be owner of pack animals and would transport goods from the village to the city. When the wife tells him of Nartos’ troubles, he promises to help her to escape. But since the Kurd also is his friend, they decide that after their departure Nartos may escape and follow them. On the way they wait for her. All goes well as planned and Nartos is taken to Diarbekir. Of course, there her sufferings do not end. She has had other adventures, until the armistice in 1919 is signed and with thousands of other remnants of the 1915 massacres she could find salvation. I gave her story until this point, where the caravan of Shabin Karahissar women has reached, to the place of their extermination. Nartos miraculously has remained alive to tell the tragic story. Of course, what she recalls is only a small fraction of all that they have suffered, which in its totality no memory can contain and no pen can describe. Only God could measure the dept of these sufferings.
A BALANCE OF GAIN OR LOSS FOR TURKEY On the 17th of July 1915 Wangenheim, the German ambassador in Constantinople, has telegraphed to his government: “Talaat without any reserves declared to me, that his government has decided to utilize the war in such a way, as to get rid of all its inner enemies (implicit the local Christians) by thoroughly exterminating them, without diplomatic intervention, as in the past, by European powers”. [7,9] This telegram shows that the war was the best opportunity for the great crime. But war is a two edged sword and punishes both victors and vanquished. The Turks did not remain unpunished. No matter how mighty evil is, God in some way gives its penalty. This is based on Christian doctrines, but even the ancient Greeks believed that there is a righteous power, called Nemesis, which sooner or later penalizes evil doers. There are so many illustrations in history to prove its truth. There might have been some evil doers, that have remained unpunished in this life, but those, who have been punished, are much more. Let us see how the Turks were punished. 1. At the end of the war the Turkish Empire disappeared. The Ittihad party came to power at a time, when the disintegration of the empire was going at a rapid pace. Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians, had revolted and established independent countries. Earlier they had lost Romania, Egypt and Libya. The island of Cyprus was given to the British in return to some services rendered to the Turkish cause. The authority of the Khalif had decreased and the Pan Islamic ideal was no longer strong enough to keep the Arabs, who were looking for a chance to revolt. The Kurds and the Cherkezes, the later emigrants from Caucasus, were thorns in the
body of the empire. The Young Turks substituted the idea of Pan Islamism with that of Pan Turkism. The Kurds were too ignorant to grasp its meaning, until they paid for it with their lives. The Cherkezes had no other way out and bowed before the inevitable, they were too few in number. The Turks could perhaps force some Arabs to remain in the Empire, but even if they failed in it, again they may establish an empire from Adrianople to Bukhara, including the oil fields of Baghdad and Baku. Only one people stood on the way of its realization, the Armenians. The Georgians were north of them and were not yet a threat to their plans. The plan of the Young Turks, therefore, was to destroy the Armenian element in Armenia and on its ruins to establish the Empire. This plan was shattered. On the contrary, the empire was destructed even more. Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia with its oil fields were torn away from it. If the French hadn’t flirted with Mustafa Kemal, Cilicia and Smyrna also would have been cut away. This was not a small punishment for the megalomaniac Ittihad leaders. 2. The Fourth Turkish Army on the Caucasian front suffered a heavy defeat in 1916 and retreated with great losses. It is safe to say, that the Turkish losses all through the war on the battlefield probably equaled the Armenian losses. That year an epidemic of typhus fever decimated the Fourth army even more and the authorities could hardly cope with it. The mayor of Tiflis of that time Alexander Hadisian describes in the following manner the condition of the Turkish prisoners of war, fallen in the hands of the Russians: “I saw the Turkish prisoners of war passing through Tiflis. They had no shoes, with raggedy clothes, with raw wheat in their pockets as their supply of food. Some were being transported in sealed wagons. Those, who had died of typhus, used to be brought out of the wagons. The epidemic was reaping their lines in great numbers.” In truth, that winter a traveler on the Sivas-Erzeroum military highway, would meet many sick soldiers, going on foot to their homes for rest. Many of them were very sick and could hardly drag their legs. Whenever military authorities would see ox carts transporting military supplies, they would requisite them a second time and force them to carry a soldier also till a certain station. Few peasants were willing to fulfill that order. They would drop down the soldiers on the way and they were forced to continue again on foot. If some kind Turk would take a soldier to his village, after one or two nights in his stable, where the peasants anyhow usually slept in winter, they would loosen themselves from the heat and one morning they would be found dead. I myself have seen such things, which I will describe later. If the corpses of such soldiers were to be left on the waysides, as the corpses of Armenians, the picture of 1916 would not be different from that of 1915. 3. With the retreat of the Fourth Turkish Army, all the Turks, living in the six eastern provinces, where the Armenians were the majority and where the deportations and massacres were carried most thoroughly, willingly or not had to leave their homes and take refuge in western provinces. They reached Sivas, Yozgat, Kayseri and even Angora. They were carrying most of their movable property with them and their spirit was quite high yet, although there were pessimists also. Many of them had cause to escape vengeance, since their hands were bloody. They were especially afraid from the Armenian volunteers. The Armenian villages were by this time already destroyed. What had remained was destroyed by the refugees. When they would stop in some abandoned village, they would tear down some part of houses to make fire for cooking and warming, and then march on. The government failed to settle them in Armenian
villages. They soon ate all their food, the animals also. They crowded in big cities, where they were dying of hunger and pestilence. Between 1917 and 1919, a great famine razed the province of Sivas. Even the peasants were living on grass and the death toll was very great. But the condition of the refugees was even worse. Every morning in Sivas special people used to gather the dead, found in street corners or abandoned Armenian houses. No one knows how many Turks died in those years, but it was really a large number. Nemesis was functioning. The Kurds also got their punishment. In those years it was not so sufficient. But it was great at the time of Moustafa Kemal, when they were nearly exterminated in Turkey. 4. Turkey received an economic blow, from which it has not recovered yet. The gold or the property robbed from Armenians did not give them prosperity or comfort, because the destruction of the productive elements of the population caused great inflation with long lasting negative effect. This condition became even worse, when the Greeks also left Turkey. It was not in vain, that Turks long for those days, when they were living with the Armenians. Even before the end of the war, some of them were waiting for the return of their Armenian neighbors. It is no wonder, that after the Armistice, when some survivors return to their homes, they are objects of special attention by part of their Turkish neighbors. This has happened even in Shabin Karahissar, where as a result of the fight one might expect persistence of animosity. The Turks readily would return the properties and would help them, so that they may remain among them, to bring back the happy old days. 5. As a result of the First World War a small, but comparatively independent Armenia was created. It subsequently entered in the Union of Soviet Republics, which assured its physical existence. The people of Azerbaijan not only did not join Turkey, but also joined the Soviet Union and were even more estranged from the Turks. For the chauvinist Turks, who organized the 1915 massacres, this is a serious loss. The very existence of Armenia is a threat to them. Now that Armenia opened its doors for its children in dispersion, it is going to get stronger. Today Turkey has reason to fear Armenians more than before. And yet, with a wiser policy in government, the two nations could have lived peacefully. 6. The loss of the war by Turkey was favorable for the Armenians. What would be the condition if Turkey was to win? About 60 thousand Armenian orphans of the massacres and nearly that many widows would remain in Turkey and they would have been assimilated. Whereas now they have returned to their native roots. There would be no independent Armenia and most probably the Armenians in Caucasus also would share the same fate of those in Turkey. It is good, that at least these things did not happen. 7. The fact that Turkey shows no signs of regret for the massacres is its greatest stumbling block on its way to civilization. Until Turks do not admit officially their national guilt, they cannot be considered civilized. Massacres have not been organized by Turks alone. Other nations also have committed crimes. The Spanish people have committed crimes against the Jews and the Arabs, and the natives of America. The British, against the Irish, the Indians and other aborigines. The Americans, against black people and native tribes. Russians against Jews and various subject nations. The French also have their night of St. Bartholomew and committed crimes during the Revolution. The list can be prolonged. But they all admit in their official histories, that they did wrong. And they tried to do some kind of justice. Turkey neither admits its guilt, nor tries to do justice to the surviving victims.
The Bible promises forgiveness to the repentant sinner. But even Jesus does not promise pardon to unrepentant sinners, who persist on their sins. Turkish historians, journalists and all sorts of writers still try to find pretexts to justify the horrible massacres of 1915. A nation, most of whose intellectual leaders are in that spiritual condition, showing no sign of repentance, cannot be considered civilized, though it threw away the oriental “fes” and adopted the European hat, or because they threw away the Arabic letters and adopted the Latin ones. Before the high court of civilized people, they are still sinners. A sincere repentance on their past would lead them to offer some compensation to the victims for the caused evil. Until this does not happen, the Turks remain a semi-barbaric nation. And that is their greatest punishment, if they have the ability to understand it. (Editor’s note – This is written in 1948. But how true it still remains now-a-days! Unfortunately.)
THE BEGINNING OF A NEW LIFE Topal Hasan (Lame Hasan), who was really lame, led us to his home in the village, which was not very far from the road. He right away distributed us among his relatives. In this village Ghayi, being near the battle front, many of its men were taken into the army, therefore there was great shortage of laborers. Hasan himself had two sons in the army. He had remained with two daughters-in-law and half a dozen or more grandchildren, all below eight years of age. Therefore he kept the two brothers for himself. He gave their uncle, who was the oldest among us, to one of his brothers. I was given to the wife of another brother, who also had been taken to military service and they had no news from him. An elder son likewise had been taken in the army, had returned sick and soon after had died. Ansha Hanum, my mistress, had remained with two daughters and a sickly son of about my age. My brother was given to a married daughter of my mistress, whose husband also was taken in the army, and she had remained with her father and mother in laws and two little boys. We were not servants in the ordinary sense, for we were working without wages. Neither were we slaves. The laws of the Koran, which are based on the Old Testament, forbid it. We were to be adopted sons in the family. We were not slaves in name, but we were in fact. We had to renounce our Christian religion. With this change, our names also had to be changed. My new name was Husein. Soon after our arrival to this village I again fell sick. It seems, the fever that had taken hold of me in Shabin Karahissar was abated temporarily on the way, but got stronger again. For days I lay unconscious. During my sickness they stole from me a safety pin, the only article I had kept from my mother. There were no doctors in the village, in fact they had no idea what a doctor was. Old men or women used to prescribe herbs, often not successfully. Under more critical situations they resorted to charms, which the village’s mullah (priest) or some other “learned” person would prepare by writing a verse of the Koran on a slip of paper. This, folded in a triangle, would be sewn in cloth or leather and hung on the neck of the patient. Occasionally the mullah comes also to read some passages from the Koran over the sick. The elder of the unmarried daughters of my mistress could read too, or maybe would recite by heart. I wonder if they tried any of these methods of cure on me. I don’t remember. It seems to me, that I was left to my fortune. But I was destined not to die yet. At last I regained consciousness, but for days I could not work. Sometimes my mistress used to grumble and throw at my face, that I had become a burden on them, instead of helping them as they had hoped. But at other times, in better mood, they would sympathize with me and would try to comfort me for my suffering for the guilt of our fathers. They used to tell us, that Armenians were planning an insurrection and they would have done to the Turks the same. In brief, Armenians had fallen in the trap they had prepared for the Turks. For many years I used to wonder at this, how the aggressors attribute their motions to the victims. But later on, especially after the Second World War, I understood that this happens often in history, and I ceased blaming these simple people. And in spite of this, they would end their political discussions with a curse on those, who really were the cause of all these. They even had two melancholy songs for the Armenians, in which there was sympathy toward the victims. These simple people were quite kind in their own way, but their standard of living was so low, that their kindness could not be much in amount. We had nothing to eat but bread. They would have meat only when a domestic animal died.
Although individually we all suffered almost equally, still I used to try to comfort my brother. I wouldn’t mind my suffering and my greatest desire was to see my brother happy. He was too small to be able to take care of himself, he was only eight years of age. His clothes were reduced to mere rags and he was lousier than any of us. He had become gloomy and was shunning even my company. He was afraid to speak Armenian, which soon already by common consent, we dropped altogether. Many times I have seen him being scolded or beaten by his mistress. The old couple was quite kind, but the young daughter-in-law was very nervous. And she had reason to be. Of course my brother was too small to do much work, and for that reason he used to receive the worst treatment among us. I have forgotten most of my sufferings, but the memory of my brother’s sufferings still rends my heart. The village Ghayi is built on the two sides of a river. On the northern bank of the river live the Turks, who are a majority. On the southern side live the Kurds, fewer in number, but rich in flocks. On that side were the forests, which supplied excellent pasturage for their flocks. The leading man among them was called Timur, nicknamed “Gerro”. Few weeks after our arrival, that man created a sensation by bringing two Armenian girls. They were beautiful and dressed richly, and had to become wives to this man, who had already several. Hardly a weak or two had passed, when villagers began to speak of another “exploit” of his. He had separated a woman from a caravan with the promise to marry her and save her life. On the way, in a valley, after abusing her, he had robbed and murdered her. The corpse, it was said, lies in the open in the valley. The Turkish children began a new game. They would strike one of them and he would call out “Mairig”, mother in Armenian. Some would answer: “Mairig is lying there”, pointing to the valley. One day when I was alone with the oxen, I ventured in the valley. And I saw the half putrefied corpse. For days the smell of putrefaction was in my nose, and it renewed my own sores. All five of us, at the beginning at least, were unfit for agricultural work. These simple peasants, who knew only of their village and a few others around them, could not understand how children of our age could be ignorant of agricultural work. Had Topal Hasan been aware of this, perhaps he would never save us from the caravan. I was ignorant of the simplest work. I remember the first time I went for gathering wood for fuel from the forest. In Turkey there was no forest control, anybody can chop down from wherever he wants and in any amount he desires. Hence the once beautiful mountains of Armenia are in most places deforested to bare rocks or gravel. With my two young mistresses and their brother of about my age, we went in the forest. We reached a convenient place and scattered around, to compete who would gather most for the shortest time. I took my ax and picked a nice pine tree of average size. Thinking to chop it down within an hour or so and fulfill my allotment. The first few blows went straight to their destination. But as my weak arms got tired, the blows began to be less accurate. Even though it was winter, I was soaked with sweat. But the obstinate tree, although badly damaged, persisted to remain straight. At last my mistresses came with big loads of dry branches. When they saw what I was at, the first moment they were mad, then could not stop their laughter at my stupidity. Much stronger arms were needed to chop such a tree. But even then it would be useless for our purpose, because it would be too heavy to carry and too wet to burn. Shame and consternation overwhelmed me. I would become a laughing stock in the village. And sure enough, for many days my mistresses created much amusement among other young people by telling the story. I was very sensitive and such ridicule mortified me.
The oldest among us, the five boys, managed much better. In our city all four of us used to go to school only, while he was an apprentice of a coppersmith, and had advanced quite a lot in the trade. Beside this, he had a very nice voice and could sing several nice Turkish songs. When idle, women, sometimes men too, would gather around him and ask him to sing. As a reward he would receive nice things to eat. Soon his musical talent brought him more luck. One day the governor of the few nearby villages come to our village. He heard him sing, was charmed by his voice and wanted to have a talk with him. During the interview the governor found out that he also knew a trade, which was so rare among the Turks. So he decided to take him with himself and help him to open a shop and do service to the people. About a month later he came to see us, and he was in nice clothes and very content with his new life. My mistress, seeing that I am not fond of agricultural work, decided to make me assistant shepherd of the village flock. That at least did not need special training, only patience and endurance, for one has to be always on the move. The main shepherd was a young Kurd, who has never mistreated or abused me in any way. Moreover, seeing how weak I was as a result of my sufferings and the poor diet in the village, he would urge me to drink a lot of milk. He would pick a black sheep, for their milk according to him is the richest. He would milk her in a bowl we carried with us. Then we would bite a peace of bread and drink in turn a gulp of the fresh milk. I would drink with disgust, so he would scold me for that. I believe my life as a shepherd had a good effect on me. The bad things were that I had no good shoes and my feet were always sore from so much running after the sheep, and I could not endure the sleeplessness at night. The sheep usually graze at night. At day time the sun is so strong, that they cannot endure the heat, and they huddle together, hiding their heads in their common shadow. At night they graze so greedily and move so fast, that one has a hard time to follow them. And walking in the dark in the fields with sore feet is a great torture. I would hardly sit a little. I would fall to sleep, than suddenly would jump up to follow the flock. It has happened that I lost the flock, and I was scared to death wandering alone in the dark fields. Every bush or stone would seem to me as a sheep and in the stillness of the night I seemed to hear the jungle of the bells. One misty day my companion had gone to the village and I was alone with the flock. The sheep were quite satisfied and were moving slowly, so I could sit a little. Suddenly I saw a commotion in the flock. The cause was, I thought, one of our big shepherd dogs. I began to shout to him by his name. Then from somewhere else appeared our dogs and darted toward the flock. They understood much better what was going on. In a few seconds they were pursuing the intruder, which turned out to be a wolf. Fortunately I had noticed it on time and it had had no chance of doing any damage. Because of my new work I had lost contact with my brother. But already our relations had lost much of their original intimacy. Suffering had made us all suspicious and irritable. We were afraid to talk to each other, for we were accused of talking Armenian. My poor brother! Who knows how much more he was suffering now, when he was deprived of the little sympathy of his helpless brother as well. What hurts me most is the knowledge that he, the youngest among us, had fallen in worse hands. He had nobody on earth to love and comfort him, except me. And yet I was so weak, that I could hardly bear my own sufferings and had neglected him altogether.
SECOND TIME A REFUGEE Late in the spring of 1916 began a constantly growing flow of refuges from the eastern provinces, where the battle between Turks and Russians was taking place. Refuges had been coming even earlier, but the recent defeat of Enver Pasha and the advance of the Russian army had greatly increased them. The pasture lands of Ghayi extended to the military road and often we had a chance to see them pass by. Judging from the clothes they wore and their general appearance, we could understand that they were coming from richer regions and their living standard was higher than ours. The women were dressed in gay colors, all of home made woolen cloth, and they were so diligent, that even while traveling they used to spin woolen yarns or knit. Their cattle and sheep were of better breed. They had bigger oxen, coffee or brown in color, compared to which our black or gray oxen looked like calves. Their sheep also were of the same color and of a better breed. It was rare to see them travel on ox carts. They had abandoned them as unpractical and were using their oxen as pack animals, putting their loads on their backs, or even riding them. On the whole, they hardly had the sense of afflicted people. As the tide of refugees became stronger and by the news of Russian advances toward Erzerum, panic stroke our village also, and most of the people began to think of fleeing toward the west. Itâ€™s a pity that these simple and ignorant peasants had no guidance from any higher source, and had to act solely on their own judgment. Their perspective was so limited and they were so simple minded, that they were overtaken with terror of the Russians and were ready to take the first chance of flight. The season of harvest had begun, but people were reluctant to begin their labors. Soon arrived the news that Erzingan also was invaded. In a village, where news was received from casual travelers, one ought to wonder how reliable such reports can be and how people could risk a flight with so little reason. The villagers were divided into two camps. Some were in favor of immediate flight. The others were more cautious and wanted to wait more. Since there was no authority to reconcile the two views or offer them better decision, each group decided to follow its own judgment. Those, who were in favor of fleeing, wouldnâ€™t go very far, they said. They would just hide in the forests on nearby mountains. The Kurds, who keep the nomadic habit of life, had lived in the spring the villages and had gone to the mountains, where they would set their tents on beautiful pasture lands with abundant grass for their flocks. The villagers would simply join the Kurds for a while and would return when the danger was over. If not, they would move farther toward the west. Unfortunately for me, only the family with which I lived was among those, who fled. My brother and other boys remained. But since our departure seemed temporary, I did not say goodbye even to my brother. None of us could think that we would never see each other again. The same evening of our departure we reached a beautiful spot in the forest. Every family was well supplied with food and coverings. All movable articles, essential for a family, were loaded on ox carts. However, we were disappointed to find out, that the Kurdish nomads had moved from the place, we could only see the spots of their tents. That night we camped there. People began to wonder where the Kurds might have gone. Of course, it was possible that they simply had moved to a better location on the same mountain. But our wise heads concluded that they had fled from the Russians. The next morning it was decided to move to another camp of
Kurds of another village, toward the west. By coincidence or because their guesses were right, that camp also was abandoned. Our people became surer than ever that they had taken the right course, since the Kurds also had fled. For about a week we traveled leisurely through mountains and forests, until at last we reached the end of that range of mountains. From the top of the last peak we could see the plains of Sivas and the river Kizil Irmak, curving through the plains like a silver snake. The sight of the big city put hope in our hearts. On the southwestern slope of the mountain we saw an abandoned Armenian village called Ala Kilise. Only a few Turkish refuges were settled in it. And they used to tear down the other houses to use the lumber for fuel, although the forest was so near. We descended on the plain, crossed a famous crooked stone bridge and camped in a meadow at the outskirts of the city. There our people held a conference to decide what to do next. They had heard that the region in the west called Yozgat was very fertile and the government was setting refuges in abandoned Armenian villages. It was decided to go there, which would mean many more days of journey. My mistress alone decided to part from their company. She wanted to go to a village near Sivas. She had reason for such a choice, but it did not prove very wise. In the year of our deportation and arrival in Ghayi, the governor of Gerjanis had sent some reserve soldiers to the village to help widows of war or wives of soldiers to gather their grains. They were peasants too. One of these soldiers married a widow from Ghayi, a relative of my mistress, put his bride on a mule and started for his village, which he told us was called Geosman and was near Sivas. We remembered the name of the village and were going there. We asked and were told to take a branch of the military road that leads to Shar-Kishla toward the west of Sivas. We reached the village Geosman, with which I was to become so familiar. It was not larger than Ghayi, but the houses were much better, the village cleaner, and the peasants lived on a higher plain of life. Undoubtedly this was due to the fact that it was near a big city, where the peasants could sell their goods and could come in contact with a higher mode of life. We found our strange relative. He was among the poorest in the village. The fact, that he had to marry a women from such a far place ought to have made us suspicious and we should have guessed, that probably he could not find a wife here. In this village people judged a man not according to his personal looks or merit, but according to his property. The house of the relative, together with a few other houses, was built on the other side of a valley, separated from the rest of the village. These people were called Karsly - that is people from Kars. Their ancestors had been refugees from that region, when toward the end of the 18th century that region was invaded by the Russians. As late comers, they had no fields and only a few domestic animals. They would work for other people as hired laborers. Our host had an old mother and a young daughter from a former wife. We were terribly disappointed for coming to this village. The first few days we created sensation among the natives and many came to hear our story. By and by we found out, that we had become a burden upon a poor family. But it was too late, we could not undo our mistake. The others had gone to Yozgat and willy-nilly we had to remain in Geosman.
ADRIFT BY EVENTS Until our arrival to this village, and even some time later, I was a mere straw in the stream of events. Only occasionally I had thought about my destiny and made some kind of decision. The most important occasion, when I was called to make a decision was at the time, when my friends asked me if I was willing to run away with them. My assent altered the destiny of my brother and myself and saved us from certain death. After our arrival in Ghayi we had to accept our lot. We had no alternative - the external events were too strong for us and guided our destinies. Then came the flight from Ghayi with my adopted family. I was the only Armenian in the company, the others remained in Ghayi. But I couldnâ€™t raise any question as to what would happen with my brother. Partly because nobody knew where we were going, and partly because I was helplessly at the mercy of my mistress. To raise such a question would mean reviving our past connections and our racial origin. They would think that we were not sincere in becoming Moslems and acquiescing to the new arrangement, according to which we were members of different families. When we arrived in Geosman, our meager supply of food was already exhausted, and our host was not able to feed us well. It was decided, therefore, that I should be given to a family in that village, as hired laborer. Thereby not only our host would have one person less to feed, but also I would receive wages to support my mistress and her children. I was very glad of this plan. First of all, I would go to a home where I would have enough to eat. Then also I was sincerely glad to be able to pay my debt of gratitude to the family that supported me so long. It was nice to feel, that I was a valuable person. It was agreed, that at any time I might go back to my former family, and if they were to go back to their village, they would take me also with them. The new family was composed of three members - a man past fifty, a crippled wife and a daughter of about twenty years old. The man was called Kior Duran (Blind Duran), because he was a little cross-eyed. He was short, sturdy and strong. Sometimes he was called Dely Duran (Crazy Duran), because, as neighbors told me from the first days, he had a very bad temper. When he got angry, he did not think of the consequences of his actions, and the villagers were afraid of him. During my subsequent experiences with him, however, I discovered that this was untrue and he never was the fearsome man described to me. Not once has he beaten me and he has seldom scolded me. Of course, the fact that I served him with honesty and faithfulness had some share in his kind behavior, but it is to his credit, that he could appreciate honesty and faithfulness. It is a different matter, that I was exploited by him. My new mistress was a beautiful woman, though terribly crippled. She was a second wife, she had been divorced. The daughter was from a former wife, quite kind and very diligent. My master had had two sons, the elder one married, and both had been taken to military service. The elder one had returned sick and soon after had died. The widow had returned to her parents. My master used to say, that there was no news from the second son. But some of his sonâ€™s comrades, deserters from the army, would say that he was killed. My new master was not rich. He had only a pair of oxen, a few cows and a donkey, but he had a better home compared to the home I had come from. The houses in this village were clean and tidy, as usual built of mud bricks. They had no paved floors. The gates were so wide, that the carts could be taken in. On one side of the hall they would have the hearth. Inside, on the same level, would be two more
compartments. One, the stable, the other would serve as store room and bedroom. Only the richest had guest rooms as well, usually on top of the main floor. My master did not have a guest room, but otherwise was not lower than the ones of the rich. That fall and winter my former mistress remained in Goesman. At first occasionally I used to pay visits to them. But it was all an artificial relation. They never really treated me as one of their family and I could feel more at home with my second master. So, although my former mistress was receiving my wages, I was more and more estranged from them. I felt less anxious to see them. And the less I saw them, the easier I forgot their existence. In the spring of 1917 I heard, that my mistress was planning to return to her village, but she had not said anything to me. Perhaps they were glad that they got rid of me at a time, when they were in great need. When they had hardly enough to eat, were half hungry all the time, and were living mostly on charity, would they separate from their share and give to me? Of course, under such circumstances, they would not think of taking me with them. They did not even say good-bye to me. But since my brother was where they were returning, it was my duty to ask them to take me with them. If I had asked and it was rejected, I might have some excuse for my indifference toward my brother. But I didn’t do anything. I just went to my work ignoring their departure. I have ever since tried to justify my selfish behavior or at least find some excuses for it. It is true that the future was so hopeless for me, that I could not make any plans. We already were lost. It would be easier to be away from my brother, than be mortified daily by seeing his sufferings. He would have been a burden upon me. And yet these excuses cannot satisfy the accuser from within. Poor brother, he had only me in this world to look for comfort and protection, and I had forsaken him! NO MORE A MISFIT In Geosman I was happier than in the former village, for I could do all kinds of agricultural work, except reaping. That gave me self reliance. I could feel, that I was no more a burden, in fact, the rest of the family were indebted to me. And I liked to believe, that no one knew my origin. I trusted my former mistress, that she would not tell that I really was an Armenian. But even if she had told it to some people, they kept the secret and were considerate toward me. Not once has anybody called me “giavour oghlou” (the son of an infidel). Fortunately, it was in time before the advance of the Kemalists and the Turks were yet good Moslems. Among Moslems there is absolutely no racial or national discrimination. Especially peasants would not understand such concepts as “nation” or “race”. An individual is a Moslem or nonMoslem (giavour). In the first case he has equal standing with every other Moslem. No one has ever asked me whether I was a Turk or not, they would ask me if I was a Moslem. If I would answer, that I am a Moslem, they would treat me as an equal. I had no trouble among the boys also. The grandson of my master’s brother was very kind toward me and took me under his protection right from the beginning. Added to all these, the fact that I had acquired so much skill in agricultural work, contributed to my happiness. Materially I was also in a better condition. I was given my master’s old clothes. My mistresses were quite skillful in reshaping them to fit me. And my clothes would be mended and patched whenever it was necessary. I wasn’t allowed to go around like a beggar. I had a bed to sleep in. It was in the store room in a dark corner. I would go to bed in the dark and get up before dawn and I have hardly seen it. But at
night, as I entered in it, I could feel that it was very raggedy, for often my toes would be caught in holes. What I disliked in my bed was that it was a breeding place for lice. Of course, the peasants are never free from them. There was no shame in that. But mine was more than bearable. I had just one change of underwear on me. My clothes were never washed by my mistresses. In warm seasons I would myself, without soap, bathe in a stream, wash my clothes, if it can be called washing, and put them on again. My bed being so uncomfortable, I would look for an opportunity to sleep outdoors. In the fall, when the grain is piled on the threshing floor, someone has to sleep there to guard it. Ordinarily people sleep in their beds on the floor. I would prefer to bury myself in the pile of sheaves. My body would itch from the straw and the dust, but that was more bearable than the sucking of lice. It was in the fall, when I was taken to my new home. The grain was just being threshed and I was initiated into the work. I had learned enough in the former village, so I was not a novice any more. My master and mistress were delighted, for they could depend on my doing the work all alone and so well. When the time for sowing came, my master had more cause to be delighted with me. In the morning we would go to the field with a bag of seeds. My master would sow the grain and then turn to me: â€œGo on, my son, Husein, plow it nicelyâ€?. And he would go back to the village, leaving the entire task to me. I would do my work faithfully and honestly and return home in the evening with the consciousness, that I was a useful, in fact, indispensable member of the family. Winter is a happy season for peasants, especially if they have enough to eat and feed their animals. The women weave excellent carpets and rugs. Even the bags they use for storing grains are so nicely made, that they deserve to decorate the floors of any modern house. Weaving is done cooperatively. Every family spins the wool and dyes it, but for weaving friends and neighbors help each other. Most of the indoor work and some outdoor work as well are done cooperatively and people have a nice time. There is plenty of singing and fun. The young men also participate in all of this, even though from afar, from the roof of the house, for example. In this village there was a talented woman, who could compose songs and their music too. They were of the simplest kind, and yet sometimes they were quite meaningful. The subject was usually love, but occasionally they would be also about national events or some hero. While women are busy with weaving, the men have plenty of time for amusements, for they have only the care of the domestic animals. The most convenient place during the winter is the stable. There are no forests in that part of Turkey and peasants burn the dung of their animals. Such fuel is used even for cooking or baking bread, but of course one cannot warm a house with it. The warmest places are the stables. They are built in such a manner, that they have accommodation for men also. Less than half of the stable is occupied by the animals. On the other part a platform would be built for human use. At day time the whole family would sit there and be busy with various occupations, there they would also sleep at night. In spite of the prevailing low standard of living, in this village I had a better life than anywhere else during the four years of war. I liked the people and people liked me. I made friends and could feel at home among them. It was a time when I would work very hard, but it would give me self-reliance and feeling of contentment, even happiness.
A MODERN WAR WITH PRIMITIVE MEANS What used to spoil my happiness in Geosman were the frequent expeditions we had to make for transporting war materials. Turkey was waging a modern war with primitive means of transportation. The military road toward Sivas passed about two or three miles from the village. It was never in perfect shape, although thousands of prisoners of war, formerly also Armenians, had been working at it summer and winter. But before a patch of road was fixed, another would need repair. Sivas is about three thousand feet above sea level, and between our village and the city there was also a mountain at least a thousand feet high. The winters are very severe and the forces of nature were doing great damages to the roads that were built only with pebbles. Moreover, heavy loads of ammunition were being transported with German trucks with solid iron wheels for lack of rubber. Those wheels, nearly two feet wide, would plow ditches in the softened wet roads. It was hard for drivers also, because the wheels would glide on the wet or frozen roads. The chains, put around the wheels to prevent them from sliding, would dig even more. These German techniques were in terrible plight on those roads. The peasants would make fun of those “carts without oxen”, that sometimes would go slower than their carts. On the whole, they served more for spoiling roads, than for their real purpose. The army of course had its pack animals too, but they were insufficient to meet all the demands. Besides, because they were being neglected and abused, they were dying like flies. The poor creatures had no rest. Summer or winter, in sunshine or snowstorm, they had to be working. There were no adequate inns on the roadsides, and they would sleep often in mud and mire knee deep. No adequate supply of food would be provided for them and often heartless soldiers would steal part of their meager ration to use for themselves. Many a time I have seen camels, mules and horses fall exhausted on the way, being brutally beaten by the soldiers and left to die on the road sides. The road between Kaya Dibi, the village from where we would take our loads, and Sivas was dotted with the carcasses of animals. Many a time we have seen camels or horses half alive yet, being slowly starved to death, exposed to the merciless forces of nature. Merciful peasants would sometimes offer them a handful of straw or hay, which might serve only to prolong their agony. With such misuse and waste of animals belonging to the army, there was no other way out but force peasants to do the transportation of war supplies. Not a week would pass without being called upon to send a certain number of carts to the headquarters. Sometimes, before the return of one party, another would start, and often hardly having returned from one expedition I would have to go with a next one. The winter season normally is for rest for men and animals in the villages. But because of the war there was no rest for either. It was hard especially for the oxen. During every expedition one or two of them would fall down exhausted. Sometimes the owner would leave the cart on the wayside and bring the oxen home. On some cases an ox would bee so exhausted, that it would be put on some one else’s cart and brought home. At other times a peasant would bring home one of his oxen with the skin of the other loaded on its back. I think, in Turkey during this war, next to Armenians, most suffered the pack animals. As soon as gendarmes used to arrive for their demand of cars, the villagers would hold a meeting to decide who should give what. Someone would be asked to give his cart, another, a single or a pair of oxen. My master would most gallantly shout “A man from me”. He meant me. He has never gone on any of the expeditions.
Without exception he has sent me. There has hardly been an expedition, in which I haven’t taken part, unless a new party has started while I have been away. These expeditions, besides being tedious and exhausting, sometimes used to become dangerous as well. Once while returning home, we were caught in a snow storm in the middle of our way. The snow was so deep, that if I were to walk, I might be buried in it. So I climbed on my cart and huddled into several bags to keep warm, holding fast onto the cart. As long as we were on the military highway, this was easy. But it got dark and our leaders found our only hope of salvation in deviating toward a village. That path was winding along precipices and in many places was slanting so much that I was clinging to the cart for dear life. But if I were to roll over with the cart, nothing could save me and the oxen. We were indeed “passing through the valley of the shadow of death”. After hours of struggling through the snow, we heard the barking of dogs. We had reached the village and salvation. This was one of the most dangerous expeditions, but in general all were fights with dangers. Much depended on the wellbeing of the oxen, therefore partly because of my desire to avoid accidents, and partly because of my inborn love for animals, I used to take very good care of my oxen. At nights, whenever we would stop in an inn, I would be more anxious than anybody else to provide a comfortable place for them. I used to sit by them for hours that they may eat in comfort and no other ox may come and steal their food. Often I would sleep sitting on a bag of straw by their manger. I did not mind whose oxen were under my charge. They were my companions, dependent on my care, so I would do my duty toward them. In my deep desire to find parental love, which I had lost so early, I used to treat the oxen as if they were my children. I used to sacrifice myself for their comfort. The oxen under my care were in better condition than me. My clothes were bearable, but my feet were all the time wet for lack of adequate shoes. Worst of all, I would never have enough to eat. At home my diet consisted mostly of bread and I used to eat much of it. Whenever I felt hungry, I could get any amount of bread. But during the expeditions, when the amount of bread was limited, I used to be always hungry. If it happened, therefore, that we were transporting cereals, such as wheat, chick-pea, corn, etc, I would make holes in the bags and eat the raw dry cereals. Though it was stealing, others would do worst things. They would sell large amounts of their load and put sand or stones in their bags to fill up the weight. Needless to say the waste of materials was equaled the waste of lives of animals and men. Often someone’s bag would burst open by colliding with another car and all the grain would be spilled. Then we would fill the bags with dirt to make up for the loss. But the thefts had no end. Turkish peasants do not consider theft sinful, they consider it smartness. I often wonder what fraction of the food reached the battle fronts. It is a wonder that Turkey could fight so long and so well with such imperfect means of warfare. OVERTAKEN BY FAMINE The history of mankind shows that calamities do not come one at a time. War, poverty, famine, sickness follow each other. Moreover, in any war the lower classes suffer most. Those, who are least responsible for provoking it. The war had played havoc at least in the villages where I lived. In this second village, for example, in spite of having many deserters, there was hardly a family, which had not lost a member or more in the war. While in the former village, being nearer to the battle front, the condition was even more tragic. As if the loss of men
power was not enough, a tyrannical government used to rob and harass the peasants in other ways also. The poor peasants and their oxen had no rest. A peasant’s riches consist of his lands and cattle, especially the oxen. Sometimes the loss of an ox is felt as badly as the loss of a child, maybe even more. It isn’t easy to replace a lost ox. Every season has its work for the peasants. There is plowing to be done, bringing in the harvest, threshing, etc. Without oxen peasants are utterly helpless. One cannot borrow oxen, nor sow or reap out of season. Many fields, that normally would have been sown, had been neglected. Moslem peasants, following Old Testament lows, consider a sin to harness cows, and yet their needs were so great, that they were committing this sin also. As if this was not enough, the government was taking heavier taxes. There was so much waste of grain during its transportation, that the peasants had to fill the deficiency by heavier taxes. Peasants, in their turn, would try to cheat the government by hiding their grains. In spite of this it was not enough for them. Many families had hardly enough to eat, but nothing to sow. So, gradually famine began to knock at our doors. By that time other unfavorable changes had taken place in my circumstances. My elder mistress, the crippled woman, died. I was sorry for that loss, because though she needed more help than she could render, still being weakened by her own suffering, she had developed a kinder character. Then my young mistress got married to a boy of about fourteen years old from the nearby village Kartalja. The boy’s father had been killed in the war, his mother had followed him, and he had remained with a grandmother, a lame elder sister and two younger brothers. They were quite rich and needed a helper to manage the household. My mistress was the right girl. Though she was not beautiful and was much older than the boy, she was capable and diligent and could manage the house. The transaction was quite advantageous to my master. Among Turkish peasants it is not the girl that takes dowry with her, on the contrary, the boy pays his bride and they bargain about the price. In this case the boy was rich and my mistress would be a good helper, and about twenty sheep and few cows were given to my master. Even before my mistress went to her husband’s home, my master began to look for a wife. He found a young widow with two small daughters. She was from a rich family and had originally been married to a man from another village. Her husband had been killed in the war and she had returned to her father’s home. My master married her. These sudden and radical changes did not please me. I had got used to my former mistress. The two small daughters of my new mistress were very spoiled and the elder one especially was quite nasty toward me. She was hardly nine years of age, but was treating me frankly as a servant, which hurt me. My former mistress used to treat me, sincerely or not, as a permanent member of the family, as an adopted son, I liked to believe. My new mistress apparently was not in favor of such an arrangement and what she had been saying behind my back, her daughter used to tell to my face. Moreover, as there was less agricultural labor, because we did not have the necessary seeds, my mistress used to send me to the fields to gather dry dung for fuel. It was a nasty, boring and humiliating work and I disliked it. I began to feel that this was a definite effort to make my life unpleasant and force me to leave that home. I would never consider of doing it on my own account. They might consider me foreign member of the household, but I was attached to that home as a cat is to a house.
It was in the spring of 1919 when the effect of the famine became obvious. During the winter the poorer families had already exhausted their supply of food and when the spring came, they not only had no seed to sow, but nothing to eat as well. As soon as the snow began to melt and the grass began to sprout, the poorer people began to gather herbs for food. There was nothing very remarkable in it. Ordinarily peasants eat many kinds of herbs, mostly in raw condition. But it would be as a supplementary diet. Now they were living solely on them. They had no butter, fat or oil to cook with, neither cereal to add. They would simply boil them with a little salt and eat like that. Some, who had still some flour, used to make pie mixed with clover leaves. But many did not have even that much. Early in the spring our grain was also exhausted. We had left no wheat for sowing, and now there wasn’t even for eating. My new mistress, being from a rich family, occasionally would bring some flour and for a few days we would have bread to eat. But since it was in such limited amount, it was rationed. Needless to say, I was the only member on whom this regime was enforced. The rest of the family could eat as much as they wanted. And I used to feel hungrier than ever. I had to resort to stealing, if I wanted to live. No matter how carefully my mistress would hide the bread, I would find it and eat some. Sometimes I would have just a minute and I would stuff my mouth and hurriedly gulp it. If I had more time, I would fill my bosom with bread and go to the barn or the stable and eat secretly. The risk of being caught and disgraced was great, but the urge of hunger was greater. I couldn’t help it. In the meanwhile famine was playing havoc among the poorer people. The number of deaths began to rise. Ordinarily those, who were subsisting mostly on herbs, would have their faces swollen and soon after they would die. The symptom was unmistakable. I would wonder whether my face had also begun to swell, for in spite of my stealing I was hungry all the time, while we began to eat clover pies with a little addition of flower. I had no mirror, but I could understand that death was again very close to me. My master’s elder brother, who was doing better, had his face swollen. I saw the dreadful symptoms on the face of my master also. And yet I had no fear of death, nor planned to do anything to save myself. I had resigned to my lot. Luckily for myself, what I was not planning, others had been doing for me. God’s hand was guiding my destiny through friends. There were several families, which were friendly toward me. One of them was the family of the chief villager. Often individual members of the family had praised me for my diligence. One day I was called by this family and they put a serious proposal before me. They said that they liked me and cared for my welfare. They knew also, that I was faithful to my master. But since my master was very poor now and could hardly feed his family, would I not be willing to leave him? I had so much trust in the good will of this family, that I gave my consent. One of their daughters-in-law was from Kaja Dibi, a village, which I knew quite well. Her father needed a helper and they wanted to send me to him. Once or twice I had seen the man and had liked him. Since he also had liked me and would feed me well and treat me as a son, there was no reason to hesitate. I thanked them heartily and the next morning I started for Kaja Dibi. No one accompanied me. I was told that it was arranged beforehand. I had just to go and present myself to my new master. I did not say good-by to anybody except to the members of this family. I ran away secretly and I am not sure whether my master knew where I had gone. I had nothing with me but my shabby clothes and a stick in my hand. I left Geosman also, never to return to it again.
FROM BAD TO WORSE I had a wretched time in Kaja Dibi. No matter how hard was my life in Geosman, I bore it cheerfully and I was content with it. In this new home, more than anytime before, after the great disaster, I felt most lonely and unhappy. There were various reasons for it. In the former village I had made many friends, had come to know the people and they had come to know me. I was never mistreated and lived in peace. I had come now to an environment, where everything was new. I had to begin anew to make friends. The sudden break of all connections with the former village was too shocking. I had some emotional attachment to it. Now, that being undone, I had to cultivate a new attachment. In the second place, like most people, who have suffered much, I used to be much affected at the sight of others suffering. In this village I often used to be a witness of that. On my trips to Sivas and back I had seen the battalions of road builders, miserably dressed, sitting on roadsides while we were passing, in extreme cold or heat, breaking stones. They were not being treated as free human beings – they were rather slaves, who were being worked to death. They were thin and weak, dirty and shabby. They were all the time guarded by gendarmes. The food given to them was so insufficient, that they used to beg bread from passing peasants. Their headquarters were in Kaja Dibi, therefore I learned much of their lives. I learned that they were all “giavours”, Greeks, Armenians and Russian prisoners of war. At a time they have been more numerous, but their ranks have been thinned by massacring most of the Armenians. The first boy, with whom I had taken the oxen to pasture, was cruel enough to tell me the whole ghastly story and showed me the valley where their bones were bleaching under the sun. Thereby my cunning companion perhaps wanted also to show me, that he knew my racial origin, which made me quite uncomfortable. After that, whenever I had to go toward that valley, my attention was drawn to it and even if I did not look, I would think of it. The past that I had tried to forget and forgive was brought to my attention every day. Of course, I would not be comfortable in that village. But there was a still greater and more profound cause of unhappiness. When we were just taken to Ghayi, I was told that I would become a member of the family, an adopted son, not a servant. The idea was pleasing to me. I don’t know how sincerely they adopted me as a son, but I had sincerely and faithfully adopted my new home. Whether by nature I am such or all orphans are like that, I was ready to stick to the first family that wanted to adopt me, even if they were poor peasants. In my sincerity I had adopted even their misfortunes and with them I have suffered for their losses, taken place even before my coming. In both villages thus far, I had lived with the illusions, that my desire was reciprocated, partly at least. But when I left Geosman, my dreams of heaving a home were badly shaken. In this new home also I was told that I would become a son, that they would not treat me as a servant, etc. But though I would have liked to hope that to be true, deep down in my heart I knew that my condition was more miserable, than I used to imagine. I could not hope to be an adopted son, since I was born of Armenian parents. Neither could I let myself to be a servant with wages. What could I do in this grave situation? And suppose my master did not fulfill his part of the contract, who would defend me then? I was completely at the mercy of the man, who employed me.
The man whom I had come to serve now had a very sweet tongue, but it could also sting badly. He knew how to flatter and coax, he could use sweet words, but in reality he was a strict and exacting master, impossible to please. He had had a son and a daughter. She was given to marriage in Geosman, while the son had been taken in the army. My master was living with his daughter-in-law and a grandson of about eight years old, a handsome, but terribly spoiled boy. Every member of the family used to torture me in his way. My master would often fall in melancholic moods and would get nervous and fussy. The main cause was the loss of his son, for though nothing certain was known, he had a presentiment that he was killed, for he hadn’t had news from him for a long time. Another cause for his nervousness was jealousy of his brother whose two sons had successfully evaded military service and were bold enough even to go and work in the fields. It was yet early summer when I came in this village and the only work available was to take the oxen to pasture. I had no friends, no companion, except the servant of my maser’s brother. He was a refugee boy who had lost his parents. At first he had served my master, but soon had run away and disappeared from the village for some time. Now he had returned and this time had entered in service to my master’s brother. Perhaps his escape was instigated and arranged by them. My master used to praise him very much and would say that he was a clever and capable boy. Of course I used to suffer much that my master was not satisfied with me and had known a better servant. Because our masters were brothers and neighbors, this boy was given the duty to teach me where our fields were or where were the best pasture lands. He indeed was a clever and capable boy, superior to me in strength and agricultural skill, but he was cunning and cruel. It was he who had slyly introduced me to the valley where lay the bones of the massacred Armenians. I suspected that perhaps he knew my racial origin. In spite of my desire we could not become friends, because of his arrogant manner. He was too conscious of his superiority. The season of harvest was approaching. Once or twice my master took me with him to examine the grains. He would pick up a stalk and crush it in his hands to see the quality of the wheat. And each time we would be struck with terror, because instead of golden wheat there were black coal-like pieces in them. Every few minutes my master would sigh and exclaim: “We are ruined!” Indeed, his sorrow was great, but mine was measureless. Hardly had I escaped starvation in one village, I had to face it in this one. To leave this village also and go somewhere else would hardly occur to me. I still hoped that after my disappointments in the former two villages I might strike deeper roots in this one. I never thought of living the life of a tramp, wandering from village to village. I was small and felt too weak for such adventures. Besides, I was always conscious of my origin and the fear of discovery would prevent me from risking my life in such a way. Moslem boys are circumcised, I was not. And yet my life was becoming unbearable. My master was becoming more and more nervous, and his insults even more unbearable. I didn’t know how to please him. The fact that I was honest and faithful and diligent had no value in his eyes. His house was becoming too suffocating for me, but I did not know where to go.
A LEAP IN THE DARK My master, in partnership with his brother, had planted a vegetable garden near the village, and I used to sleep there at night to guard it. I had built a little hut with branches and weeds to shelter myself from rain and sunshine. One evening while I was taking a walk through the garden, I saw a poorly dressed boy of my age approaching me. He greeted me and asked for something to eat. From the dialect he used I could understand, that he was not a native of Sivas. Already his clothes were of different fashion. I understood that he was a forlorn refugee boy. His manners from the beginning won my confidence. I invited him to my hut and gave him some bread and cucumbers. I asked him for his name. He told me he was Mehmed, a refugee, had lost his parents and had remained alone in the world. He had been in Sivas in a refugee house, where, he told me, the government takes care for them by giving each a loaf of bread every day and some food. He had for a time enjoyed that privilege, but partly from a love of adventures and partly because he had not found the food sufficient and palatable, he had decided to go to villages and seek some employment, with the hope of receiving better food. He had been wandering around for a month or so, but he had found no employment. Moreover, he had realized that all villages around Sivas were famine stricken. So he had decided to go back to the former life. He got in turn interested in my life and my story, which I told him as follows. I am a native of Ghayi, a village near Gerjanis. My father was taken to the army and was killed and I had remained with my mother and two sisters. When the Russians took Erzingan, we fled to Sivas and settled in Geosman. There my mother and sisters died and having remained alone, I entered into service to a peasant there. I lived with him for two years, but when famine threatened my life, I fled to this village. I gave no hint at all of my racial origin. I was afraid even from this boy and told him a false story. Till late that night we chatted and told stories, some true, other made up, but just the same, we became friends quickly. When I described my life in that village and how disappointed I was, he answered that I was a fool to stay there and suffer. He invited me to join him and go to Sivas. His words sounded so convictive to me, so completely he had won my confidence, that soon I gave my consent. We decided to start early in the morning. There was one more reason why I should want to run away. I don’t remember well why, but one of the sons of my master’s brother had beaten me that day. He knocked me on the ground and began to kick me indiscriminately. Never before or since then have I been subjected to such a treatment. It hurt me very much, for surely the reason must have been very small or imaginary. I was terribly frightened, but received the blows stoically. After he had threshed me to his satisfaction, he said while going away: “You wait, “giavour oghlou” (son of an infidel), I shall kill you!” Perhaps that was just a threat and was not meant to be taken seriously. But the fact, that he knew that I was an Armenian by origin, scared me very much. Any Turk could kill an Armenian with impunity. We were no better than worms. Under such circumstances that boy’s arrival was providential and I was doubly glad for his proposition. I was willing to go with him anywhere, as long as I might get rid of that cruel and dismal environment. Early the next morning we fled from Kaja Dibi. I did not take anything belonging to the families, not even for eating, lest they pursue us and kill us. I went
away with the clothes I had come from Geosman. We walked leisurely and by noon came to a village that was quite familiar to me. From there branched a path that led to Geosman. Even the oxen could recognize it and when we would approach it, they would pull toward it. It gave me a little pain to recall all the past connected with Geosman. It was threshing time and since we had nothing to eat we went to threshing floors and begged for some wheat. Later we roasted the wheat on a piece of tin and started on our way eating the roasted wheat. At night, wherever we reached, we slept on the roadside. I had just the pieces of cloth on me, a white linen shirt and drawers and a blue blouse. I had a fez with a “chalma” around it, in Turkish fashion, and was barefooted. I don’t remember exactly how my companion was dressed, but he couldn’t have been better. During the day and part of the night it was warm, so we could cuddle together and sleep outdoors without any covering. Only toward morning we would begin to shiver and clatter our teeth, but then we would start our walk and soon the sun would rise and warm us up again, and we would forget the shivering a few hours ago. All along the road to Sivas there ware villages, some near the road, other quite far. So after traveling a few miles, we would go into a village, beg for some wheat, roast it as before and continue our journey. At last, after four or five days of traveling, we arrived in Sivas. The city was quite familiar to me, nevertheless my friend was leading me. We came to a square where used to take place the Monday and Friday markets. On one side of the market on a low wall were seated two or three boys. My friend recognized them and we went directly to them. And to my surprise he began to talk in Greek with them. So my friend had concealed his nationality from me. I had done the same and yet had no intention to reveal my identity. The Greeks were left unmolested, but Armenians were the persecuted race, I had to be on the safe side. Now that nobody knew my origin and by my perfect knowledge of Turkish, I could conceal my origin. Why not? My friend’s real name, as I learned then, was Dimit (Dimitrius), and the boys were Greeks likewise. Soon the conversation was changed to Turkish and my friend introduced me to them. They were kind to me and accepted me in their circle. They too were poorly dressed and with hazard looks. They too had been forced to flee from the Russians, of course reluctantly, and now were in worse condition than the Turkish refugees.
THE LIFE OF A TRAMP The streets of Sivas in those days were swarming with beggars. Beside the “professional” ones, natives of the city, a great number of destitute refugees from the eastern provinces were obliged to live by beggary. Anyone, who had seen the flight of these same refugees toward the west, their carefree and even cheerful attitude then, could hardly believe his eyes. They were going to the western provinces with the great hope that the government would give them adequate protection. There were plenty of deserted Armenian villages and houses in the cities. They could settle in those lands. But their hopes were dashed on rocks. The government had directed all it’s energies on winning a war that was becoming more and more desperate. So the refugees had settled wherever they wished, without any regulation or help. They lived in abandoned Armenian houses tearing them down in the meanwhile for fuel. Some of them had attempted to settle on lands, but they had neither seeds, nor oxen to cultivate the lands. Many of them had been dying of hunger and sickness and
were running to Sivas in great panic. Probably all big cities had such influx of refugees in those days. Coming to Sivas was easier than finding something to eat there. Living in ruined houses, buried in dirt, with absolutely no medical care, hungry and cast down in spirit, they were dying by hundreds every day. At last the government had decided to gather such destitute refugees in a special home and feed them. A big house, belonging formerly to an Armenian merchant, had been chosen for that purpose. Policemen and special agents would catch refugees going around begging and would put them in the Refugee Home. But partly because begging and wondering around had become a habit for them, partly because of the miserable conditions in the Refugee Home, they would try to run away as soon as they were brought in. Anyone, who would see the place, would scarcely blame the refugees for doing so. It was obvious, that they were being brought there not in order to save their lives, but to die away from the public sight. The big house was packed with men, women and children, all herded together. Sanitary conditions were terribly inadequate, and there was absolutely no medical care. The house had a small yard, surrounded by high walls. There was just one fountain in the yard. The other accommodations had no supply of water for keeping clean men and building. There were policemen stationed at the gate, who would see that no one steps out. They carried not only revolvers, but also whips, which they were using unsparingly. In spite of their strict guarding, some again would find their way out. But on the whole, whoever once came in, could not hope of going out alive. Inside the building, of course, there were no furniture, no beds, absolutely bare rooms, with even window panes broken. Many would bring in with them their rags, mattresses and quilts, which were breeding places of lice and carriers of diseases. Every day a few dead bodies would be taken out. And many more were on the point of death, some having remained skin and bones. Terrible to look at. Once every day stewed potatoes and bread would be brought to them. As soon as the cooks would begin distributing the food, the whole crowd would rush on them with their dishes and kettles. Pushing, quarreling, fighting, spilling the food was a common occurrence, in spite of the whips of the policemen. They would dip their dirty kettles into the big kettles. They would attack to grab from each other. If there was some order in the distribution, perhaps this food might be enough to keep these people from starvation. But in the absence of order and discipline, much food was wasted. The strong ones would get more and perhaps enough, while the sick and the weak would remain hungry. The same thing would happen with the bread as well. It was miraculous to get away with a whole loaf of bread. The hungry mob would attack each other and rob their neighbors. To go in once into this building would mean to be imprisoned there. And to remain there would mean certain death. That was the opinion of our group, and my feeling too. We ought to find a means of getting the bread and food without letting ourselves to be locked in this prison of death. The bread had to be brought from an oven quite far from the place. I saw that refugee boys, mostly elder and stronger than me, were volunteering for that job. The Greek friends of Dimit also were among them. We decided to join them, but it needed alertness every day. As soon as the bags were brought out, everybody rushed to get one. The baker in the oven also was unscrupulous. He was getting rich by mixing the flour with rubbish. Besides, the loaves were always unbaked inside and looked like mud. The only edible parts were the crusts. The loaves would be counted and put
in our bags and we would carry them on our backs. This would happen under the supervision of a steward, ho had to watch that we do not steal from the bread. However, we had tricks to get around his watchfulness. We would scatter as much as possible. We would make holes in our bags and, taking out morsel after morsel, would gulp them down half chewed or not chewed at all. Half way we would pretend to rest on a low stone wall and lift under his nose whole crests, and tuck them in our bosoms. The bolder ones would steal whole loaves, to sell later and buy something else to eat. After we arrived, we would put down our loads, take our share and give the rest to be distributed to the crowd. After the bread would be brought the stewed potatoes, and we, the members of the gang, would get our share before it was taken in. By noon we would have got all that could be gotten from that place and the rest of the day was ours to wander around and try to supplement our ration from other sources. At first I tried to follow the example of some clever ones, who would steal fruit from the fruit stands. I had watched them how they did it and tried to imitate them. I would approach a fruit stand with the resolution to run away with a pear or an apple. But at the critical moment my courage would fail me. My knees would be shaking, my heart would be beating and I would pass on without fulfilling my intention. Then I would look back and regret my failure. I would approach another stand, but would end again in failure. Stealing was not for me. The next thing I could do was picking up half rotten and discarded fruits, thrown in front of the shops, sometimes bitten once or twice and left off, and I would eat them. It was a nasty thing, of course, but in real hunger, when oneâ€™s stomach gets control of every other sense, one does such things. I did not, however, continue long that humiliating practice. I met another boy of about my age from a village near Ghayi. Occasionally he too would join the gang, but he preferred to loaf around. By and by we were attached to each other. The fact that I knew his village and pretended that I was from Ghayi helped me to win his friendship. It was late in the fall and the vegetable gardens were being spoiled. Some of the last things dug out are potatoes and carrots. He told me, that he would go into gardens and dig out carrots, of which, he assured me, there were lots in the gardens. Many refugees had been doing it. We managed to find a bag and a sharp stick, go to a garden and dig for carrots. Until evening we would find quite a lot of carrots and start back munching on the way. Right after our arrival in Sivas I also had to solve the problem of lodging. Where the other members of the gang were sleeping, I did not know. None of them invited me or offered a place. Some of them had some relatives. Complete orphans like me were quite rare among them. The problem of finding a sleeping place baffled me at first. The possibility of going into the Refugee Home was out of consideration. There had been so many boys like me, who had gone in, whose corpses were carried out every day. I began to look around in the neighborhood and found a deserted stable, without doors or windows, but quite clean inside. There was a manger with some straw in it. I chose that as my bed. I had no covering and was very poorly dressed. Every evening I would creep into that stable, climb into the manger, curl up myself like a dog and go to sleep. Early in the morning I would wake up shivering from cold, climb down the manger and would go wandering in the streets to get warm. Such was my life in Sivas, and yet I was content with it. Worries and anxieties for the future were unknown to me. Unconsciously I had adopted a course of perfect resignation. I had no thought for the approaching winter and as to what I would do, in
spite being so miserably dressed, with no home, no bed, nor simple covering. The winters in Sivas are bitterly cold, with perpetual snow all through the winter months. And yet I was carefree and gave no thought for the future. I was absorbed mainly by the task of dragging my miserable existence in the present. Poverty, sickness and even death are not so terrible in themselves, if we do not reflect on them. It is not so much the fact, that we are poor, that makes us miserable, as the consciousness of that fact. That makes us suffer more. It so happened in my case, that I was not worrying about the future. Sufficient for me were the daily worries of finding something to eat. The future? Well, that simply did not bother me. But an almighty Father, who I did not know or acknowledge yet, just the same was watching over me, and would guide me to better days.
JOINING THE GIAOURS AGAIN Late in the fall the Refugee Home caught fire. There were no mysterious causes for it. It was obvious, that sooner or later that would happen. Although the building was guarded very carefully, still some people within would come out through the windows, go to the gardens, dig potatoes and bring them back. They would start a fire on the wooden floor of their rooms over a piece of tin. They would tear down the wooden ceilings, cupboards built in the walls and even window frames, and use them for fuel to boil their potatoes. Everybody knew it, for the smoke could be seen coming out the windows, but nobody cared to do anything about it. The policemen guarding the gate were taking care only that nobody escapes trough the gate. They were afraid to meddle inside the building. So the inevitable happened. The building caught fire and was consumed within a few hours. Through the help of soldiers and the public, bringing water with buckets, the fire was at least located and the adjoined houses were saved. Some of the inmates found their chance to run away and again wander in the streets. Others crowded in the nearby streets for new arrangements for them. Before their lot was decided, all the orphan boys were called aside. Almost all the members of our gang were orphans, though several had mothers at least. A gendarme led the group, about fifty in all, out of the city, until we reached an Armenian monastery, about a mile or more from the city. That was the famous monastery of St. Nishan, built around the year 1050 by the order of the Armenian king Senekerim Ardsuruny. In that monastery had been kept the famous throne, crown and other precious belongings of the kings of that dynasty. All the treasures had been kept in a secret chamber so cunningly devised, that only a few leading men in every generation would know the place and be in charge of one of its keys. Muammer Bey, the bloody governor of Sivas, had wanted the treasures and by the threat of tearing down the whole building, had got the keys and robbed it. Then the whole monastery was plundered. All crosses, icons and rugs were taken and the paintings on the walls were scratched. Only the bare building had remained from the once rich and magnificently decorated monastery. The Armenian community deported, the building had been confiscated by the government and was used as an orphanage for boys. There were about a hundred orphans when we arrived. They were all in uniforms made of a kind of coarse woolen cloth manufactured in Sivas. They all looked quite contented. They had good supervision, there was good order. They used to receive food twice a day, with a loaf of bread much better in quality than the ones at the Refugee Home. Due to the fact
that the superintendents of the orphanage were eating the same food, it was cleaner and more appetizing. There were no separate beds for the orphans. There were long mattresses stuffed with hay and over them were stretched quilts of the same length, and ten or fifteen boys would sleep under the same cover. There were no sheets, no pillows, and they would sleep with their clothes on. The bad thing was, that they were kept almost all the time indoors, although the monastery had a courtyard and a big garden surrounded by wall. Apparently the superintendents were very much afraid that the boys might run away. To us, the newcomers also, were given the same uniforms and we were supposed to conform to the same regime. We were happy for the new clothes and for the better food, but we did not like to be confined within the monastery walls. So the members of our gang were on the lookout for an opportunity to get free from that restriction. Soon we found a way how to share the privileges enjoyed by the rest and still keep our previous freedom to go to the city. As the monastery was quite far from the city, the provisions had to be brought with a one horse cart. Before our arrival the managers of the orphanage had been going in turn to bring the provisions. Although they were not men with special education, and yet they would feel their dignity in the eyes of the orphans lowered by driving a cart and loading and unloading it. We volunteered to take care of the horse and bring the provisions every day. Again one of the superintendents had to go with us, but we were doing all the dirty work. Once or twice every day we would go to the city and would take care of the horse. The rest of the time was ours. The superintendents were pleased with this arrangement and gave us some privileges. In the stable there was a platform on which we spread a big mattress and a quilt and the members of the gang, about eight in number, used to sleep in that one bed in excellent fellowship. Like brothers â€“ Turks, Kurds, Greeks, and an Armenian. Thus far everything was good, except that we were very dirty. Months had passed since our arrival, our new underwear had got very dirty, but we had no means of doing laundry. We were as lousy as ever and most of us were infected by a skin disease, due to dirtiness. Small blisters, filled with liquid, would appear on the body and would itch terribly. Especially at night, with the warmth of the bed, the itching would become more unbearable. Many of the orphans were infected, and yet there was no medical treatment. Sometime in the winter I got sick. For several days my companions took care of me in the stable where I lay with high fever. I could not eat anything and was getting worse every day. So one day I was put in the cart and taken to the municipal hospital. I was bathed carefully and soon found myself in a clean bed with clean sheets. This was beyond everything I could dream of. I could scarcely believe my eyes. Whence had I become so important to receive such good care? I was happy even in my sickness. What gave me still more joy was, that most of the nurses were Armenians, all young and pretty girls. And the one that was taking care of me was from Shabin Karahissar. I would listen to their conversation in Armenian and understand all, but I did not reveal my nationality. Among other events in my life, this sickness also has made me realize, that though forsaken by men, I was never forsaken by God. Had I fallen sick a month or so earlier, I might have died in a manger, abandoned by all, completely unknown. But now I was receiving the best possible care. I believe it was again by providence of God, that though earlier also I was exposed to dangerous diseases, I did not get infected. I remember also my sickness during the deportation, how my strength failed completely only after our arrival in Ghayi, where at least I could lie down in peace.
Just as God had saved me from dying on a roadside then, so in this case I was saved from death by being taken to a hospital. After my recuperation I was sent back to the orphanage to lead the same life as before. But God had more surprises in store. One day as I was passing trough the courtyard, I saw an Armenian priest entering, accompanied by a young man. My amazement was great at the sight of a priest, and wondered even more that they were courageous enough to speak Armenian openly. It is true, that some of the women serving in the kitchen were Armenians and occasionally would speak Armenian, but they would do it secretly. The fearless manners of these men quite amazed me. They asked me in Turkish where the superintendents lived and I showed them the stairs that led to their rooms on the second floor of the building. Hardly half an hour had passed, when I heard one of the superintendents shouting: “Let all Armenians come up to our room”. Most of the orphans came out in the courtyard, curious to know what would happen to the Armenians. Unfortunately the Armenians themselves did not know why they were called up. The last of the known Armenians had climbed up the stairs, but we were still lingering in the courtyard. I was hardly listening to the conversation going on around me. I was absorbed in a fierce inner struggle. To go, or not to go? Why were they called up? Was it for a good purpose? But since it was being done by the initiative of a priest, I felt that the time had come for me also to reveal myself. So, without saying anything or looking at anybody, I began to climb the stairs with trembling knees. I had hardly climbed a few steeps, when I heard shouting in amazement: “Where are you going, Husein, are you also a giaour?” I did not say anything, but ran up the stairs even more quickly. At last I was in the room with the group of Armenians. There was even more surprise among co-nationalists, for they had at no time suspected, that I was an Armenian. I had successfully concealed my origin. My knees were shaking and my heart was beating in excitement. I did not dare to look at anybody and felt as though all eyes were fixed on me. The priest was asking each one his Armenian name, parents, etc. and the young man was recording their answers. There were some, who could hardly tell their first name, but the fact that in the orphanage they were known as giaours, was sufficient guarantee that they were Armenians. When my turn came, I could answer all their questions in Armenian. No one could doubt that I was really an Armenian. When they were through with the registration we were taken to the city. The boys were separated from the girls and taken to a bath. When we came out, our old clothes had disappeared and instead we were given clean underwear and new uniforms with green sweaters and nice shoes. I was in a dream land and was afraid lest I wake up and all these might vanish. I followed mechanically the man who was leading us. Soon we were in an old but clean building, where there were about twenty other boys. We were given food in a clean dining room, in separate dishes. At nights we were put to sleep in clean beds with sheets. Thus a new life began for us. It was the winter of 1919. As I learned later, the armistice had been signed and we were in an Armenian Near East Relief orphanage.
THE ARMENIAN ORPHANAGE OF SIVAS After a short stay in the old building in the city, when our number increased, we were moved to the former Teacher’s College building above the city. The building was of wooden structure, but was built according to hygienic requirements. We had spacious dormitories, nice dining hall, excellent classrooms and most modern benches. All other conveniences were accordingly made. Since this had been the Boys’ College before the war, the boys were gathered in it. The foundations had been laid for the girls’ department also, but the war had hindered its progress. Therefore the girls were in the older building of the Girls’ College a little below us. The older ones were in a separate building and were learning sowing and handwork. From the college windows we could see the whole of Sivas. We had an excellent playground at our disposal, where there were accommodations for playing all kinds of games, including football. On both sides of the path leading to the main entrance of the building and even beyond it, boys had made little flower patches, where most of us used to find entertainment. Beside the individual patches, the teachers had their garden, and the higher two classes their separate ones too. Beside the flowers, we would raise also onion and other spicy vegetables, which could be eaten raw. We were given food three times a day in clean dishes in a clean dining room. There were cooks and a few serving women, but boys would take turns in helping with the kitchen work, as well as the laundry and the general cleaning of the building. Our food was of the simplest kind and, though it kept us at a reasonably good level of health, it was never sufficient. I do not remember my coming out of the dining room satisfied. We were hungry all the time. We would wait for dinner times with great impatience and while praying our eyes would wander over dishes. Some would whisper, that his share of bread was smaller, for the bread was given in small portions and it surely was hard to divide a round loaf into six or eight equal pieces. Some would be on the lookout for theft. If somebody was absent, while the teacher is occupied in prayer, some bold one would empty his food in his own dish and put the empty dish under his. Before the supervisor approached his seat, he would gulp down several spoonfuls, so that the theft may not be so obvious. Whoever was caught would be deprived of a meal or two, and yet the bold ones would take the risk. Others would begin doing business before starting the dinner. Some would give away their food for a portion of bread. There was no serious reason for such trading, it just prolonged the pleasure of possessing food. Once it has gone into the stomach, it as if disappears. Besides, they would find pleasure in eating after everybody else had finished and all eyes would be on them. For we had to get out in order, just as we had entered. Some would manage to keep part of their bread and would eat it outside, so that their friends may watch the morsels going in their mouth. Sometimes they would even offer small pieces to some favorite, giving the illusion that he is satisfied. Those, who had not found interest in books or learning trade, and they were the majority, had nothing to do, but to talk and think about food, trying to make every dinner a special event. Even at Christmas or Easter our food was not sufficient. Was it inevitable, or was it the fault of the managers, I don’t know. I only record the fact. Our clothes were of the simplest kind, mostly of the locally manufactured stuff. The sewing was as coarse as the material. Years later, when we were joined to orphans from Constantinople, we could feel our inferiority in this respect.
Unfortunately several teachers judged us by our clothes and wronged us. But I’ll talk about that later. Most of us had separate beds, sleeping on the floor, of course. But the little ones would sleep two in a bed. At the beginning I had a partner too. Deficiency in clothing or bedding was easy to bear, it was hard to comfort our hunger. Discipline in the orphanage was very strict, sometimes to a degree of harshness. Of course, it would be hard for the teachers to keep order in an orphanage, where boys of various background and age were gathered. Some had come out of the war with lowered moral standards. There were several, who had lived by theft and now they were tempted to continue it. Sometimes even valuable belongings of the teachers would be stolen. There were lazy ones, aggressive ones and other types. So beating was common. But that was a double edged sword. A few times teachers also had been beaten by gangs. The causes of the greatest disorder were the boys in their adolescence, or approaching twenty, there were several of them. But gradually they were put in trades and the rest were more easily manageable. The one thing, for which I will always be grateful in the orphanage life is that very soon began the teaching of reading and writing. When classification was made, I was among the best. Higher than us was the class of the big boys. Some knew more than me, other perhaps less. But the age also was taken in consideration. After a year that class was dissolved and all the boys were put to some work. Our class remained to lead the orphanage. Soon we became also coeducational. The girls would come also every day to study with us. There were only two girls deemed worthy of our class, but they were not very bright. I loved books. For hours I would read. My teachers had to remind me that I should play a little. The library of the college was at our disposal. I eagerly read many Armenian books and the number of the not yet read was getting smaller. I began to worry a little. Then I would look at the shelves full of English books and would wish someday to be able to read in English as well. Our unseen Father, who hears even our silent wishes, our unconscious prayers, granted that subsequent wish also. For we began to study English as well. And I learned as much, as I had wished for then. In studies I had one competitor. He was rather good in mathematics. Certainly he hadn’t read a fraction of the novels and historical books I had read. But he was clever in mathematics and subsequently studied engineering in the USA, became a fanatic Communist and went to Armenia. We were quite good friends. If our friendship did not grow bigger, it was mostly his fault. He was very handsome, was from a rich family and had quite a lot of money from his father. He hadn’t suffered a fraction of what I had suffered, for he was from a city, where the massacres were not severe. A friendly Turk had saved their whole family. But during the war both father and mother had died. He had a younger brother and a sister. That Turk had taken very good care of the orphans and had sent them away with all the money they had inherited from their father. The first thing the boy had done was to have golden crowns put on his healthy teeth. So he was called “Golden Teeth”. His real name was Sarkis. In contrast with him, I was from a poor family, my father was a barber. Although my mother used to work all day long on her loom, they could hardly make the two ends meet, because my father used to drink. And it so happened, that my grandfather used to manufacture the drinks, that used to ruin our happiness. Since Sarkis was good in mathematics, which gives great prestige to people, he was quite proud. I would admit his superiority, but I don’t think he admitted my
superiority in other things. For that reason our friendship did not become lasting. But in fairness, many years later, when I met him in America as students, he was glad to see me and we spent a whole week together in excellent fellowship. Unfortunately we have lost each other’s tracks. There were interesting types of boys. There were two boys, who were called Roosters, because at the beginning they had shown their ability to crow like a rooster. All through the war these boys independently of each other, in different places, had followed the same plan of a living. They would sing a little, than tapping their hands, would crow like a rooster. They had had quite a success. They had been naïve enough to do that in the orphanage also, and now they could not refuse. One of them especially was more dignified and would like to have his past forgotten, but it was not possible. There was a boy from a nearby village, who wouldn’t study. One day he had said to the teacher, in his funny dialect, that reading is useless since he intends to go back to his village. He became proverbial. His case would be dramatized again and again. There were some, who had refused to join the “giaours” again. They used to be teased so much. One of them later on finished the School of Religion in Athens, Greece. Some hadn’t known their names at the time of entering the orphanage. Poor things, they have been so little at the time of deportation. Neither could they speak Armenian. They had a very hard time in adapting themselves to the new environment. There was a boy, for whom it was said, that he was having visions. Certainly, he would read most of the time the Bible, if we did not ridicule him so much. Otherwise he was very good and kind. Two boys in the lower class were so zealous to reach us, that for hours they would learn by heart words from the English dictionary. We were in the whole an interesting family of 400 boys. We lacked neither fun, nor pleasure, even though hungry all the time. As for the teachers, some were absolute nonentities, they knew just a little reading and writing. What to do, when better ones were not available. But we were taught by the three best teachers, who had finished Teachers College or special courses. One of them was Nishan Begian, now pastor of the Armenian Church in New York. He had the best character and dignity. Most often he used to preach to us. He also married a very intelligent woman. The most popular teacher was Levon Bodosian. He had a few classes in the college and had been an officer in the Turkish army. He was a handsome man and used to go out with a beautiful teacher, the head of the girls’ sowing school. He went subsequently to Mexico and became a traveling merchant. The third was a short man Khachadour Khanzadian. We knew that he had had a fiancée in Constantinople, a cook’s daughter, but in Sivas he used to go out with one of the teachers. We used to wonder what would happen at the end, whom he would marry. Eventually he chose his former fiancée, went to America and now has a restaurant somewhere in California. The American managers were of a different type and caliber. Originally all the orphanages with the several departments were under the management of an extraordinary woman, Miss Graffins. Before the war she had been the principal of the Girls’ College in Sivas. When the order of deportation has been sent for her girls also, at first she had rejected. The governor of Sivas Muammer Bey was one of the worst,
a fanatic member of the Ittihad party. He had insisted and had had his way. Then this brave Christian had decided to accompany the girls until their destination. She had gone quite far with them, but she had been forced to return. She had succeeded to save the lives of only a few. Even after the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the USA, this brave woman had refused to leave Turkey and all through the war had helped Armenians as much as she could. The orphanages were put under the charge of this wonderful woman. But soon after she died. All the teachers, including the men, wept over her. Then came a certain Mr. Thurber. He had been teacher in some institution for delinquent children. He was good at heart and intelligent too. But he was a drunkard and that diminished much his value as a manager of an institution where were sheltered about 4000 orphans and hundreds of widows. I have seen him taking the most important decisions in a drunken condition. But he was an able man and in Greece also he continued to be in charge of the Near East Relief (N.E.R.) orphanages. He died prematurely as a result of his drinking. The boys’ department was under the management of a young college graduate William Hawks. He was not brilliant, neither experienced, but was diligent and honest. He was not popular among the teachers, many boys did not like him either. I have appreciated him and have been a defender of his authority. He used to teach us English and science. It was he who, when later was appointed teacher in Anatolia College, arranged my going there. He is my first American benefactor. For some time a remarkable tall woman came also to supervise us. She was very particular for cleanliness and achieved much in that direction. She used to say, that she loved children very much. I think she had worked for some Indian children, who had nicknamed her “Thara-Thana”, which in their language meant “Lover of children”. She wanted us to call her by that name, so we did. After her came a man, who had brought from America his dog also. He used to tell us that it was remarkable with its faithfulness. He very much liked Shish kebab, one of our ways of roasting meats, by stringing pieces on a wire and roasting. When dinner time would approach, he would pick up the funnel of the phonograph and shout: “Shish kebab, Shish kebab!” He stayed very little. The head of the girls’ department was a missionary lady Miss Rice. She, like Miss Graffins, knew perfect Armenian. She was very kind, even goody-goody. She used to teach us religion, but we would only pass the hour in fun making. She wouldn’t see what we were doing. Somebody less religious, but with more authority, could have done more good to us. Part of the day we used to study and then we would go to the workshop to learn a trade. At first I chose carpentry, but there we would only turn the circular saws by hand, since there were no motors. After bearing this some time, I shifted to tailoring. In that I was not among the best, and the masters weren’t very anxious to teach us, but I made quite a progress. But I was best in learning. I was a good student and teachers liked me. Because of my ability to read well I could also write and talk quite well. In every program I would have at least a declamation or a solo song. If a play was given, mine was the girls’ role. For years such roles were being given to me, until at the College in Greece someone else was found with a really female voice and manners and I got rid of that. I had quite a nice voice and my singing was popular. When I reached puberty, I did not know what to do, to continue singing or to refrain for a time. There was no adviser. I decided not to sing. And it has happened to be the wrong choice and in spite of my musical inclinations, I lost my voice. There was a violin in the
orphanage and we would take turns playing on it. I was the best at it, so Mr. Thurber presented me a violin and promised to find me a music teacher. Soon after, the orphanages were moved to Greece. I dragged my violin with me for two years, but having no teacher and being in need of money, I sold it to a friend. My only comfort was that a friend bought it, for I had loved that violin. Among other good ideas, Mr. Thurber had thought of gathering the older boys once in the week in his office for a little nice time. For really, when he was sober, in spite of his age, he was a jolly man and he enjoyed the meetings. Once he asked us to compete in writing an English poem. Among us were also late comers from Konia and Smyrna (Izmir), students in Jenanian College in Konia and so on. I was very impressed by the several verses long poem, composed by an older boy, student at Jenanian College. To my surprise I won the first prize with the following little poem: How sweet it is to see a baby Sitting on his mother’s knee, Looking at her face as sweet and bright As do the stars when it is night. Years later, in better time, God blessed me by fulfilling this childish, but fundamental desire of mine too, by giving me two lovable, intelligent and good children, a girl and a boy. On the whole, I was happy in the orphanage, for all the teachers, including Mr. Hawks and Mr. Thurber, used to like me. I was good in lessons and less in mischief. Only once I have been scolded and once punished. I still remember both occasions, because they are so rare in my life. Once a group of boys were behaving in disorderly manner and I, being present among them, instead of calling them to order, was having fun with them. Mr. Bodasian entered and scolded all sharply and then, turning to me, he said: ”You also, Souren?” Those words still ring in my ears. I was so sorry for displeasing my teacher so much. One of my friends was working in the only printing shop of the city, owned by an Armenian. I was very anxious to see just once how the printing is done. But we were not permitted to go out. Once I was tempted by my friend and went with him. In the evening when we were returning, we saw at the door of the building the same teacher, by whom I passed going out. He asked where we were and I told him the truth. Then with the stick in his hand he gave two blows on my palms, without saying anything more. In my happiness for being in an institution where I could study and progress and be appreciated by my teachers, I felt neither jealousy, nor hatred toward anybody, not even toward the Turks. Once I had taken a group of boys to the river, I was their leader. I saw there a soldier taking care of a lamb. It must have been his officer’s. I approached him and asked him from what village he was. “From Geosman”, he answered. My heart leaped for joy. And yet I was puzzled and disappointed, for I did not know this man. I said: “I know everybody in Geosman, yet I don’t know you. Who are you?” It was his turn to wonder how I was so familiar with his village. I told him briefly about my stay there. I inquired about my master and all my friends. He told me he was a member of one of the refugee families from Kars. He had been away in the army all through the time I had been there. He gave me good news about the people I was interested in. I was really glad for that and sent greetings to all of them. For a long time, we sat and chatted about the village. Outwardly I might have be seemed an exemplary boy, at least my teachers used to consider me so. But inwardly I knew I wasn’t, for with the awakening of
sexual desires, the temptations and the sins of solitude began. The consciousness of sin overweighed me and it became a source of great suffering until my marriage. Being so sensitive in spirit, given to intellectual pursuits, so puritanical in habits, for I would not swear, or smoke, or dance, or divulge myself in any pleasures of youth, being under the influence of missionaries and more or less religious people, one might wonder why I was not religious. In fact I was an atheist. I wasn’t ashamed of calling myself so. One reason perhaps was the fact, that almost all Armenian writers before the war were under the influence of the French Revolution and were skeptics. I was more or less influenced by them. The most important cause for repelling me was that religion wasn’t presented to us in a rational and aesthetic manner. The translation of the Bible in modern Armenian, done by missionaries, had been done badly. Its style has none of the beauty possessed by the ancient translation. I used to wonder why it hasn’t been submitted to some good writers. The speakers in church or chapel exercises were not at the required level either. Some didn’t know enough Armenian, others were sentimental, childish and too fundamentalist. Even though a child, I was very critical toward all speakers. Especially mistakes of style or language used to annoy me. So I used to consider myself an atheist. And yet I loved those qualities in life, which are taught by Jesus. I was His disciple without knowing it. And when I came to realize it, I stuck to him with a force that nothing can shake. For with all my temptations and sins I have been ever striving to attain to that perfection, which Jesus put before us as the goal of life. Since Jesus is also the revealer of God in His fullness, inevitably I would come to believe in Him also, though it took a long time. With the awaking of sexual powers, I had also my first experience of love. It was altogether platonic. It never passed beyond the stage of subjective sentiment, for my reason told me that I could not yet marry and have a family. The girl I loved was one grade lower than me. While we were seated in the assembly hall, the girls would come. My eyes would turn toward the door and be fixed on her. I knew she had to pass by me to go to her seat. A sweet excitement would fill my soul as I would gaze at her face. She would blush under my fixed gaze, give an answering look in return and pass on. That was all I could permit myself. It was the purest, sweetest and most innocent, yet futile type of love. Several times I was tempted to let her know in more objective manner of my love, but my reason did not let me. Why to bind her, since I would leave her. My love was too pure to permit me to play with her. In the meanwhile as we grew in mind and experience, the managers of the orphanage tried to entrust us with some duties. At first my friend and I alone were appointed as distributors of food. There used to be much theft and they needed honest personnel. I undertook my duties with enthusiasm and tried to make it a success. Being both honest and diligent, we did our work so well, that other boys also were entrusted with such duties. Then we two were promoted to be teachers. It was no joke. That was the greatest reward I had ever received in my life, to be teacher at seventeen years of age. We received a separate room for ourselves, separate beds with springs, new and better clothes. We were promoted to eat with the teachers and even received salary. I think all these were due to Mr. Hawks and Mr. Thurber. Although our Armenian teachers couldn’t stop liking us, still somehow they were not pleased at our promotion. Perhaps they felt their dignity lowered a little. But by this time a new influx of refugees from the battlegrounds of the new war between Greeks and Turks – from Smyrna (Izmir), Boursa and Konia, had increased the number of orphans. There were many peasant boys with very little knowledge. New classes had
to be formed. So we were full time teachers with all other duties. I had students older than me. This period of glory lasted only eight months. NEW ADVENTURES AND TRIBULATIONS After a very brief period of peace, in 1921 Turkey again was shaken by war. By the encouragement of the Allies Greece had attempted to occupy the province of Smyrna which historically, as well as ethnologically, was Greek. The Armenian element, which was quite strong and was saved from the massacres of 1915, supported the Greek cause. In the past there might have been conflicts between these two nations, but they were Christians and Armenians are ready to support any Christian nation, especially against Muslim Turkey. The central Turkish government could do nothing against Greece, because Constantinople was occupied by the Allies. Mustafa Kemal, a general in the Turkish army, revolted against the central government and organized patriotic Turks to resist the Greek encroachment. Undoubtedly he was a courageous patriot and eventually saved Turkey from further partition. He succeeded to make the Turks, exhausted by the past war, fight again. This much can be said in credit to this man, because otherwise he also was a bloody Turk and immoral in character. The difference between him and Talaat is in degree, not in kind. Talaat, Enver and company were also patriots for Turkey and if they were to win, they also might introduce reforms - that is an Ittihad notion. We must remember that the greatest reformatory act in Turkey was the establishment of constitutional government and it was done by this party. That did not prevent it seven years later to commit the greatest crime in history, the mass murder of a million and a half unarmed Armenian people. Hence the conclusion, that Kemal shouldn’t be considered a man of different type from Talaat. He simply succeeded in his main task and got the glory. Mustafa Kemal’s success undoubtedly was due to his courage and foresight. But external events also helped him greatly. The Caucasus then was very weak, because the newly founded republic of Azerbaijan was anxious to join hands with Turkey over the corpses of Armenians. Their fear of Russian power was great. Georgians, who being Christian, ought to have been with Armenians, were following an opportunistic policy. They preferred to be in good relations with Turkey, so that they might keep their shadowy independence. They too mistrusted Russia. Armenians alone were no match for Turks and after heroic resistance at least saved the greater part of the newly founded Republic of Armenia by making peace with Turkey. Russia was torn in internal strife and could not attend to Caucasian affairs. Their sympathy was with Kemal, because the Greeks were for them tools in the hands of imperialistic western powers and Kemal’s movement could be trusted and made to appear as a struggle against imperialism. So Soviet Russia encouraged Kemal in words, if not much by action. On the other hand, the two other great Allies, France and England, were pursuing different policies. France had tried at first to dominate the Near East at the expense of the British. When they were balked in this and other plans by the British, they got cross and began to give up one by one their trophies. The Greeks were advancing with the encouragement of the British. The French began to support Kemal. In a very short time they decided to evacuate Cilicia and thereby exposed the Armenian remnants of the 1915 massacres, which were concentrated there, to the Turkish fury, because they had welcomed and assisted the British and the French.
The Armenians in Hadjin offered a heroic resistance, but fell. The Armenian population of Cilicia had to flee to Greece or Syria. Moreover, France began to supply Kemal with arms and ammunitions. With greater men power, strengthened by French help, Russian neutrality and British inactivity, Kemal finally succeeded in driving the Greeks into the sea. The disaster was very great. The advancing Turkish army, full of vengeance, spared no Christians on their way, Greeks or Armenians. The beautiful city of Smyrna was robbed and burnt. Part of the Christian population succeeded to escape to Greece, leaving all their property. The battleships of the Allies only photographed the scenes. They had no orders to intervene and save the lives of those unhappy people. Western nations seldom have been ruled by real Christians, hence Christian and moral motives have been the last in their minds. One of the immediate terms of the armistice in October 1922 was the exchange of population. All Greeks and Armenians, if they wished, could leave Turkey. In their place Turks from Greece had to immigrate to Turkey. Each government head to compensate for the lost property of each nation. To diplomats, sitting at round tables, this might look like a happy solution. Had they come that winter to Turkey and traveled on the highway between Sivas and Samsoun, they might have seen how much suffering and loss this arrangement caused. Two thirds of the Greeks leaving Turkey were poor peasants without means of transportation. And thousands of them, in the midst of winter, were walking actually barefoot and poorly dressed, in mud and snow, with a bag on their backs, on a journey to the sea, which even for horse carts continued for eleven days. How many died on the way or afterwards, only God knows. I only record as an eyewitness what I saw. With the flight of the Christian population, all American orphanages also had to be transported to Syria or Greece, since the orphans were almost entirely Armenians and Greeks. At the conference in Lausanne in the summer of 1923 a new treaty was drawn between the Allied powers and Turkey, which annulled the treaty of Sever. The greatest blow was once again against Armenians and Greeks. In the former treaty, thanks to the efforts of President Wilson, it was considered necessary to attach the former Armenian provinces in Turkey to the newly created Armenia in the Caucasus. The fact, that the Armenian majority in those provinces was exterminated in 1915 did not give Turkey the moral right to keep them. So reasoned the moralist Wilson and drew a boundary for Armenia that seemed to most Armenians satisfactory. The question remained who would assist Armenians to get back their lands. For without assistance at the beginning Armenians could not keep those provinces. Within a decade or two when the Armenians in dispersion also gathered there, the new state might become strong enough and stand on its own feet. Now no great power was willing to give this initial help. The committee which was sent to study the matter gave an unfavorable report. Then the already remained only on paper treaty of Sever was torn to pieces. A new treaty was drawn, in which absolutely no compensations were considered for Armenians. The Greeks after all did not suffer as badly as might be expected for a defeated power. British interests demanded a strong Greece and so it happened. It is to the credit of the USA, that its Senate was the last to ratify the treaty of Lausanne, and that after bitter struggles. Turkish propaganda was spending lots of money and ink to win the American public for an unjust cause, to sacrifice Armenians for the sake of Turks. The Christian conscience of the majority of Americans couldnâ€™t
do that, the memory of the horrible massacres of 1915 was too fresh yet in their minds. Then at this critical moment came forward a certain admiral Chester of the USA navy. He became the spokesman of those businessmen, who wanted to get the concession for building a railway from Sivas to Samsoun. The American company, headed by Chester, never managed to get the concession, but instead it did lots of good to the Turkish cause, for the Senate eventually ratified the treaty of Lausanne, which put an inglorious end to the Armenian question for many years ahead. Once again it was proven, that economic interests are stronger than moral feelings of righteousness and justice. Perhaps that is so because champions of moralizing are often not led by purely moral motives, but hypocritically disguise their selfish motives. Hence as soon as those secret motives are satisfied, moral compromises follow as well. The really moral man has only two roads, victory or the Cross, which ultimately is again victory, trough willingly vicarious suffering. No man is moral, who yields to evil, bows knees before Baal. Economics and politics having won victory over morality, we the remnants of the 1915 massacres, together with thousands of Greeks, had to pass trough new tribulations. Right after the armistice most of our Armenian teachers fled to Constantinople. Two more classmates were promoted to be teachers and our responsibilities were enlarged. Sivas is nearer to Black sea and it was decided that we will travel to the nearest port Samsoun. On the map it doesn’t look very far, but our journey had to be made in midwinter and we had to climb the high Pontus Mountains in horse carts. So it took us eleven days. The whole orphanage with the various departments, about 4000 orphans, a few hundreds widows and personnel, had to be transported in four caravans. Mr. Turber, even though he never left off his drinking, managed things quite well. Weeks in advance kitchens were established at every city, village or wayside inn, where the caravans had to stop for the night’s rest. From the new friendly governor of Sivas he secured arms for the drivers, paid 80 Turkish pounds for each cart, which was a generous sum, and the journey began. Most of the available men were to accompany the girls. The boys were left in the charge of four or five of us. My friends managed to go with the first caravan of boys. I with a few other elder boys as helpers remained with the second caravan. After us would come one more caravan of girls. In our caravan there were also a few artisans who were working in the orphanage workshop. They used to deal mostly with the drivers, for after all I would be considered a child, but I would make the arrangements for the welfare of the orphans in our group. I had to see that no carts remain too much behind, at every station I had to assign places for each group, distribute the food, wake them up in the morning and after they had taken their places in the carts count them lest anybody would remain behind. On the third or fourth day of our journey we spent the night in an inn. Early in the morning as usual I awakened the boys. They rushed to the near brook for a hasty wash of hands and faces and I distributed the breakfast. That also finished, I went to examine each cart. Every group leader reported “all in”, except one. A crippled boy, older than me, was missing. He was lame with one foot, one of his hands was limp and one of his eyes was blind. He was not such a weakling, but still he was a cripple. Several checking and rechecking, searching in all corners of the inn remained fruitless. The drivers began to protest, the horses were freezing and they wanted to start. So reluctantly I let them start. Usually, unless the roads were very muddy, I used to walk. Like that I could watch the carts better, and walking always stimulates me to think. Almost everything I
have written was born in my mind during walks. That day I began to walk from early morning, for I had to try to rationalize and comfort myself for this loss. For though after us there would follow one more caravan, I still felt bad for the poor fellow and for the shame it would bring to me. Toward noon the caravan was winding down a mountain. I with a few other friends took a shortcut and reached an inn before the carts. And there at the gate of the inn was sitting the missing boy, for whom I had been worrying for hours. We could hardly believe our eyes. How could he be there before us? Soon we solved the mystery. Knowing his weak state, the poor fellow was always most alert in following orders. Early in the morning by the order to get up he had been the first to rush out to wash himself. Just as he had been on the road, he had seen a cart fast disappearing from his sight. Having nobody nearby to ask, he had thought that it was the last cart of our caravan departing. So he had started after it. He had noticed that the cart was going unusually fast, but that had increased his fears even more. Perhaps the others had gone much earlier and this one was hurrying to catch up with them. So he had hurried after it. Not long after, he had lost sight of that cart altogether. But he had continued his journey as much as his lame feet could carry him. At this inn for the first time he had asked about how long ago the caravan had passed. The inn keeper had told him that no caravan had passed yet, but he expected them toward noon. “But what cart passed from here before me?” he had asked. “No other cart except the post-cart”, had been the answer. The inn keeper had persuaded him to wait there. Great was the amazement and excitement, when one by one the carts arrived and found us with the missing boy. That was an unforgettable day for all, but especially for me. On the eleventh or twelfth day we reached Samsoun. We were all seeing the sea for the first time in our lives. It opened new horizons of fears and hopes before us. We were glad that the hardest part of our journey was already done, and the sea being flat and smooth, the rest would be smooth too. But in that we were terribly mistaken, although we had no choice. In Samsoun were gathered orphans from Sivas, Tokat, Amasia and Marsouvan. When we arrived, one party with our first group of boys also had already gone. While we were there, a second group also was loaded. I had freedom to go around and I had gone to watch the embarking. I saw the girl whom I had loved in Sivas. She was from Tokat, had gone to her mother and now they were embarking on the ship. Our eyes met to remind us of the sweet platonic love days. But I refrained from going near, I was too shy. And what was the use of telling her about my love when my future was so uncertain. I never saw her again. After a week or so an Italian cargo ship arrived for us. We were herded in the barns, crowded on the decks, wherever we could find place. Then the vessel started its course. The sea was terribly rough and the ship was rocked terribly. The Black Sea is usually stormy, maybe that’s the reason why it’s called “black”, a synonym of misfortune. We all got sea sick. How we longed for the snowy Pontus Mountains we had just crossed, its muddy roads, the shaking carts. From all that there was some relief, but from this constant shaking and rocking we could find no relief. A modern liner crosses the Atlantic Ocean in five or six days. We crossed the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea for about two weeks. We passed the Bosphorus in fog, so we couldn’t see the majestic beauty of Constantinople. At last we landed on the shores of the island Aedipsus, which lies east of the Greek peninsula. The spot chosen for debarkation was a village with mineral baths and many hotels, which were at the disposal of the N.E.R. authorities. There were no less than six thousand orphans,
Greeks and Armenians, mostly from the cities mentioned above, but a large number from Constantinople as well. As soon as we disembarked I gathered the Sivas orphans on one side and waited for arrangements. Our clothes had to be changed and we all had to be bathed first. Somebody came to give the orders. He ignored me. I didnâ€™t mind it. But when he treated me also as a common orphan I protested mildly. He answered very rudely and reported the matter to the dictator of the island, an ex-officer Garabed Khanigian. He came in a fury and without any inquiry or questioning ordered me to go wherever I wanted, since I disobeyed the orders. That was one of the darkest days in my life. I, a helpless orphan, who had done so much for this group of boys, who from a simple orphan had been promoted to be a teacher, although on the journey I received no pay, had to suddenly find my self an outcast, an undesirable person. And all this happened for a small offence, if it was an offence at all. To go, but where? I knew no Greek language yet, had no friends there, no relatives, I knew no places. If I had the smallest possibility, I would have left right away. I balanced the alternatives of humiliation and remaining hungry and chose the former. I stayed on the island. I left to him the responsibility of sending me away by force. He did not resort to such measures. I was only ignored. Probably my name did not figure in any list. I was not given any clothes. I went to the dining room with the rest and got food probably because there was no way of checking who goes in or out, and other teachers did not share the unreasonable hatred of Khanigian toward me. Being with my former clothes I was all the time conspicuous and under the supervision of all teachers. Partly because I cannot stay idle, partly in order to win sympathy, I volunteered to work in the storeroom and did physical work, while some of my former comrades were doing the written work. Although I was left unmolested, I could still notice that I could not bring any change in the dictatorâ€™s mind. There was a reign of terror on this island, from which more and more orphans suffered and I became a hero in their eyes. Bigger boys, from Marsouvan especially, began to approach me and pour out their rage against this tyranny, of which I was just the first victim. Tanks to such friends I got clothes also and wherever I went there was a group around me, former and recent friends. The head of the orphanage was an American woman Miss Cushman, a former missionary. During the Great War, it was said, she had been of help to Armenians, who were being deported, for which she had received public acknowledgment. At the end of the war she had been appointed the director of one of the orphanages in Constantinople, and certainly her orphans looked much better in every aspect. But she was very partial to them. She was treating them differently. The rest of us were foster sons, although her former orphans were at most a hundred in an orphanage of six thousand. In addition to those one hundred children she also had a dog and four girls. Most of her attention was directed toward the welfare of the dog, for whose proper care she had assigned four pretty girls, all well fed and dressed. These girls were also attending her and eating from her food. All those were objects of fun among the boys, and aroused great indignation. As soon as the girls would appear with the dog or with Miss Cushman, a short fat woman, who never smiled, a stream of revilement and cynical remarks would flow from hundreds of mouths. In the past she might have been liked by Armenians, but now she was certainly hated. Under her were two lieutenants, Mr. Khanigian and a certain Miss Sultan. Outwardly they all matched each other, except in one point, Miss Cushman was very fat. All were short, small in body, and in spirit, and to make up for that smallness, they had increased their fury. There was suspicion about misuse for personal favor also.
Eventually Miss Cushman had established a farm in Corinth. Khanigian and Miss Sultan had married and inherited that farm. Miss Sultan used to go around with a whip hanging on her belt, and she would generously use it. The more they tried to terrorize the orphans, the more they antagonized them. I had more authority than either one of them. Not only were they mad with hatred, but they also influenced the other teachers. They had to behave like them, or they might loose their job. In spite of this, they could not cope with the situation and put order in the orphanage. They turned for help to the boys from Constantinople. But they were no match to us in enterprise and only became objects of ridicule. In the meanwhile the orphans from Sivas began to show their abilities. It proved a fact that we have been devoted to serious study, devoid of pleasures and entertainments which the orphans in Constantinople had enjoyed. At the suggestion of the administration of the orphanage, a literary program had to be offered. Of course the boys drew me in as well. We decided to perform a play in which one of the leading roles was mine. When the program was given, Mr. Khanigian was on the first row and surely had seen me. I don’t know what he had thought about me, but his attitude was not much changed toward me. Perhaps this and other cultural activities drove the administration to the conclusion, that the problem of discipline may be solved by providing mental and physical activities for the children. One of our best teachers in Sivas, Nishan Begian, who had first run away to Constantinople, hadn’t right away started for the USA. So he was sent to Aedipsus for the cultural management of our orphanage. He began to make plans for daily outdoor school hours. Two or three hours’ occupation with mental work would have its beneficial effect. But there were not enough teachers. Having the experience of our orphanage in mind, he began to approach capable students to be teachers. Without knowing what the other managers thought for me, he asked me also. In the meanwhile it was known that by early spring all orphans above fifteen years of age would be sent to Cavalla, where they would be helped to gain economic independence. The appointed teachers had to remain with the younger ones. I was glad for the offer to be a teacher, for it would give me a chance to prove again my abilities and put to shame those, who had humiliated me so long and so unjustly. On the other hand, partly because I was hurt too much, and also because the urge for learning a trade, or as our people say “to acquire a golden bracelet”, was very strong in me, after some deliberation I refused the offer. I would have to face a hard life, but at least I would move toward independence and freedom. So I joined those, who would go to Cavalla. I was the only one from my class. The others were from lower grades, but among them I also had several friends.
IN QUEST OF INDEPENDENCE Early in the spring all the orphans above 15 years of age were separated to go to Cavalla. The remaining ones were moved to Corinth. When we arrived in Cavalla there was no special welcome for us. We were herded into big tobacco stores on the sea shore and left to our lot. Only food was given to us. After a week or so came the order to start for the village Chataldja. It is about a mile north of the historic city Philippi, where Apostle Paul handed after crossing to Macedonia. Only the ruins of the city exist nowadays. Our going was in disorder, because there was no one to lead
us. Only carts were provided for our baggage. When we arrived in Chataldja, we were led to a half finished school building, which had no floors yet, only four walls and a roof, not even windows. There was no place for us to spread our beds. A few of us returned to Cavalla and arranged for getting boards to put on the floor. We got that quite promptly. Here in Chatalja were gathered boys not only from the orphanage in Aedipsus, but also from Corfu, where were concentrated the orphans from Constantinople. Here I met my cousin, whom I had not seen since 1915. He and his sister had been saved by a Turkish friend of my grandfather. His sister was in the orphanage in Sivas, and now in Cavalla with the rest of the girls. He was a shy and gloomy boy and we did not continue the intimacy we had in our childhood. Our number was growing day by day, but there was just one man to manage this temporary orphanage. He was from Sivas, a good man, but without any special education. He was called Pepe Artin. The first was a nickname, which means stammer. When he used do get annoyed, he could hardly talk. The work was too heavy for him. Idle boys would run away and fall in mischief. In desperation he turned for help to us, the boys from Sivas. We divided the work among us, some in the store, some in the kitchen, while I was in the committee for keeping order. We drew rules, posted on the walls. But the result was not encouraging. We also wasted nerves together with our leader. Our destiny had soon to be settled, everybody had to have some employment, although we couldn’t see where it would be for so many people. At this period, when we were orphans for a second time, for the first time in my life I spontaneously became conscious of the existence of a Heavenly Father, who had been guiding my destiny. Once more forsaken by men, I threw myself in His hands. Not that I was unhappy or frightened from the uncertain prospect before me. On the contrary, I was happy for the new beginning, that I got rid of Aedipsus and that with God’s help this time I would start a new independent life. So every evening as I lay in my bed, I would repeat the Lord’s Prayer, dwelling at the meaning of each phrase. At last two Greek young men came from the N.E.R. office in Cavalla and the work of setting the orphans in business began. Every day some boys were given to Greek peasants to work in their tobacco fields. The contracts were made by the representatives of the N.E.R. As days went by, we noticed that nobody was put in any other job. Whereas many of us had hoped to have a chance to learn some trade as well. When we expressed our disappointment to the clerks, they threw the responsibility on Mr. Meaffee, the American manager in Cavalla. After long debating and arguing it was decided that a delegation had to go to discuss the matter with Mr. Meaffee himself. The trouble was that none of us spoke English fluently. So we would be at a disadvantage, but just the same we made the venture. We started that very night, that by easy walking by morning we may be in Cavalla and settle this matter as soon as possible. When we reached Philippi we were quite tired and sleepy and wanted to spend there the rest of the night and start early in the morning. We chose the ruins of a once prominent building and lay by the walls. But we couldn’t sleep, for an alarming number of mosquitoes, of which we had no idea, began to attack us. The whole night we struggled against them with more or less success. Early in the morning we started for Cavalla. We found Mr. Meaffee in his office. I was the spokesman of the group and the others from time to time helped me with ideas. I told him bluntly that we were deceived. We were promised to be put in various jobs, in fact I had personally talked about this with Mr. Davis, who had come
to Aedipsus to announce about the project. Whereas in reality we were being given only to peasants who raised tobacco. We thought that considering the education we had received in the orphanage, we should have a better choice. Mr.Meaffee was a patient, yet resolute man. He had realized that the only paying job available was working in tobacco fields. He had no time or mood to consider the likes or dislikes of a few individuals. He was not rude with us, but made us understand, that if we were displeased, we could go wherever we wished. We took up the challenge and declared, that thence we wanted nothing more from the N.E.R. We left his office in righteous indignation. We went back to Chataldja, packed our baggage and returned to the city the same day. We were provided with a few days’ food for a start. I had also a little money, all I had saved from my eight months’ salary in Sivas, and half a Turkish pound, the prize I had received for the poem. At that time some Armenian leaders had been aware of our bad situation and had made it known to the Armenian public all over the world. The leaders of the small Armenian community were kind enough to allow us temporarily to sleep in the one room school building they had just finished. We were about sixteen boys, mostly from Sivas and a few from Constantinople. After getting settled there we began to look for work. Most of us managed that also, though on very unfavorable terms. Somebody told me of an Armenian candy maker, who had been looking for an apprentice. I went to see hem. He told me, that he will feed me, give lodging and teach the trade, but would not pay money, except occasional gifts. I was under necessity and accepted. He had a woman living with him. They would say they were married, but I had my doubts. He was from Constantinople. The first unfavorable impression he made upon me was the fact, that this Armenian man was utterly ignorant about the Armenian massacres. How selfish he must have been, not to be interested in the lot of his compatriots, when even in distant America good Christian people were interested in us. And yet he was clever enough to know three languages, Armenian, Turkish and Greek. Then I discovered that he was a great cheat also. Two of my friends, for lack of other suitable jobs, had started to sell candy. They asked me if they could get candy from my master at a slightly cheaper price. I told them to try. Surely, if I introduced them as my friends, he would make some reduction. What was my surprise, when this cheat actually had charged them more “for the sake of being friends of Souren”! Needless to say, that same evening I told my friends about it. He was not making a great variety of candies, so very soon I learned the techniques of making them. But how he was starting the dough, what he was putting in the pounded sugar to make them stick, that he was keeping in secret. No matter what I did, I could not discover it. He was beginning the preparation in his bedroom upstairs, where I had no access. He was bringing me a ready jelly. After I had learned all the technical work for a few weeks and he still hid the secret from me, I found it useless to stay with him any longer. I went back to my friends. It was quite hard to bear the disappointment. Having access to some communist literature, at this time we began to think of social problems, of the exploitation of workers by employers, of which I had my first hand experience. Soon however I took my revenge on my master. My two friends had moved to Drama and were continuing their business of candy selling. They wanted me to buy for them some candy and to send it to them. I went to my former master. While he went to fill the paper bags, I noticed on the table some strange things, which I had never seen before. I guessed that those shapeless wood-like things were the secret
material for the candies. Turning my back to the table, I picked a few pieces and put them in my pocket. The next problem was to find out what they were. I went from one grocery shop to another, asking what those things were. A man told me they are called “kitre”. He had of it and I bought a little. And the grand experiment began. All my friends were interested in it. I soaked the material in water. Within a few hours it turned into the familiar jelly. I added the necessary pounded sugar and the dough was ready. The experiment was successful. Within a few months my friends were also making of the same candy and my master was obliged to move to Athens. After I had left the candy business, for a few days I remained idle and worried about what to do next. Then one day a friend who was working at a blacksmiths’ come and told me about a proposal. A man, who has seen him and liked his work, has said: “Is there anyone among your friends who knows carpentry? I would like to employ him.” None of us had worked in a carpenters’ shop. In the orphanage I had been in the carpenters’ department, but in reality we had only taken turns in turning the handle of the saw and I had hammered a few nails. I thought that I could at least plane a board and saw and legally I had right to say that I have done a little carpentry. So I went to the man, who though a Greek, knew Turkish. I offered myself. The man said I might stay and work until Saturday, it must have been Thursday. He seldom stayed in the shop and did not examine my abilities personally, but told his other employees to give me a try. An unsympathetic young man gave me a board in order to saw a piece lengthwise with an oriental narrow saw, which cuts fast, but as I learned subsequently, is very hard to manipulate. Needless to tell I could not make the saw follow the line. No matter what I did, it would go winding right or left. I was soaked in perspiration, not from labor, but from shame and consternation. I had been discovered. Fortunately I was not turned out right away. I was given other work as well, especially odd and dirty jobs like tidying, sweeping, bringing lumber, etc. I did everything humbly and willingly, waiting anxiously what the master will say on Saturday evening. At last the critical moment arrived. All the masters and apprentices entered his office one by one, got their pay and went away. I remained last and entered in despondently. “I see that you don’t know any carpentry”, said the master in a sympathizing tone, “you did not tell me the truth”, he added. “Yes, I have worked very little” I answered blushing from shame and despair. “Never mind that”, continued the man, “but I see you are a diligent boy and want to learn the trade. So I am willing to employ you with 12 drachmas a day. Do you agree?” I could not believe my ears. I had friends who were working for six drachmas a day. I thanked him very much and quickly agreed. Fall came and schools had to be opened. The chairman of the trustee warned us that we have to evacuate the building. But where to go? With so little earning how to pay rent as well? Why our nation’s leaders shouldn’t provide us with dwelling, we thought, and we politely told them so. Time past, the warning was repeated and they did nothing for us. So we ignored them and went on staying there. One evening when we returned, we found the door locked and the windows nailed. But our baggage was in. Probably they wanted us to go and beg them. When I came, some had already returned and were puzzled what to do. I went back to our shop, got a few tools and opened one of the windows. We all got in and slept as
usual. That night we arranged to take turns to stay on duty. That also didn’t work. The men began to appeal to our reason and patriotism. Until when were we going to hinder them from opening the school? They advised us to go to Mr. Meaffee and ask for a sleeping place. They were sure he would do that, after all we were ex-orphans. But we had quarreled with him and did not want to humiliate ourselves. The next day they told us that they had found a place for us. A group of us went to examine it. It was a big abandoned tobacco store, smelly and dirty. We would by no means enter there. So they were obliged to go to Mr. Meaffee themselves. He had promised them to get a tent for us from the military authorities. The news was brought to us, that we might go and get it. “We have no idea how to fix a tent”, we answered. “If you are going to do some service, do it perfectly. Have it also set somewhere.” The men were obliged to do that also. One evening when we returned from work, we found a tent set up a little beyond the school on a small vacant lot, where on market days donkeys used to be tied. The place had been swept, but the manures were all around. It was an unhygienic place. We could by no means live there. But we had no more right to make new demands. We decided the next day not to go to work. We had seen how the tent was set up. We would move it to a better place. The next day, after hastily exploring the surroundings, we found on a little hillock a quiet sheltered place and set up our tent there. We used to sleep there and sometimes even cook food, and we were quite contented. Then, one by one, we fall victims to that terrible sickness of malaria. With poor food, without any quinine and medical treatment, we were in deplorable condition. We would hardly get well a little and go to work, and the fever would return. One day we read in the news papers that Anatolia College, formerly in Marsouvan, was now moved to Salonica. The whole day I was thinking about the lucky young men, who would study there. We were doing repairs in a house and I had to carry a new door for that house. On the way I stopped a little for rest. Suddenly a deep yearning came in my mind to study more, to get high education. But I soon dismissed it. How could I ever hope for such a thing? Malaria was troubling me more and more. Already I was getting very poor nourishment. I was hungry most of the time. My master had a motor and among others things in his workshop he also had a mill. Occasionally a peasant would bring some corn or wheat to grind. My master usually would put me to that work. I would eat of the raw grain, fortunately my teeth were very good. I was diligent, never refused any work – it was not in my nature. I had at least one wound on each finger. After an unusually long attack of malaria, hardly recuperated a little, I returned to work, because I needed the money. I thought my superior would be humane enough to give me some lighter work. Hardly had I stayed half an hour in the shop, when one of the young men told me to carry a bag of charcoal to my master’s home. I couldn’t refuse it. I had never said no to anything till then. I took the bag on my back and started. But I was very weak. Hardly had I gone a hundred steps, I felt the need of resting. I was forced at short intervals to stop and rest. Then I realized that I have fever again. By the time I reached the home I was in miserable condition. I left the bag and went directly to our tent and lied down. This was too much. I couldn’t bear so much cruelty. I decided not to go any more to that shop. A few days earlier, while I was working somewhere, a man had been watching me and came to me. He had been a carpenter himself. We talked, he understood that I am an ex orphan. He told me that he would be glad if I could find a boy for him as well. He told me where his shop was. I told this to my friends, but no one knew any
carpentry and all had some employment. Now I remembered this man. As soon as the fever passed, I went to ask for employment. He recognized me and was willing to employ me. He pointed out that in his shop I would learn more because they were making finer things. I agreed to it. Therefore, he said, he would pay me eight drachmas a day. A loaf of bread was about four drachmas. So, only four drachmas would remain for all other things. A pound of figs would cost four drachmas and practically my diet was bread with figs every day. But I had no other alternative and remained with him. Nevertheless, I wasn’t unhappy, for I was learning the trade more than in the former place. In the evening in the tent we gathered a jolly company. My master had two pretty girls. I pretended to choose one for myself and now and then I would reward one of my friends with the other one. If we had nothing else to laugh about, the talk might be turned toward my master’s pretty daughters, whom no one else had seen, but were enchanted by the interesting stories I would tell them, mostly imaginary, and we had much fun. I still had my violin with me and could play some tune that I knew. We would sing all the songs we knew, Armenian, Turkish and occasionally even English and Greek and have merry time almost every night. Twelve boys, half fed, victims of malaria, living in a tent, but still happy, because we were young and lived with hope and faith. Winter came, but we still were in the tent. Winters in Cavalla are mild. There is no snow, it only rains and sometimes blows a chilly wind. But compared to the winters we had been accustomed to in Turkey, this would seem to us like spring or fall. We didn’t feel the need of coats and winter clothes, we were wearing short pants. But even if we had needed, we could not have them. Fortunately we all had good American shoes. One December evening it was particularly cold with a strong chilly wind blowing. As I was hurrying home I picked up several pieces of wood to feed our fire, which would be welcome that night more than any time before. But when I approached our tent, what did I see? It was lying flat on the ground and one of the boys was staying by it despondently. The wind was getting stronger and we had to set the tent up before the night fall. But we had to wait for the others as well. When all arrived, we decided wind or no wind, to set it up. Four strong boys had to hold up the posts, the rest had to pull the strings. The four could not lift the posts, so we all joined them. After we straighten them, they might be able to hold them standing. But again and again they couldn’t do it, for the wind was too strong. We became obstinate and held up the posts, while the angry wind began to blow even stronger. Then a crash and one of the posts broke in two! That settled the issue, the wind had won. By that time darkness also had fallen and there was no time to repair the post. How and where to sleep that night? We decided not to sleep. We made a fire, put a kettle of water to boil and made tea. While drinking it we would talk and sing to chase away sleep. I don’t know how long we kept like that. We got sleepy. We cuddled very close to each other, spread the heavy tent over us and slept until the morning. The next day we all got permission from our masters not to go to work that day. I brought some tools and repaired the posts. But we decided to change our quarters. For the warmer seasons this place was breezy and cool, but for the winter we needed a sheltered place. So, after a careful survey we found a place by the seashore and set up our tent. The place was a little damp, so we put some stones, stretched some wood over them and with ropes wove some kind of beds and settled once again in our home.
One day, while I was at work, a friend brought me a letter. It had been addressed to me through the N.E.R. office. I looked for the address of the sender. It was from Mr. Hawks, the director of our orphanage in Sivas. We used to correspond with him while he was in America, but for a long time I hadnâ€™t heard from him. I opened the letter and red it. He had been invited as a teacher in the newly started Anatolia College. He had arranged with Dr. White, the president, that I may be accepted as a student. I could go immediately. Oh, my joy that day! That was one of the happiest days in my life. God heard my silent prayer and answered it!
THE SEARCH OF AN IDEAL
A REFUGEE COLLEGE The College where I was going had just been opened. The name was old, but everything had to start from the beginning. As the president used to say, the college had just “a bell, a few books and a few boys” to start with. The college did not have a proper building. A dancing hall had been bought at Charilaus, quite a nice place. Boarding students were quartered in abandoned barracks, built by the Allies during the war. It was a real refugee college. But it made no difference, at least to me. I had gone there to get an education and did not care about the external settings. I believe most students felt so too. American schools have great prestige in the Near East. Hence within a short time the college had a full capacity enrolment. When I arrived it was the beginning of the winter. Schools had started long before. Most of the students were orphans like me. The Armenians at the beginning dominated in number. Then gradually Greek students began to pour in. The first year the enrolment had reached nearly 160. In subsequent years the college could not accept all applicants. After my arrival for some time the dining hall was not organized. We used to dine at restaurants in Charilaus, operated by Russian refugees. Dr. White, the president, used to patronize them. He used to invite them to give us concerts. Never again in my life I have hard such beautiful singing, as what these bearded men and frail women used to sing. After that I used to consider the Russians as the most musical nation, and the British and in some degree the Americans, except the Negroes, as the least musical. One of the reasons why I got disappointed by the Bolshevik regime was the fact, that the Red Army, during the occupation of the Balkans in 1944, couldn’t produce music half as beautiful. The Bulgarians have better music. At the entrance examination I was told that in knowledge of most subjects I was fitted to be in the highest class (grade). But my English was poor. There was the alternative before me either to go ahead with my poor English and compete with stronger and better prepared boys, or sit in a class in which the subject matter would be too easy and uninteresting for me. I chose the first. In general my teachers, especially my English one, an inexperienced young Englishman, had little sympathy toward me. I received no grace. I had to fight hard to reach the first ranks, to which I had got used in the orphanage. Being an orphan, I of course couldn’t pay any fee. Mr. Hawks had found from somewhere a small scholarship for me, but I received no money. Books and other utensils were given freely. I had some money, saved from the orphanage as a teacher that I had not touched even though hungry. Now I would spend it for very urgent needs. I have never gone to a sweetshop nor have I drunk lemonade. All my clothing I used to get from a Near East Relief store, where clothing was being distributed to the Greek refugees. In general I am very careful with clothing and tried to preserve it. But certainly I could never look as tidy and handsome as most of the other boys, who came from homes or were richer than me. And since most Americans are after good looks, I used to get little attention from them. In the classrooms, I suppose, they could realize that I did not have an empty head, but very few of them were capable to judge a man for his inner worth. The majority were after singing, dancing, playing and naturally had no liking for a boy, who was not accomplished in any one of these. Only once I tried to learn dancing, but it looked so foolish and frivolous. I have never learned to dance. Only after 1944 I have danced
our Shabin Karahissar folk dances, but it was to popularize them. Actually I used to teach the words and the music, and a friend, expert dancer, adjusted the steps and movements. I don’t know any other dances, except those of my childhood, which my parents used to dance. And I danced them for patriotic reason, not for sexual pleasure. Since I was receiving free education, I had to do some work at the school. At first it was my duty to sweep two rooms in the morning. Using boards, the hall had been partitioned into classrooms all around. The center remained a hall. Mr. Hawks was appointed as librarian, to start a new library, with most of the books being his personal ones. Naturally he took me as his assistant. He told me that we must arrange the books. I looked at the books, they seemed so few and the job so easy. I wondered why I should wait for him to tell me when and what to do. So I put the books on the shelves, arranging them according to size, height and as far as possible, matching their colors. You can imagine my disappointment when I received no praise for my diligence. Mr. Hawks did not ridicule me or scold me. I was sensitive and I felt so badly for exposing my ignorance. I didn’t remain long in these employments. One of the barracks was fitted into a carpentry workshop with the necessary tools. Two boys who knew carpentry had been invited to the college. But they needed assistants to start the heavy work of furnishing the college with benches, blackboards, etc. Anyone who knew carpentry or wished to learn was accepted. I too volunteered. Some of the helpers were my personal friends. They all looked to do the simplest and easiest work, without any desire to advance. Whereas I realized, that here was an opportunity for me to learn a useful trade also, or as Armenians say, “to put a golden bracelet on my wrist”. So I tried to learn. Whatever job was given to me, I tried to do it. The result was, that during my last year at the school I was the head of the carpenter shop. Since than I have had very little use of it, except at home, but I think it was worth learning. With my ambition to be on the first line with my studies and working three hours every day, I had almost no time to play. Often I had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to study my lessons. Our dormitories were far from the school building. In winter especially, I used to shiver much on the way with the cold Vardar River’s wind piercing my body. I had no overcoat. I could afford it about three years later in Athens. My greatest handicap in the college was malaria. It was so deeply rooted in me that hardly a week would pass without any fever. Often I would be sent to the college hospital. But once or twice I was sent also to the larger American hospital. Naturally, after each recuperation, I had a hard time to catch up with my lessons. In all, except mathematics, it was easy. But as I was too proud to ask my classmates or teachers for aid, I had to work very hard indeed. One day, after recuperation from a long stay at the hospital, by a door Dr. White caught hold of my shoulders, shook me a little and said: “Listen Vetsigian, we don’t want you to be sick so often”. As he left me go away, I felt very much hurt. What did he mean? Did I get sick by my own will? What could I do against these malarial microbes? Why was he so unkind? But after all he was an American! And Americans, although in many respects superior to us, are queer fellows. We used to laugh at their curious manners, especially their hospitality. We had heard, for instance, that when they had guests, before their leaving they would present to them a bill of expenses. There was no end of jokes about them. So I attributed this also to the queer manners.
But soon I began to realize, that this capitalistic minded teacher-preacher was calculating the losses from my absence from work at the shop. Surely he did not care about my lessons. I began to be afraid of losing my scholarship for the next year. Something had to be done. This queer Americans know how to be generous, but can do also evil without mercy. I began to follow the symptoms of the fever. It would attack in certain stages. First my back would hurt, next I would have difficulty in breathing, then the shivering and temperature. There was only one ring in this chain that I could control – the breathing. If my lungs did not get in automatically the necessary amount of oxygen, I could force in the air. So, as soon as this difficulty would appear, I would leave all work, go out in the yard and do exercises in deep breathing. I would continue it until I felt enough air in my lungs. Than with faith, that I have averted the fever, I would go back to my work. And, believe it or not, I was saved from malaria. Only five years later I again got an unexpected attack. I was then in Athens, while on a visit at one of the most miserable refugee camps, having forgotten this sickness. This time a nurse gave me a few injections and that was the end. Of course, at first my friends couldn’t take my cure seriously. But when they saw the miracle, they admitted it as a fact, and we used to attribute it to the power of autosuggestion. But this gave me a hint that a man is a doctor of himself. I looked for other ailments that I may cure. I had another minor ailment. After every bath I would have headaches. I thought that it was something inherited from my mother. But I had discovered the method of following the symptoms. I liked to pour much hot water on my head. That brought in much blood and hence the headache. I refrained from pouring so much hot water and it worked. Never again did I have a headache after bath. And ever since I am my own doctor and seldom have to go to a real doctor. But I am far from preaching Christian Scientism. Doctors are not unnecessary. Doctors advise to stay home when having a cold. My work does not permit me this luxury and I go to work with colds. But once it developed into sinusitis, I had to stay in bed for 20 days and it left its traces in my nose ever since. Now I would like to talk about the teachers. Of the Americans, the president knew his job. Mr. Coupton, the dean, was capable and diligent and had won respect. Mrs. Arnold was a good teacher in mathematics. She had a daughter, an excellent teacher of history. She was not pretty, modestly handsome, but I think there were many, including this writer, who had a platonic love toward her. Unfortunately they stayed only one year. Miss Antony was a good teacher, but I had only a few hours with her. The rest were incapable people, who had come to see Greece and have a nice time. We were after all Orientals and hardly could distinguish between the straw and the barley. Almost all the Greek teachers were capable fellows. It was expected, since there was the possibility of choice. The Armenians were of the average type. Good men, but not brilliant. They were not to be blamed. The Turks murdered our best intellects and these second rate men had to try to fill their places as well as they could. I was very good almost in every lesson, but I excelled in the ones I liked most – history and psychology. I had contempt for grades and grade chasers. I worked for the subjects I liked or for the teachers I respected. I was not popular among the American teachers. Only a few saw something of value in me. How could it be otherwise? I did not have particularly good looks, I had no nice clothes, I did not dance, didn’t participate in the silly songs. I did not smoke
and go to sweet shops. I was serious in manners, earnest and obstinate in discussions, with serious political views. I was not a “nice boy”. On the contrary, I was loved and respected by my Armenian teachers. My Armenian was matchless. I knew so much of our ancient and contemporary history, that I could hold serious conversations with them. Without being asked, I had memorized long poems too. Several times in public programs I had made declamations. I would write serious and nice compositions, which occasionally would call public praise. Once I also won a competition for composition on the Pilgrim Fathers in English. Unfortunately I have the habit of destroying old diaries and writings and haven’t kept any of them. For me the Armenian was not less important than English, because I was not a grade hunter. I started a movement among my circle for using pure Armenian, with no mixture of Turkish or English words. This habit is so deeply set in me, that I have even had conflicts at home, with my wife and daughter. My Armenian teachers liked these things in me. They were men, passed the middle age, and did not care for jolly time. They liked students to come to them for serious talks. I was active in organizing serious programs. Dramatizations had become a habit in me from the orphanage days. We did the same at the College also. There were thrice as many Greeks in the College, but I have never seen them giving a program. The first published paper was in Armenian, of course handwritten. These activities made me popular among Armenian boys. I had only one rival, my old friend from Sivas, Sarkis Casparian. As before, he excelled me in science and mathematics. I excelled him in history and languages. At this time he was not interested in politics. He was a brilliant fellow and studied engineering in the USA, graduating from the Northeastern University of Boston with highest honors. He became a fanatic communist and went to Armenia. Ever since I have noticed that, although there are exceptions, people who have not enough knowledge of history, do not have balanced views and easily become fanatic communists, while I have kept to the moderate Christian Socialism. When a College literary society was founded, I was elected its first secretary. The next founded formation was the religious YMCA. It was not so popular at first. Anything, that breaths religion is unpopular even in a missionary institution. I don’t know what prompted me, but I entered into it also. Others of my circle followed me. Then to my surprise, I was elected its first president. I still used to think that I was far from being religious. In the hour of religion I used to ask embarrassing questions to my fundamentalist teachers. Good people, but could not answer them in a manner that could be acceptable to inquiring minds. They might be useful to Sunday schools, where the students are from religious families. But in a college teachers ought to be well versed in science, and must have harmonized in their minds religion and science. Mr. and Mrs. Brewsters, otherwise very good people, did not have this capacity. They did not like me. They did not recognize that I was religious in the negative manner. As Paul in his subconscious mind has been a Christian, while persecuting Christianity. So in habits and manners an ascetic Christian, the purpose of my questioning was to give satisfaction also to my reason, which was after scientific and logical facts and proofs. My teachers, as most others, preferred passive listeners and disliked students, who ask disquieting questions. These types exist even in first class universities. Mr. Compton was the adviser of our executive committee. I liked him and he could appreciate me. So I started working with devotion and zeal. My fellow students
deemed me worthy to be the president of a Christian society. I wanted to justify this trust. The organization progressed fast and rivaled the literary society. These duties started me on a religious quest. I had to give talks, lead discussions, so I had to study more to know more than others. This started me on my future career, although I was not yet religious, or at least I wouldn’t call myself so. I had no idea what other boys used to think of me. The fact, that I was elected to positions of responsibility, gave me some hints, but I never went after praises. Years later, however, a younger boy has made in a letter the following statements about the influence on the younger boys in those college days. Cairo, January 14, 1947 “Dear Souren, I never doubt your patriotism, maybe you are a thousand times more patriotic than I am. It is not possible to have comparison between us. Both by experience and education you are my superior. Unfortunately I could not get the education you got subsequently. I have admired you most, however, for your patriotism. I have often told to Eznig, that in the College I haven’t met a more patriotic student than you…” I give this just for a testimony. I don’t look for rewards in such praises. What I care about is what God and Christ think of me.
THE SEARCH FOR AN IDEAL I graduated from Anatolia College in 1926. The last year, at some social gathering, Dr. White asked the graduating class what they plan to do. I told him, that I would like to study law. I could see that he disapproved it. I don’t think it was because he realized that it would be impossible for an orphan like me. Perhaps he could not realize why I wanted to enter that profession. I wanted to be a statesman to help my suffering nation, no calculations for personal gain. Sometime later my friend Mr. Hawks put the question more plainly. Why not go to the School of Religion in Athens? I wanted time to consider the matter. It was obvious that my friends expected me to go there. I did not like to disappoint them. On the other hand, I considered the fact that I was not religious. I did not want to be a pastor. I had contempt toward pastors. Most Armenian pastors preached either in Turkish, or in such bad Armenian, that I used to ridicule them. I hadn’t grown up in an environment where pastors were revered. So I did not aspire for it. Finally I decided to go. I did it out of gratitude toward those who had helped me receive this college education. I thought they were not clever enough to understand that religion is only a kind of superstition. I would go there, stay a year, devote my mind to the problem of religion, prove to my own satisfaction that I was right, and quit it. So, I went to study very seriously philosophy. One day I saw Bergson’s “Mind Energy” on the desk of President Pye. I turned the pages and got interested in it. I ordered the book from the library and read it. It made a great impression on me. Subsequently I ordered all the books of Bergson and they saved me from materialism. Seeing my interest in philosophy, Mr. Pye gave me Lotze’s Microcosmos, which I read too. I read books of Whitehead, Hockings and others. In order to be impartial, I ordered the books of Bertrand Russell also. His arrogant spirit repulsed me. On the other hand, his essay on “Free man’s worship” showed to me, that in spite of his show of courage, a thoughtful atheist is really a
lonely creature in the world, a cross child that realizes his estrangement from his parents, and by clever arguments tries to justify his conduct. I understood that what a thinking man needs is a faith that would put him on the sure foundation, God. My first impression of the School of Religion was bad. It was established in two private houses in New Faleron. There were about 25 students. Is this a school? Not only the students were few, but they were of various ages. And some even did not have college education, neither did they know English well. The too religious atmosphere made me uneasy and misfit. All had been brought up in religious atmosphere. For them it was natural, but not for me. The Armenian students spoke mostly Turkish, which would annoy me much. I thought religious people do not care for patriotism, but I was not willing to renounce mine. I was very uneasy. At the end of the first year I went to President Pye. I told him all these. I expected him to tell me that really I might depart. Just the contrary. He was a good psychologist and knew religion. He realized that my very struggle for truth is a sure basis of religious faith. Such faith is more valuable, because it will be stronger and unshakable. On the contrary, he said, he was pleased with me and my work and encouraged me to stay on. So I did. The teachers here were either capable men or, if they lacked it, supplemented it with goodness. Pres. Pye was a capable man and a very good teacher. Unfortunately he was often sick. His slow talking was a little annoying, but he made us listen to him. Prof. Levonian, the dean, was a deep thinker and a diligent teacher. In his talks he often emphasized the need for being sincere in our beliefs. He himself was an embodiment of sincerity. He never lost interest in graduates. We correspond with him until this day. Mrs. Levonian, a capable woman as well, led our choir. Mr. and Mrs. Marsh were not as capable as teachers, but they were very good and did lots for us. Mrs. Sarkisian was our mother, who managed our food very ably. She was a spiritual woman and always took active part in our vesper services after suppers. Then we heard that a new teacher will come from America, Greek by nationality, graduate of the Union Seminary. Somehow he was delayed and before his arrival we received some questions to work upon until he comes. That made a good impression to me. Here was a man who was coming to teach us. He soon became the most popular teacher. He was young, brilliant, active, gave us freedom of discussion. He enjoyed it too. Often he used to take us to hikes, from which I have very good memories. We all were with scholarships. No one paid for his expenses. But we all did some work. We had responsibilities in refugee camps, leading Sunday Schools, or preaching. We had duties at the school itself. I had to do whatever repairs were needed. Beside that, I had to maintain a tennis court, where Americans living in New Faleron used to play. I would get 500 drachmas a month, with which I used to buy copybooks and books. The more I came in contact with pure and noble thoughts, the more I began to feel my own imperfection. I began to keep a diary with sincere confessions, decisions, prayers, etc. At the end I burnt it. It was too sincere. I was ashamed of myself. If the saying is true, that “Thou art as holy as thou hast the wish to be”, then by God’s grace I deserve some credit. Since my School of Religion days I have struggled with all my heart for chastity and a deeper religious experience, and I have suffered much for not attaining them.
It must have been in my second year, when one day a friend came to tell me, that an orphanage acquaintance of mine is looking for me. I went to the waiting room and there I saw a young man in soldier’s clothes, though he was not a soldier. I easily recognized him. He used to be known as a very clever boy. While most of us were always hungry because of the small portions of bread, he often had bread in his pockets and would give to us also. How did he manage to steal so often without being caught? Anyhow, in some circles he was the object of great admiration. I was surprised therefore to see him in a dejected mood. When he saw me, he sighed deeply and said: “Feleg brought me in this condition”. Feleg is a power, in which deterministic and fatalistic Mohammedans believe, who gives good or bad luck to people, determining what everyone will be. Then he began to tell me a long story of his misfortunes. How he had not been able to learn a trade, how he had got sick, how he was broken, although has had days of prosperity. He had fallen so low that he had got that soldier’s uniform to hide his nakedness. He had come to Athens for work, but not finding any, he wanted to go to Salonica, could I help him for traveling expenses? I gave him some underwear, paid his fare and sent him on his way. That was the end of a “clever” boy. I often use this illustration to children, when they admire someone’s naughtiness or dishonesty. The really clever person walks in honest paths. The second year we heard that two girls and a boy from Bulgaria also would come. This news caused great interest. I would see Bulgarians for the first time. The bell rang for dinner. In the dinning room we were introduced to each other. The two girls were very different in appearance. One was fair, fatter and prettier. The other was a brunette. We had a custom, whenever we had an American guest, we would ask him to guess the nationality of each one of us since we were Greeks, Armenians, Russians, Hungarians, Turks, and from now Bulgarians. Almost always this second girl would be considered an Armenian. In character, two, they were very different. The one was light, cynical, undependable, lazy, opportunistic and exploitative. The other was diligent, faithful and dependable. I appreciated the second one and we became friends. This time I wanted to avoid the mistake I had made with my first love. I decided to be less reserved. Not that my future was certain and I could have married soon. But my life had become a constant struggle against sexual desires. This hindered me in my intellectual pursuits. I thought that if I were to devote myself to one girl that would stop my temptations and struggles. In that I was mistaken. My condition became worse. Now I had also the feeling that I am disloyal to the girl I loved. Retreat was out of the question, I would not take back my word. So I stuck to her and six years later married her. I was happy at the school. I was one of the jolliest in social gatherings, the center of funs and jokes. I knew lots of funny stories, especially anecdotes about Nastradin Hodja, stories full of subtle humor and practical wisdom. When we had guests, and it would happen often, we would ask them to tell us a story. If it was a funny one, I would be asked to tell one about Nastradin Hodja, to show to the guest, that we have better ones. One day in a larger gathering, after I had done my share in creating a jolly atmosphere, Pres. Pye officially gave me the title Professor of Nastradin Hodja anecdotes. It made us all laugh and from there on I had to tell even more such stories. I liked to take long walks along the seashore, to swim, to organize hikes with different entertainments. I was particularly fond of volleyball and was the best player. I would put up the net and go around pulling out students from the library to play with me. Until this day I enjoy playing this game.
As happy as I was on work days, so unhappy I was on Sundays. On Sundays we had to go to the refugee camps for field work. The sight itself of the miserable cottages would make me sick, reminding me of my recent sufferings and my possible future among them. Then, all the Protestants there were Turkish speaking, something repulsive for me. How they did not have enough national pride or self-respect to discard the language of people, who had inflicted so much suffering on them? That was beyond my comprehension. Then these Protestants knew the Bible thoroughly, more than me, and were very conservative. I was uneasy among them. They did not have the broadmindedness of my professors. They expected from students perfect faith. A student of theology, groping for his way, was scandalous for them. At least I suspected that they would feel that way about me. So I was reserved and shy among them. I wanted to run back to school as soon as possible. My summer vacations were particularly hateful. In the severe heat of Athens, with the abominable dust storms, I had to lead a lonely life in some refugee camp. One had to walk for hours to find a swimming place to cool off a little, and then again get hot and perspired until returning back. I couldn’t do enough intellectual work, no chance to have fun and pleasure, with poor food and without care. I would spend miserable summers. And yet I would have summer schools and would try to make them success. Each summer they were getting better. In contrast to the other Armenian fellows, I was conscious that along with English, I had need of cultivating more my Armenian too. I subscribed to a political magazine simply for the language. Until today my opinion is that the best Armenian is used by Tashnagists. I dislike them for their chauvinism, but admire them for their style and purity of language. The Protestants have always been poor in Armenian. Here no one knew it better than me. Twice a year every student had to deliver a sermon in his vernacular, and a chosen public would be present also, beside students and professors. They were interesting and grand occasions. Several times I have been praised for ideas and especially for my style. Once, President Pye sent a sermon of mine to Prof. Hocking of Harvard. Another time a sermon entitled “Real Victory” was praised so much, that I sent it to the magazine “Anahid”, published by A. Chobanian, and he published it. I had gone to the School of Religion with the intention of staying one year, and stayed there four years. I have happy memories from it, although I was not free of struggles and sufferings. I realized that I am better fitted to teach, than to preach. I had two opportunities. To go to Antilias in Syria, or to Mesrobian College in Sofia, Bulgaria. Rev. Stambollian gave a good recommendation to be appointed in the second institution. Prof. Michaelides, whom I consulted, advised me not to go to Antilias. I also thought Bulgaria would be better, my fiancée also was there. I accepted that offer. I spent my last summer in Salonica, leading a summer school at the Danish mission. I still was a liberal in theology, though by no means a Unitarian, but had progressed so much in religion, that I felt at home among a group of spiritualistic young men, having weekly meetings at the mission. The missionaries also did not detect anything unorthodoxy in me. I was as fervent and sincere as they were.
A GLIMPSE ON THE FUTURE
At a reception at Mesrobian College, Vahan Paravazian, a friend of the Director Kevork Mesrob, made the following compliment to him: “Mr. Mesrob is a very clever man. Had he devoted his talents to business, he could have become a rich man”. That was a good characterization of the man, who was the founder, director, trustee, manager and everything of the college, for which I had come to serve in the academic 1930-31 year. He was a good businessman of the oriental type for he would not subscribe to the saying “honesty is the best policy”. He was an excellent advertiser. While we were yet in Anatolia College, a catalogue of this college fell in our hands. The school seemed so attractive, that one of my friends, who was paying full tuition, considered leaving Anatolia College to study in such a fine Armenian college, where he would have a chance to learn more Armenian. A few years before my arrival, Mesrob had made a tour in America and had brought lots of money. But even these dollars could not straighten his finances. Someone said that maybe he put aside most of this money to live from it if the college cracks up. I don’t know whether this is true, but the college really did crack up, went bankrupt, and yet he himself floated on safely. This college which under honest management could and should have become a center of higher learning in the Balkans, was going down from year to year. At the beginning Mesrob had founded a trusteeship, a body of men, who were his friends. In the course of the years, many had resigned and he, instead of maintaining the standard, had replaced them by more subservient fellows, until in my days they were a group of nonentities. They gloried in the empty name of being trustees to a college, in whose policy and management they had no voice. Kevork Mesrob did everything by himself. When he had been involved in financial difficulties, he had turned to the trustees. They proposed to pay him quite a high salary, only if he were to leave the financial affairs in their hands. He had not agreed. He couldn’t pay the teacher’s salaries on time. He owned up to six salaries to some. Every day teachers had quarrels with him, especially a married one, who had a wife and two children to support. Fortunately I was а boarding teacher and at least my food was assured. I used to sleep in the school, responsible for the discipline of the boarding students and would eat with them. Mesrob and his family ate separately, with separate cooking. That was not a secret, everybody could see it. When the meat was brought, the best parts were separated for them. We could see the roast meat that went to his table. They would join us only when the food was good on some particular occasion. The students were fed with very bad food. The shopping was done in the evenings, because at the end remain the cheapest goods. Besides me, there was one more bachelor teacher, whom he was obliged to feed, Haig Asadourian. He was a graduate of Prague University, was a member of a revolutionary organization, and had “teeth and claws”. When he saw that Mesrob eats separately, he began to refuse to eat the food. To pacify him, special food began to be brought to his room. I had no taste for quarrels, especially as I had no organization behind me. But even I, who had seen lots of misery and hunger, sometimes could not eat the food. But then the students also would leave the dinner and go out to eat something of the food sent from their homes. And they would offer some to me also. But there were some poor students also, who had no parcels from home or money, so often I would share my meal with them. One reason for the bad food were the cheep materials. Another was the incapability of the cook. And the cook was his mother-in-law. His sister-in-law was a kind of dean, an ugly nasty woman. His wife too would meddle in the school affairs. Fortunately his daughters were small yet to meddle, and they were also better in
character. The unofficial “dean” was particularly fond of hurting me, since she noticed that I have neither teeth, nor claws. Some people are double faced. Kevork Mesrob was four faced. He had won the confidence of the so called Democratic Party by making agitation for the Armenian Benevolent Society, controlled by that party. He used to receive subsidy from them. He was a good son of the Armenian Church. He had written a nice history of the Armenian Church, so he had the blessing of the church men. He had come to an understanding with Rev. Ehman, the head of the German mission. He had promised to have Sunday afternoon religious services of protestant type. He used to receive both money and a teacher, who would teach religion and study Armenian. He was in good terms with the Tashnagists, because on the Sunday services he would preach nationalism and celebrate their holidays. Anyhow, he was a capable man. He was an excellent historian, very good orator, pleasant conversationalist. He had the ability to manage a school, if he were to do it in a democratic way. But within about six years more he went bankrupt. He left the school to the Armenian community in Sofia. They kept it open one year and it was shut altogether. The creditor, an Armenian lawyer, got the school building. That was the end of a good enterprise, because it was being run in a crooked way. Besides me there were two others living in the school. The first, as I said above, was Haig Asadourian, a graduate of Prague, Tashnagist and agnostic, but not atheist. Subsequently he became a leader in the more nationalistic branch of his party. He cooperated with the Germans, so when the Red Army occupied Bulgaria, he was arrested and disappeared. I had told him, that he was going wrong, but he had gone too far in his own plans. He was a proud man. The other was Isaac Keshishian, a fanatic protestant, the favorite protégée of Dr. Ehman, with whom everything was false. He told us that he had studied in a seminary in Germany. That was not true. He had studied German and theology with Dr. Ehman in Varna, Bulgaria. He had been sent to a fundamentalist seminary, from where many pastors in Bulgaria have received diplomas, but he had returned before the end of the first semester, for he had no high school education. He has been a chauffeur in employment of Near East Relief, so he knew some English. In Bulgaria he has been a barber, until Dr. Ehman has discovered him and made great plans for him. He was sent to the college to learn Armenian, because he was Turkish speaking by birth. Subsequently he studied in a “Seminary” in Samokov, ran by two pastors and got a “diploma”. He was appointed pastor of the Plovdiv Armenian Evangelic Church. He could not make the church grow and eventually ruined it altogether. Now he is a merchant. At last he found his true profession. Naturally I disliked a man who told lies left and right. But I was more tolerant. He came to hate me, because he was jealous of me and because I was present when his lie was exposed by Haig. Haig was not after reading, but he was writing much. On the contrary, I used to read very much. Haig saw the books I used to read and could appreciate their value. So he had more respect toward me. We would go for long walks with him, discussing philosophy. Keshishian, seeing this, was jealous. One day we saw several German books in his room. They were all fine books, but altogether new. Haig examined some of them and turning to Keshishian said: “Isaac, may I be damned if you have read any one of these books”. Keshishian could not say anything. Haig was right. He began to hate us and tried to do evil to us. He became a spy and would report about us to Kevork Mesrob. On return Haig would treat him roughly and expose him. But real evil he did to me.
The Sofia Armenian Protestant community had no pastor, they were looking for one. Keshishian had an eye on it. I was modest and it never passed trough my mind. I was willing to go to the provinces, if I would be invited. Meanwhile we used to preach in Sofia at alternate Sundays. He had noticed that the congregation appreciated me and had heard rumors, that they intent to invite me for their pastor. He knew my weak point. One day in the beginning I had told him that some of the hymns in the Armenian hymnal are out of date, that their theology was too conservative, etc. He had told this to Dr. Ehman and to many others. Without knowing this, when the end of the school year approached, I thought of applying for a pastor’s position. In all Bulgaria there were five Protestant communities with only two pastors, one of them very old. But none was self supporting. The German mission had to pay the salary. Dr. Ehman called me to Varna to have an interview. One of the first questions was what I thought of the Armenian hymnal. I understood that Keshishian had betrayed me. I gave evasive answers. Otherwise he could see that I was religious. He sent me to Ruse on the Danube to talk with a protestant and see for the possibility of restarting a church. I talked to the man. He gave me a cool reception. It hurt me to know that there were ready churches without pastors, but I was send to a place, where quarrels had destroyed a small church. Such was my impression from Dr. Ehman. But he told me something that I never forgot, because it proved to be true. He said: “I have been long among Armenians. Whether you become a pastor or remain a teacher, you will have to carry a heavy cross”. Although my life in the college was not a pleasant one, some good things also happened. I had the companionship of Haig, with whom we could share our troubles. I could occasionally visit my fiancée in Plovdiv. Together we went to Ruse, where used to live her elder brother. I used to correspond with the School of Religion friends, from whom I received tokens of sympathy. Once in a letter I had mentioned that I liked to sing our favorite hymns, which reminded me about the fine fellowship we had in the school, but I did not know the words of some of them. This had been read to the group. Every one sent a copy of his or my favorite hymn. I pasted them in a copybook and it became a nice hymnal, which I cherish until this days. An anonymous friend had ordered even a copy of the whole hymnal we would use. Before the end of the school year, however, I received one of the happiest news in my life. I received a letter from my former teacher Mr. Marsh, in which he was telling me that I could go to Yale Divinity School for further study. In Athens we used to be visited by some of the graduates of this and other schools on tour in the Near East. Some of them would even stop to give us a course of lectures. Mr. Marsh had written to one of them, Dr. Dinsmore of Yale, about me. And the result was the chance to go there. So, an unpleasant year, through God’s grace, ended in boundless joy. That was the fulfillment of my highest aspirations.
A DOVE OR A CROW? I started for America from Cherbourg on the first of October 1931, on the steamer “Olympic” of the White Star Line. Six days later we arrived to Eliza Island. Seldom in my life have I been as afraid as at this place. It seemed to me a regular prison, since I have never been in a real one. I was afraid lest they return me, because I was traveling with Nansen passport, which is valid for one year. These
passports were issued by states member of the League of Nations to Russian and Armenian refugees. They have been designed by the great explorer Nansen and bore his name. At the end of the term the country from which I was coming wouldn’t accept me back. In fact no country would accept me, unless I had special permission from the ministry of the country, which is a difficult and long process, unless one has influential friends. After about two anxious weeks, at last I was released. America had given me a very bad reception. But soon that bad impression began to disappear. Hardly had I come out of the prison walls and was wondering where and how to go, a young man approached me. He enquired where I wanted to go, then realizing my inability to find my way through New York, told me to follow him. He led me through the labyrinth of the city subways, paying all along my fares, and putting me on the New Haven train said good bye. Unfortunately I don’t know even the name of my first friend in America. That was a typical American helpfulness. It made me almost forget Eliza Island. The velvet seats of the train puzzled me. Had he by mistake bought first class ticket for me? No, this was a third class wagon. After all I was in America. A conductor came for tickets. I took mine out of my pocket and gave it to him. He stuck it at the back of the seat before me. I took it and put it in my pocket again, lest someone runs away with it while I doze. The next time the conductor asked for tickets, he again stuck it in the same place. Then I cast a look around me and saw that everybody’s ticket was in the open in front of him. Then I realized that though much noise is being made about American gangsters, often serving as propaganda against the USA, in general Americans are honest people. Such carelessness about tickets is unknown in the Near East. In fact, once while traveling from Drama to Salonica, someone stole my ticket. I arrived at New Haven. Again I began to wonder where to go. I noticed a desk in the hall with a lady seated behind it, and a telephone on it. There was a sign, I think Y.W.C.A. A placard said that here free information is given. I went to the lady and asked for guidance. She was very cordial. Picked up the telephone and after some dialing told me to wait a little. Within twenty minutes an automobile arrived to take me where I belonged. This amazingly efficient hospitality filled me with admiration and love for America. That year the Divinity School was in temporary buildings. The old ones, which I have never seen, had been torn down, and the present campus at 409 Prospect Street was still in the process of construction. But even the temporary buildings looked grand to me. As the new buildings – the Sterling Library, the Law School, the Graduate School, etc. filled me with awe. Yale deserved its fame. What magnificence, what richness! Already on the boat someone had said: “New Haven is a small city. If you take out the university buildings, nothing remains in it”. I think he had not exaggerated. Gradually however I began to have bad impressions also. It was inevitable. In the first place, seeing a country from too near is like observing an oil painting from too close, one sees ugly blots of paint. One has to go farther to see the painting in its beauty. In the second place, my economic situation wasn’t conducive to make me an optimist, and a pessimist usually sees ugliness in life and magnifies it as much as possible. I had not formed yet friendships, and though I was a homeless refuge, a man without a country, I felt homesick. The first entry in my diary, begun that year (kept in Armenian), explains it.
“November 14, 1931. O, God, there isn’t a single Armenian with whom I might exchange a few words in Armenian. How I long for an Armenian. Sometimes I read my Gospels in the classic Armenian, but that is not enough. I must talk with myself, no other way. Sometimes it seems to me, that I shall forget the language before I leave this country. What a melting pot this country is! Whoever falls in it loses his identity within a short time. There are nominally Armenians who either don’t know Armenian, or don’t want to use it. Only once I saw two young women talking Armenian. How happy I was to hear them talk! If they were not young women, I would go to talk to them.” When I arrived in New Haven I had only 15 dollars. Someone said they are enough for a week, at most two. I think I stretched it to more than a month. The offered scholarship covered only the tuition. For food and other expenses I had to take care of myself. Along with other students I gave my name to the special bureau for finding employment. After about two weeks I was offered a job as dishwasher in a small restaurant. I humbly went there with the resolution to do my best. Controlling as much as possible my disgust, I washed dishes for nearly two hours. There was no end. The woman over me was quite unsympathetic, even nasty. By the time I had earned my meal, no appetite had remained. The next day I did not go, hoping for a better job. Then a professor offered me a job. I had to sleep in his house. Start fires early in the morning. Spend my free hours in the home, so that when the lady went out, I would take care of their children. That was necessary especially at nights. This time I went to Dean Weigel. I told him, that if I am to remain at Yale doing such jobs, I don’t find any justification for my coming to America. I hadn’t come for just a diploma and title. I wanted as much time for study as possible. The Dean answered promptly and firmly. He was in sympathy with my considerations. He would make arrangements for that year at least to double my scholarship. So with additional 150 dollars I had to manage myself. I was very grateful to the Dean and had high respect. Occasionally I have been invited to give talks to young people’s organizations, but seldom was I paid for it. Maybe I did not deserve, maybe because America was passing through a period of depression. And whatever I have received I have given to charity. I knew an orphanage boy in Salonica, sick, near dying. Since God had picked me out and rewarded with such an opportunity for learning, I felt like expressing my gratitude by helping a former comrade who was so unfortunate. Then I had heard from my fiancé that a favorite student from Mesrobian College, who had only a mother, was suffering from tuberculosis. I used to send money to him also. I have given to charity in USA also, even contributed to China relief funds. One reason why I felt obliged to give away the money received from such talks was that I used to speak about the heroism and suffering of Armenians. In their memory I would give the money to other sufferers. This homesickness and constant poverty naturally made me more critical of America, although I was not cynical as some others. My opinion about the students was not complimentary, although I have hard more cynical remarks also. The pastor of the Armenian Evangelic church, Rev. Eramian, whom I knew from Salonica, was very bitter. He said in a conversation: “Americans know one value or idea, girls”. He was exaggerating of course, but my impression also is, that American youth is too much after sexual pleasures. They seemed to me shallow in religion and very immature politically. They knew so little of history, ancient and modern. For them the world was America. But the blame
shouldn’t go to youth alone. This immaturity, the unconsciousness of the fact, that the world was one, ignorance of the fact of interdependence of nations, cost the lives of millions of men in the two world wars. Both wars could have been avoided, if from the beginning the aggressors were to know, that they would have to deal with the USA. Let us hope that America will never again repeat that mistake. No individual or nation can be neutral in this world. If you think you are neutral, you are really supporting the upper dog, who is usually the aggressor, and the aggressor is sure to be the wrong, for men almost always resort to force, when they realize that their cause is wrong or unreasonable. I could hardly drive this fact into the brains of my fellow students. And yet I have been moderate in my judgments. In some I could see future professors, who some day would have great names, while I would remain an obscure teacher or preacher in some dark corner of the world. But their readiness and capacity for friendship was undeniable. I had many such ties of friendship, of which a few became lasting and may go to eternity. But I will talk about that later on. One of the evils that strike a foreigner as so unjust and unreasonable is the race discrimination. There was a student from Ceylon, Russell Hiatt, who although not black, had brown skin. We became great friends. The first year we had rooms side by side. He graduated and the second year I shared a room with another student from Ceylon, Hilton Treneball. Once we went together to the barber. After he finished fixing my hair, he began to murmur and finally refused to cut his hair, because he was not white. I was impressed how calmly and with dignity he bore that insult. Who was greater in the sight of God, that handsome white barber, or this innocent and noble brown boy? I abhorred the jazz music. It was too sexy for me and I could see no music in it. Maybe one reason is that I don’t know how to dance. On the whole, even today I dislike English and American music. I enjoy Armenian, Slavic, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, French music. Once I went out of curiosity to a dancing party, organized by a Christian Society. The hall was full of that horrible jazz music. I couldn’t bear it. The low standard of the films struck me also. The second year I discovered, that there are other American students also feeling that way, and they would prefer foreign ones, German for instance. I have made the following entry in my diary: “August 16, 1932. It seems to me that in this country the cinemas set up the moral ideas of the population. The laws enacted by the Congress may remain on paper, if the heroes in the films do not obey them. Church and state have lost their hold on the people. Against one who goes to church, probably there are twenty who go to cinemas. The cinemas run every day, day and night, and is understood by everybody, even idiots may get something. The cinema is cheap, there is action and is attractive.” Though it may seem strange, after I saw American Christianity, I began to despair of the power of Christianity to save humanity and had feelings in favor of communism. Let my diary tell its own story. “November 16, 1931. Today a student from Union Theological Seminary spoke to a group of students about the terrible situation of Kentucky miners. Because of very low wages, they have struck, there has been bloodshed, and now the workers are starving and their leaders face condemnation as criminals. Local pastors not only are indifferent, but even have been supporting the mine owners. The government also is with them. So the miners are all alone.
What was the result of his appeal? He was applauded. A few dollars might be sent to the miners, but nothing serious for alleviating their condition. Let communism conquer the world! Only they can save the laboring classes from the grasp of their parasitic capitalist masters. Let it come and destroy our hypocritical Christianity. Jesus will not die, his spirit will go on living, for in Communism there is more of Christianity then in modern churches. A newer and truer church will be born, Jesus will rise again and the churches will be rebuilt on a more righteous economic order.” “November 23, 1931. I am now quite in favor of Communism. Only that I don’t agree to their ignorance of the concept of sin. Surely in Soviet countries also there are sinful people who can be saved only through Jesus Christ.” “April 9, 1932. For many reasons I like to see the victory of Communism. If they were not to reject me in their boundaries because of my religious convictions, I would like to go and live in Soviet Armenia. For the present, what I cannot explain is, how can man be devoted to the welfare of the masses and be cruel toward individual opponents? How can one have love for people and hate to such a degree ones enemies? How can one order the shooting of men and then assert that it is for the good of other men? Is it necessary for the happiness of the exploited the exploiters to be massacred? I understand that if you spare your enemy he may obstruct your way. But I consider it blasphemy to think that Jesus would ever approve the methods of communism. And here our ways divide. I will follow Jesus. Admitting that there is much good in communism, I am not willing to follow them where they contradict the spirit of Jesus.” “November 10, 1932. The Turks drowned in blood the Armenian question. Armenia now belongs to Turkey, with all the Armenians dead or scattered abroad. But God will do us justice. No nation will enjoy the spoils got in unjust way. Let communists deny God, but they are his agents, to do his will on earth. I hope, before I die, to see the day when the boundaries that divide the nations have disappeared, as it happened in Soviet Russia. That in the near future Armenians will be able to go back to their fatherland, I have no doubt about it. After this I shall pray for the victory of communism, for it is the greatest enemy of chauvinism.” “June 1, 1933. Great is God’s mercy. Someday again we shall be able to go back to our sweet fatherland, Armenia. Tsarist Russia couldn’t be our savior, but Communist Russia will open its doors to all Armenians.” In spite of this favoring of communism, which was partly because the Armenian cause was neglected by all nations, partly because the Christianity I saw in America seemed to me shallow, I could not deny certain fruits of Christianity, which are rare elsewhere. I was impressed by American hospitality. Every time I have gone to the church where my friend Russell Hiatt was Sunday School Superintendent, I have been invited to dinner either by the pastor, or by Mr. and Mrs. Todd, active members of the church. Later on I shall have to tell more about these people, whose friendship transcended the ordinary limits of the meaning of that word. I remember also, that on Christmas vacations certain rich people would give all-day-reception to students, who had remained in the university. I don’t think anywhere else the rich behave like that. The very existence of such beautiful university buildings, almost all private gifts, showed that there was also a fruitful Christianity.
Summer vacation approaching, I began to wonder where I could spend it. I was in the USA during years of depression, when unemployment had reached 13 millions. The American boys one by one were finding some employment. One day I saw an announcement signed by Prof. Davis, that as usual he was going to send 25 Divinity students to Henry Ford’s automobile factory in Detroit. I put my candidacy and a few days later found out that I was turned down. I went to him for explanation. He told me, that his purpose for sending students there was for them to see the conditions of the workers, work under these conditions, have first hand knowledge of labor conditions, and thus help for the betterment of their lot. A foreigner like me would do no good to this cause. He was not interested in an individual’s lot. He said “I am sorry”, which of course means “I don’t care”, and I left. A few days later one among the chosen ones told me that he had found a better job and I could replace him. Several more had found other jobs, so Prof. Davis at last agreed to my going. My joy was boundless. I had escaped starvation. While I was worrying how to get traveling expenses to Detroit, one of my friends came to me. He said that five of them have decided to buy a second hand automobile with which to travel, would I join them? Of course I did. I think the automobile was bought for 35 dollars, the price of a watch. All the fellows except me knew how to drive a car. So we started and they were taking turns in driving. The car looked fine, but had a defect – we often had to stop to change its water. Traveling day and night, sleeping in the car, we arrived in Detroit. There the clever American boys sold the car for 15 dollars. So we traveled all for only a few dollars, while the trains or busses would coast nearly 30 dollars for each of us. In Detroit we parted our company. The others managed to find cheap quarters. I remained in a YMCA hotel. Within a few days we were at work in Ford’s factory. In my diary I have a brief record of my impressions of the working conditions. “June 28 1932, Detroit. I have been in Detroit for two weeks now, working in the factory of the almighty Ford. I earn six dollars a day, of which at least one dollar I have to spend for food. Such heavy work requires good food. Every day, nominally eight hours, as long as eternity, we run to catch up with the machines. Even if one has a chance to stop and rest a little, he must not do it and he must keep on running fast. Men have invented these machines, these huge steel structures, half a mile long every one of them, this ocean of machines, and now are their slaves. The machines are the masters here, human life is their slave. This is heavy work indeed! Many work with grudge, but elsewhere they cannot find work and Ford pays high wages. Eighty thousand laborers worked day and night and the lowest wages are six dollars. Every day we see thousands of unemployed wandering around the office of employment. Mounted policemen keep watch over them. If it was not for Prof. Davis’ arrangement, I could never have entered this factory.” Only one man, the principal of the Ford School knew our identity and with his aid we got in. There were days of terrible “lay-offs”. The brutal and efficient foreman could not fail to notice that some of us were not skillful workers. So we found ourselves among the dismissed. Until we managed to get back again, two weeks had elapsed. Then came a long period of readjustment in our department and had to take involuntary vacation. So, all in all, I worked 49 days. With that money I had to pay four dollars a week for my room at the hotel and my food. At the end I bought watches for myself and for my fiancé, and hardly enough money remained for the return fare. In Detroit I saw three occurrences that were a disgrace to the USA. I saw the unemployed sleeping in parks with newspapers under and over them. That was a
fearful sight. I felt as if any day I could fall among them. Thank God I didn’t, but the fright was enough for a lifetime. In the orient if someone loses his job, there are many other possibilities for earning a living. He can sell lemonade or pumpkin seeds in the streets and again make a living. In America, when one falls, he falls indeed. Real prosperity and real poverty exist side by side. Woe to him who falls. The second disgrace of American cities was the slums. I gathered courage one day and plunged into a slum area to take a walk on foot, to see everything. After the first few minutes walking I got a shock, my knees began to tremble. From an open door some black women, seated indecently, shouted an invitation to me. By and by I come to a place, where I felt as if I might be robbed of all my money, watch, etc. and nobody would be able to defend me. I changed my mind and began to walk in a right angle toward the high road, where there was a different world. The misery in an American slum area is unique and terrible. Nothing like it can be seen in the Near East. I was terrified. The third disgrace was the so called “burlesque theaters” of Detroit. I have two entries in my diary with regard to the burlesque theaters. In the first I describe in detail all the disgraceful sight which I am even ashamed to describe here. I vowed never again to step in such a theater. “August 6, 1932, Detroit. In spite of my vow, today for the third time I went to a burlesque theater. The first time I was partly moved by curiosity. The second time I went when I was laid off, I was in despair, and went there in order to forget my condition at least for a few hours. Thank God, now I am again at work and happy. Today I went with indefinite purpose. Maybe again by curiosity. I feel so much the solitude that I look for means of killing my time. But this time my disgust was complete. I could hardly stay for fifteen minutes. Everything was disgusting, the actors, dances, the audience, especially my own self. Sitting there I was thinking in what a great contradiction I was, that while calling myself a disciple of Christ, I had sat in that filthy place. How shall I look one day at my fiancé, when my eyes look at these half naked indecent women? This time there is no need of making a vow. My disgust is so complete, that I don’t think that I shall ever step in one of them…” But America is a country of sharp contrasts. Beauty and ugliness exist side by side and tolerate each other. Americans seem to like this situation. In New Haven there was classical theater. That year, having a little money, I went a few times with great enjoyment. Finally I went to the Metropolitan Opera of New York to see the great opera Parsifal. Yes, I have seen the beautiful America also. Yale University, the Divinity School, was a part of the beautiful picture. But the ugly sights also make great impression. Why should they exist? I had gone so near to the great natural wonder, the Niagara Falls, but couldn’t go to see it, for lack of money. I had hardly enough money to return to New Haven and twelve dollars for copybooks. The second year my material situation was different. I had to work three hours a day in the Divinity School refectory for three good meals. That left me with a problem on Sundays. For then were fed other fellows, who worked in churches or Sunday schools. So, if by chance I was invited to dinner by my good friends the Todds, I had at least a dinner. Or else I would pass the day with a few buns or altogether hungry. Fortunately now, fifteen years later, such unhappy moments have faded away and I remember the best of America. That year at Easter vacation I went to Boston to pay a visit to a small group of friends from the Anatolia College, who were studying engineering at the Northeastern University. I found them living in miserable rooms on Batavia Street, which had a bad
reputation. Some had graduated while others still were continuing their study. My friend Sarkis had graduated with highest honors. Only he had a kind of work that was worthy of a chemical engineer. The rest were working in restaurants, washing dishes, to make a living. They were as embittered as they could be. They used very vile language and had become fanatic Communists. Eventually they all went to Soviet Armenia. I have never heard directly from them, but I have heard, that they had regretted going there. As communists they did not care for religion. We had a few debates, but they were polite to me, very hospitable and tried to make my stay as pleasant as possible. Strange enough, they used to attend the services of a pastor Dr. Holmes, who used to preach in a cinema hall, because as a liberal minister he could not get a pulpit. That Sunday he spoke about Karl Marx. My friends did not agree with everything he said. Apparently the Communists were directed to go to his services and make disturbances and shout their disagreement, as my friends were doing occasionally. In a regular church that could not be done. One of the things I had missed at Yale Divinity School was the intimacy between teachers and students. In the School of Religion we lived like members of a family. Here that was lacking. By and by I got used to it. I realized that in such an institution such relationship was hard to maintain. So, my critical attitude toward professors began by and by to vanish and I saw in most of them greatness of mind and goodness of character. Naturally I came to know more those, with whom I had most contacts. I came to admire greatly Dean Brown. Every time he has given us chapel talks I have kept a record in my diary, and each time I have compared him with ancient prophets. “December 4, 1931. Once again I am convinced that this man is a prophet. His words penetrate my spirit.” “January 17, 1932. Today Dean Brown preached in the University chapel. This man is a prophet, a second Jeremiah. He has deep faith, knows how to distinguish good from evil, and has a courageous soul. Before leaving the country, I would like to see him, to express my feelings toward him and ask for his photograph to hang in my room.” Toward Dean Weizle also I had feelings of appreciation and admiration. “November 25, 1931. Today Dean Weizle called me to make inquiries about my situation. … Noble man! Good that at other occasions also I have expressed my admiration for him.” One of my greatest pleasures has been the fact that a man like Prof. Macintosh could appreciate me. “May 3, 1933. Today I had an interview with Prof. Macintosh. He has liked my thesis and wants to send it to a magazine. Unfortunately it is too long and the editors do not want articles from students. Prof. Macintosh does not want me to condense it too much. Whether it is published or not, I am very grateful for his appreciation. He said “There is freshness in it that I liked.” He advised me to continue writing after my return, and that in English. O, God, how grateful I am for his appreciation. He invited me for dinner this coming Sunday. Most probably he would like to know my life story. At another occasion he told me that he is interested in my past. In his book Theology as an Empirical Science he has words of sympathy for Armenians.” “May 8, 1933. Yesterday I was a guest of Prof. and Mrs. Macintosh. Both were very kind toward me. I remained more than four hours with them and they questioned me all the time. They asked about the Armenians, past and present. They wanted to
know my life story, which I told briefly. The tragedy for me was that they asked me several time, wouldn’t I like to be teaching philosophy or theology in some school in America? For that I have to study two years more and get a Ph.D. In vain they tortured me. O, God, what struggles in my soul! What a high opinion they have of my ability. Maybe I could really become a professor in some college. What awaits me in Bulgaria? Suffering. But how can I remain here and call myself a Christian? How shall I pray after that? It is impossible. My superiority now is in the fact that I sincerely believe in God and am willing to suffer for him. How can I dry the source of my idealism? At the end Prof. Macintosh agreed that I am making a better choice. He read some passages from Pilgrim progress to support my views. But again and again he advised me to read more and to write books.” Prof. S. Smith also has shown warm appreciation of me. “May 21, 1932. Today in Prof. Smith’s class we had a discussion. Afterwards in the library he touched my shoulder and said: “I appreciate your ability to discuss. I wish every year I had you in my class. You put your heart and mind in the discussion.” His appreciation surprised and rejoiced me. How happy I am for this!” In my diary I have made mentions of Prof. and Mrs. Tweedy as very good people, Prof. Lucock as the most brilliant preacher, Prof. Bainton as one of the brightest and sharpest minds, Prof. Calhoun as a deep thinker, and others. I had ill feelings only toward a certain Prof. Brown, who not being a sportsman, took revenge on me for arguing too much with him. I finished the course of the Divinity School in two years, because I was given some advanced standing for my study at the School of Religion in Athens. As the day of graduation approached, the struggle within me got stronger. To go back to Bulgaria, or to try to remain in USA? To be as the crow of Noah, or his dove? I had read a story with that title, which has made a lasting impression upon me. My former critical attitude toward America had gradually disappeared. I came to love this country more and more. “January 6, 1933. As the day of departure from this country approaches, a deep sadness fills my soul. It is true that still I am financially in a bad condition. But I love this country, Yale University, my lessons, my teachers, this opportunity for constant mental growth. To imagine, that after six months all these will be reduced to a dream and I shall be living in a dark country among unenlightened people!” On the first of May after a talk with Prof. Macintosh, with a long entry in my diary, I give reasons why I should return. It ends with the words “O, God, help me not to become a Noah’s crow!” The chief reason for my return was that I could never forget the suffering of my people. I felt my duty to serve the remnants of my nation. Otherwise I couldn’t explain why God should have saved my life. “August 6, 1932. I live for my martyred nation, whose sufferings I have shared. After this I can say “I am the Armenian nation”. Together with this feeling Jesus rules my spirit. I must do his will. Woe to me if I fail in obeying his voice!” “May 2, 1933. Today I was telling some things about the sufferings of my nation. My listener could hardly believe it. What a wretched Armenian I must be to forsake my suffering nation, not to devote my life for their education and enlightenment.” I have more entries in this spirit, but I shall quote from a letter of mine to a former teacher Pres. Ernest Pye. In one of his writings he discusses human nature. The progress is by no means running smoothly. The only way to succeed is to make
place for sufferings due to confrontation of human possibilities with negation and also to look forward hopefully, rather than backward in confusion. He writes: “ … Some small progress has come to human nature; some higher levels have been reached in comprehending what justice and righteous well-being among men ought to mean; there is some conviction, that the cry concerning these shall be heard not only in heaven, but also here on earth. So that this may not be put aside as futile idealism, I wish to close this volume with a paragraph written by another of my students. His words speak of a reality that is indisputable. Orphaned by Turkish atrocities near Sivas, he later made his escape. His brother could not. After completing his education in the Near East, he came to the United States for further study at Yale, from where he wrote. He has subsequently returned to the Near East and become principal of one of the important national schools. Experience in the school of suffering and its attending interpretation of life gives to him a singular potency in support of a world in which suffering and purpose intermingle. He wrote to me: “…I love my people more than any church interest; and loving a suffering people and serving for their happiness and growth is for me my religious calling. I plan to return to the Balkans. The future is as dark as ever; but my courage is grater. My hard experiences in the past, contrasted with the blessings I have received, have given me such a firm faith in the existence of a good Providence, that actually I have given up worrying about my future. It is my task to stand for the truth as I know it. I have asked God to lay on me some of the sufferings of the people I love but whom I cannot help, including my own brother among the Turks. So, in happiness or sorrow, I hope by God’s grace I will remain unshaken. There is much to do, and I know it; and I know also that if God gives me sufficient health and wisdom, I can meet some of these needs at least. I am therefore happy even in uncertainty.” When the critical day of leaving America came, I was all alone in my struggles. For though my dear friend Russell Hiatt had come especially to be present at my graduation and say good bye, for some reason he had to go back soon after. The following entry in my diary tells about my last days in New Haven. “June 22, 1933, New York. It is impossible to describe my feelings since last night. When I last entered my solitary room, I wanted to weep. That would have been a relief, but I was ashamed of myself. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. The most tragic moment was when I had to leave my room. I wanted to kneel down beside my bed and desk to pray. I started to do so, but realized that the more I linger, the weaker I become. I had to break myself away forcibly. One last look at my door and I was in the street. Several times I had to stop and watch the buildings. I could hardly take away my eyes from the campus. With mournful steps I treaded the solitary streets. I could feel that every step was taking me farther and farther away from the environment with which were attached so many sweet memories. I have forgotten already all the unpleasant experiences. I have forgotten that many Sundays I had fasted. I carry only good memories with me.” Hard though it was, I became a Noah’s dove, not a crow.
FOLOWWING HIM, TO SERVE MY PEOPLE
STRONG WINE FOR SICK STOMACKS I arrived in Plovdiv (Philipopolis) in July 1933. I had absolutely no friends or acquaintances, accept my fiancée. Had I gone to a different country, I would again be without relatives, for I have only two cousins in the whole world. In Syria, Greece or Egypt, however, I might have found some of my friends. In Bulgaria I was alone, and I did not know one word of Bulgarian. I had come to Bulgaria mainly for my fiancée. I reasoned that Armenians everywhere were alike for me. At least she would be among her relatives and in her fatherland. After nearly six years of love I couldn’t think of forsaking her. In my diary I have the following entry from America: “My fiancée among other things writes: “Because I know you as a good, pure and noble person, my love for you and for God has become one”. O, God, what a terrible responsibility lies on me. This girl’s faith depends on me. Let me make at least one person in this world happy…” My fiancée, Keena Ilieva, was at this time the secretary of the missionary Mr. W. Cooper, who used to supervise all Sunday schools in Bulgarian evangelical churches and issue materials for them. She was his right hand, and was such to his successor Vasil Fournadjieff also, until the work was stopped for lack of funds. All the funds came from outside, local churches were not able to support such work. Temporarily I was a guest at this missionary’s house, until our wedding and founding of a home. On 31 July, Sunday, we married at the Plovdiv Evangelical Church. Her mother, her brothers and their families had come. She had many friends as well, who helped us have a beautiful wedding ceremony. And a new life began for us. I was appointed director of the Armenian National School of Plovdiv. At the beginning I was against occupying that position, it was enough for me to be a teacher. But the trustees had been so much in need of a man with suitable education and they insisted. I accepted on the condition that some of the teachers would help me as I didn’t even know the language of this country. At the time I took the responsibility of the school, it had nearly 800 students. Beginning with kindergarten till seventh class (grade) – it was a complete progymnasium according to the system in Bulgaria. Once a few American friends, who had been in other parts of the Near East as well, had come for a visit. They saw the children at a recess. One of them said: “I have never seen so many Armenians in one place.” It is a fact, that no city in the Balkans had a school equal to ours. All the other schools put together would hardly have as many children as we had. All these children were studying still in four separate buildings quite far from each other. The buildings were very old and one of them so unhygienic, that we would never lead inspectors to see it. For this huge crowd there were about 20 teachers and some of them were visiting. So the responsibility for the discipline was on about 15 teachers and the director. The Armenian community is a conglomeration of refugees from all parts of Turkey plus some natives. Eighty percent of our students come from poor homes. Many have parents that go to work, leaving their children to chance. Oriental streets still afford excellent opportunities for gathering and playing together. Most of our children spend a large part of their time in the streets. With such students naturally it is harder to work. And yet I do not complain against the children. God bless them,
they are an innocent lot. And as the years pass, my difficulties from that quarter diminish to almost nil. My real difficulties came from parents, teachers and trustees. I had hardly been at work a month or two, when teachers brought to my attention a particularly naughty boy called Dikarlo. I tried all my arts on him, he remained incorrigible. I wanted to see his home condition also. I went to his home. He had an elder brother and a mother. I talked to the mother. She was a little nervous, but seemed to listen to my advice. The next day one of the local Bulgarian papers wrote that the director of the Armenian School has gone to the home of a student and has attacked the mother with violent language and wanted even to beat her. The writer wanted to bring this to the attention of the school inspector in order to make an investigation. One of the members of the trustees came to me with the article. He asked me just what had happened. I told the truth. The trustees had a meeting and they went to that woman. As a result the next day another Bulgarian paper had a recantation signed by the same woman. But by this time the inspector had taken the matter in his hands. He came to school. He called many teachers to ask them what kind of a man I was. The matter was of course dropped, but the calumniators were not punished. Another time my attention was called to some sexual abnormalities among some older children. I understood that they needed some enlightenment. At an appointed day, I separated the big girls and boys. My wife took the girls, I took the boys, and we gave them talks on sex hygiene. Two days later the chairman of the trustees, Dr. Festlikian, came to me to ask what we said to the children. I reported to him everything. He said that gossipers go around telling terrible things about us. We have been teaching children the details of sexual relations. He advised me never again to speak on such delicate matters. According to the law of the country, although the schools of the different nationalities had their directors, the teachers had to be reappointed every year by the trustees and get the permission from the ministry of education. The same also applied to private schools. This was unlike the state schools, where teachers were permanently appointed. The trustees were elected by the community once in three years. It was altogether a political affair and political bosses decided everything. The trustees enjoyed their power. They kept the teachers in humility and bondage. The salaries were shamefully low and they did not care about it. They would not hesitate to put out a worthy teacher and take someone with insufficient education. Out of twenty teachers at least four or five each year would be with primary education. I have always struggled against it, but political party considerations always would have the upper hand. As political bosses the trustees were very rude and arrogant. The law in 1938 provided that the director of the school be the secretary of the trustees. It gave me more power, but I used to hate to go to the meetings. The most unbearable thing was the low salaries. Already the teachers in the state were the lowest paid. Our trustees would see that we get even less. â€œWhoever is not pleased may look for another schoolâ€? was the usual reply. In a country where there are about 25000 Armenians, scattered in several cities, free openings are not so available. So we had to bear our lot. After our marriage for two or three years my wife continued her work and with no children yet we could manage to make ends meet.
My wife’s work was not permanent, we knew it. But what else could we do to supplement my meager income from the school? I knew that people with much less knowledge of the language were giving private lessons in English. But I was reluctant to do it, because I thought that it was my duty to devote all my time to the school. Never mind that the community was not doing its duty toward us, I wonted to do mine. Only once we responded to an announcement of a Jew. But his demands were too high even for a Yale graduate. I also understood that the anxious for lessons either just had lots of money, or had demands that were too high, and I lost my desire for lessons. Then on the 15th of November 1937 was born our daughter Annie (Ahavni). Since she came late, she also got more love. Being already very fond of children, and I would love my own child even more. I started a diary for her, in which I recorded all the important events of her life. Two years later I made a doll’s house for her, which is unique in this city, if not in the country. But a child opens big doors for expenses. How shall we manage? Years ago someone had told me: “Every child, through God’s grace, brings its own luck. With the birth of a child, God also gives some new means of support.” That happened to us also. A few days after her birth someone told me about a Jew, who wanted to take English lessons from me. I found the man. He was past middle age. He had tried several teachers. He wanted someone who would use practical American methods in teaching. One day we would go for a walk, speaking English, the next day we would read from Ibsen’s dramas, which I happened to have. Both of us enjoyed the lessons. We became friends. And within two months I had so many requests for lessons that I had to turn down some. Thenceforth, until the occupation of Bulgaria by the Germans, when the Jews were especially afraid of studying English, I have had a sufficient number of students and could make a decent living. After 1944 my lessons again declined and we fell in bad condition. But the saying of the protestant friend came to pass again. With the birth of my son Horen God opened other sources of help. Our American friends came to our rescue. But I’ll leave this story for later. My greatest troubles came from teachers in or outside the school. On the whole, the intellectual class has persecuted me. My first persecutors were the leaders of the so called Federation of Revolutionary Parties (the Tashnagists). Originally socialists, for some time rulers of modern Armenia, now they were chauvinists and so embittered against Bolsheviks, that they would persecute anybody who sympathized with Soviet Armenia. Besides, for some time they had had control on the school and their men were hired for teachers’ positions. Now the opponents were in power, but they did not have qualified teachers, they were weaker in that respect. My coming strengthened them, so the first hated me. I did not hide my convictions either. I was against chauvinism, militarism, fanaticism and sympathized with Soviet Armenia in spite of the regime. At the beginning Social Democrats were against me. The editor of their organ “Balkan Press” was also director of the Sofia school. I was also writing for the paper “Lighthouse” originally published by the Democrats. The paper had later split from the Democrats and the two had become enemies. Later I dropped my correspondence to the Lighthouse, because its editor was a chauvinist, very conservative and, because he had been for two years director of the school, was trying to discredit me and take my place. He was doing this even while I was writing for his paper. Among other things, Armenian papers never pay for the articles written for them. He was assisted by two teachers. Tufekchian, who too
had been director and I had replaced him, and later his friend Asarlakian, who aspired (and actually succeeded – editor’s note) to take my place by using his communist connections. But I’ll leave this for later. Pastor Keshishian, who disliked me from the Mesrobian College days, was afraid of my influence in protestant circles, so he joined readily my enemies in the Armenian Benevolent Society, which at one time used to meddle in our school, because they were giving some subsidies. The priests at the head of the Catholic School were against me, because I was protestant and I hurt their interests. The Armenian priests were against me, because they also were nationalists, the son-in-law of one of them had been a director before my coming, and because I had a Bulgarian wife. Hrant Hrahan hated me, because before my arrival he used to be considered the best writer in the camp of the sympathizers of Soviet Armenia and I overshadowed him. The Communists did not like me, because I was Christian. The rich did not like me, because I cooperated with the Communists to help Armenia. The general public was either indifferent, or sympathized, but they could not give public token of their appreciation. The chauvinists couldn’t forgive me that I did not preach unlimited revenge on the Turks. One day someone asked me, supposing a Turkish child has fallen in a ditch and some of my students see him, what would I advice them to do? I answered: “To go and pull him out.” “If I were a trustee”, he retorted back, “I would not keep you in the school even for a day.” G. Khanigian, the man who had tortured me so much in Aedepsos, Greece, in time had become general inspector of all schools in Greece and Bulgaria, which received aid from the Armenian Benevolent Union. In that capacity he came to Plovdiv. My friends in Greece had spoken to him good things about me. He came to me and together we went to a heading member of the organization, a chauvinist. As soon as we entered, Khanigian turned to him and said: “How did you manage to get this treasure (meaning me) in your school?” The other made no reply. The following night they had told him enough about my “misdeeds”. He tried to give me some fatherly advice. When I disagreed with him, he told me: “Even the unborn children of the Turks are guilty for the massacres. You must teach that to the children.” No wonder several times the organs of the Federation of Revolutionary Parties “Free Word” and “Bee” had violent attacks on me. They called me Christian Turk. The most curious thing was when the Democrats began to attack me. They were pretending to be sympathizers of Soviet Armenia. And yet when in a speech I had denounced Mussolini, Hitler, Napoleon and other tyrants, I drew a violent attack upon me as from the Federals. The author, Hrahan, later became a good Communist and went to Armenia. These attacks upon me couldn’t fail to draw the attention of the police. A petition was circulating, in which the minister of justice was asked to be more merciful toward political prisoners, at that time mostly Communists. With my wife we both signed it and we were called to the police headquarters for questioning. Because of that we were blacklisted by the police. Soon after came an order according to which I could not be elected in the executive committee of any organization. I had to resign two such posts. Then during the war trustees, being more dictatorial, since they were sympathizers of Hitler, forbade me to write articles under pain of losing my job. So I had to write using pseudonyms.
On the whole, I had become strong wine for sick stomachs. In no circle was I welcome. But these attacks did not have power to shake my will and faith. Here is a quotation from my diary: “August 18, 1937. The other day the editor who meddles so much in our school affairs, my greatest enemy, has written that “Christians and Marxists have no place in our schools.” It seems only those have right to be teachers, who worship chauvinism, the Moloch that caused the destruction of more than half our nation. If he thought that by writing thus he would annoy me, or spoil my peace of mind, or frighten me, he was mistaken. How much unbelievers depreciate the spiritual power of believers! These people are so ignorant of the power that Christ gives. They don’t know that the first disciples have rejoiced that they were considered worthy to be persecuted, beaten and tortured for Christ’s sake, with readiness used to go to be torn to pieces by wild beasts. Shall I be afraid of such insignificant persecution? On the contrary, today I am very happy that I have been persecuted for Christ’s sake…” When the Second World War broke out, I took a definite stand against Hitler and Mussolini. Already right from the beginning I had opposed all these dictators, condemning their aggressive actions. My first articles on this subject are from 1934. I wrote about 30 articles in total for the period of 1934-1943. As a member of “The Fellowship of Reconciliation” I have been against the use of force in international relations, against dictators, war makers, and have advocated brotherhood of men. In the article “Will the world remain like this?” from June 1938 I wrote: “Today almost all of Europe is under the hypnotic power of chauvinism. Nations are extremely jealous of their national sovereignty. Some consider this normal and have reconciled with it. But such people fail to realize that history has its logic in causality that drives nations ahead and higher. Both ancient Greeks and Hebrews have been conscious of this. The world will reach that stage to which the human mind strives. The stream flows in that direction. Sometimes big or small obstacles are placed on its cause, but all efforts to stop it or to divert from its course are condemned to failure. No matter with what pride men built up their towers of Babel, they are doomed to fall to pieces, since they are founded on individual and national selfishness. Only those constructions will endure, which have as their foundation the eternal laws of reason and morality.” In that period opinions were expressed supporting one side or the other. Some Communists have always been against the USA. A certain V. Marsian from Iran had a violent attack on the USA. I couldn’t bear it and I challenged him. In the article “The land of contradictions” I wrote that I knew about the many bad things that have happened in America, I have seen myself many injustices and suffering, which are exposed by Americans themselves. Democracy there is not perfect, but the USA is more democratic than many other countries. I reminded some facts about the amount of help the Near East Relief has given to many suffering nations in general and to Armenians in particular. I objected to calling all missionaries “clever merchants of religion”, because I think of my missionary teachers, who were real teachers and fathers to us, who have been spreading joy and goodness. He answered me and I had to write a second answer. The Communists never forgave me for that. But I’ll talk about that later. Here is a quotation from the second article: “With what yardstick does Mr. Marsin measure the USA in order to find them so wanting? If the yardstick is Plato’s “Republic”, Tomas Moor’s “Utopia” or St. Augustine’s “The City of God”, he must condemn America a hundred times. But impartiality demands that other countries also be measured by the same measures. Accepting the evil phenomena existing in the United States, which many of its
citizens admit already, I think that compared to many other countries it is one of the best, if not the best. The countries that Mr. Marsin likes maybe do not have the same shortcomings, but they have their own, which are not pleasant to those with different political views.” In an article I made an attempt to make some guesses about the possible good outcome of the war: “What can we hope from this Second World War? To be able to answer it we have to be able to answer the following three questions: 1. Who will be the winners? 2. Will the USA and Soviet Russia also participate in the war? 3. What will be stronger among the victorious nations, passion or reason? For the present we may dare to guess that moves will be made to realize one or more of the following ideas: 1. Radical change of national boundaries. 2. Strengthening of Socialism and Communism. 3. Disgust of war and strong turn toward peaceful methods. 4. A Federal Union of Europe on the model of the United States.” As the war progressed and the Allies were on the loss, many in Bulgaria became strongly pro-German, including Armenians also. The reception given later to the Red Army was nothing compared to the reception given to the German army. The tanks of the sixth army rolled over flowers to attack Greece and Yugoslavia. Courage was needed to speak and write against Germany when popular opinion was so favorable toward them. As soon as the war was declared I took a definite position against the aggressors. In the article “The side we must take” in Balkan Press, 26.10.1939, after I argued that it was impossible to remain neutral, for inactivity would mean taking the side of the aggressor, and consequently making a choice was inevitable, I explained which side we had to take in the following way: “This does not depend on our individual opinion. History has decided for us. Since we are a nation that has been wronged, persecuted and tortured, for the peace of the soul of our millions of martyrs, we must be opponents of all sorts of international robbery and aggressiveness. Our side is decided, we are always with the wronged ones.” Germany was soaring from victory to victory. Opportunists were in jubilee. Hitler would destroy the old order and establish a New order. There were many of my compatriots, who wished for the destruction of the old order. “We already have lost”, they would say. “Let others also lose. Let the world go to ruins. Maybe from the chaos and destruction we shall have some gain.” In those days I wrote the following article, which I quote in full, as representing best my position and attitude in the war. By the way, at that time Bulgaria was already occupied by the German army. “WHATEVER HAPPENS, IT AFFECTS US As witnesses of the Second World War, no matter how far the events may be from us, we have certain feelings and judgments toward them. We justify some, condemn others, praise the actions of one nation and disapprove the actions of others. It is worth dwelling on the effects such feelings produce on us. It is plain that the opinion of people like us cannot change in the least the course of events. It might have been different if we had been members of a big nation and we had tried to exercise pressure on our government.
If we were to pass into action and try to help one of the sides in this gigantic struggle, again we would not be able to tilt the balance in any direction. We are a small nation and we do not count for anything. If all our pulpits, presses and pens were to enter into the struggle, trying to justify one side or condemn the other, again we could not do much. Future historians, judging more objectively, will prove that right. The greatest propaganda machine in the world can for a time make black appear white, but sooner or later it will be known as black. From all these points of view our opinions cost nothing in the war of giants. If our opinions were to end here, it wouldn’t be worth writing or talking about them. But our opinions and feelings produce certain effects upon us. SOMETHING HAPPENS TO US and that is very important. In our days of suffering we expected other nations to sympathize with us, to grasp the righteousness of our cause, not to be affected by propaganda, not to be carried away by opportunistic considerations. We wished other nations to judge the Armenian cause from moral points of view. We were sure that in that case they would see that we were right. Now, aren’t we also under obligation to judge other nations from moral points of view? Until this day members of a suffering nation, does it not behoove us to be at least in feeling a righteous nation? What will happen to us as individuals or as a nation when we become opportunists and defend unjust causes? What will happen to us, if having passed trough fires of suffering now we mock the sufferings of the other nations? How can we condemn our own persecutors and justify the persecutors of other nations? Our opinions and feelings are important from this point of view. External events caused us to lose land, homes and people. But thank God, we haven’t yet lost our honor and character. Let us be careful lest we lose that jewel also.” (Balkan press, May 16, 1940) Of course, I do not deny the existence of pragmatic considerations, if they do not contradict the moral ones. Before Russia entered the war there were speculations about her conduct and the possible outcomes of a conflict with her. In a series of three articles I tried to make some guesses about the outcome of the war, what Russia might do, etc. In the article devoted to Russia I point out definitely that I am sympathizing with that country because our national interests are with Russia. “Let us begin with Soviet Russia, because the destiny of Armenia is closely dependant on that country. Every patriotic Armenian must be sorry if Russia’s policy ends in failure, because in that case our own country will suffer as well. But even if Russia makes a wrong choice, it would be a mistake to struggle against it by force. No other great nation has the wish or possibility to help or even show interest in Armenia. There is only one other country that is interested in Armenia, and that is Turkey. Using the words of our great church Father St. Sahag Bartev “our sick sheep is to be preferred to the healthy wolf.” This passage may seem contradicting the ideas in the former ones. But it was written against those opportunistic Armenians, who for their opposition of the regime in Armenia were willing to cooperate with Germans and Turks against their own country. I knew very well that if the Allies were to win, we Armenians as a nation had nothing to gain. But I realized that the destiny of Christian civilization was threatened. I could not be indifferent. As a believer in providence I believed that soon or late the
right will win. And yet after the fall of France, when temporarily at least, the cause of the Allies seemed to be lost, I was uneasy and developed a skin disease – nettlerash, scientifically urticaria. The following quotation from an entry in my diary reflects these feelings of despair: “May 4, 1940. Now I realize that one reason for my pessimistic mood is the course of the war. I realize that the individual wishes, desires, ideas, efforts are powerless against the economic and national forces that guide the destinies of nations and people. What is the use of my talking and writing, struggling for peace and brotherhood of men? That which through my puny power I try to build, other forces destroy so easily and so quickly. Why was Jesus crucified? Why did disciples, who try to realize his ideas, continue to be persecuted? The world goes after the devil and there is no power to stop his cause. We have come to such a condition, that I am obliged to pray for the victory of nations like France and England, knowing well that they too are imperialistic powers and full of unrighteousness. What can I do? I shiver at the thought of the victory of National Socialism. Between the devil and the Sea, I prefer to surrender myself to the waves of the sea, rather than to the devil, whom I see standing without a mask. Such inner struggles naturally affect my idealism.” Although Bulgaria was not a direct participant of the war, the country was in constant mobilization. Germany had left to Bulgaria the task of policing the parts of Greece and Macedonia, which were annexed to Bulgaria. Armenians couldn’t be exempted from the mobilization. Those who were Bulgarian citizens were taken in the regular army. Those who were Nansen Subjects were taken for road building. I fell into the second class. The first time we were taken toward the former Greek boundary to construct a new railway. That time our condition was comparatively better, for we were given military uniforms. The Jews had to work with their own clothes, in separate groups. It was harder for me, because I did not yet know enough Bulgarian. That was in 1941. Two years later we were taken again, this time to Macedonia. This time we also, like the Jews, had to work with our own clothes. At a time when clothing was so scarce it was cruel of the authorities to do that. This time I felt better, because I had advanced quite a lot with the Bulgarian language. We were not fed well and we worked under heavy conditions. But to me the hardest to bear was the vile life. Suffering made people more brutal. I had never seen before such bad manners and heard such vile language. Swearing, drinking, gambling, stealing, fighting, all sorts of immorality were present. I had to fight hard to keep myself and a few others in purer condition. In 1944 the Allies, having secured air bases in Italy, began making air raids on Bulgaria. The capital Sofia suffered most of all. The country was almost totally unprepared. Plovdiv has six hills, which could have afforded excellent shelter to the population if they had been tunneled properly on time. As usual they thought of it very late. The tunnels were few in number. In the whole city there were hardly a few buildings that could resist ordinary bombs. And yet frightened people used to go to the nearest building with a few cement floors and find shelter in the basement. During the war, through gifts of the Tutundjian family, who owned a tobacco factory, a new and modern school was built for us. It was completed and as we were living close to it, we would run there for shelter. Only twice bombs were dropped on Plovdiv, but the condition of Sofia was a warning, so we would take it seriously. Our seven years old daughter every evening would begin her prayer as we put her to bed “And may there be no running to shelter tonight.”
The bombing of Sofia continued and the population was scattered in the villages. Panic struck Plovdiv also. The government ordered evacuation of big cities. Everyone found shelter in some village. We went to Kritchim. Unfortunately there was a power station nearby. So after a few weeks the mayor of the village ordered all Armenians to leave. Transportation with a lot of baggage needs money. Those who could afford it obeyed the order. A few families like us remained. Some friends began to intervene for us, but our stay was never legalized. I couldn’t go to the city and return freely. And yet the police did not expel us forcibly either, so we stayed there till the end of the war. This entry in my diary speaks quite well about the condition of the villagers and my spiritual state: “April 22, 1944. Since I began to write the History of Shabin Karahisar I began to feel more the pain of the loss of about a million and a half Armenians. It is one of the rare cases in history that two thirds of a nation has disappeared within a few months. As an Armenian and as a man I feel deeply the cruelty of the devilish act of the Young Turks. The first few days after my coming to the village, after seeing the beautiful orchards of Kritchim, its river, I began to think of the prosperous villages of Shabin Karahisar- Azbuder, Purk, Tamzara and others. They all were prosperous and the Turks destroyed them and killed mercilessly their Armenian inhabitants. It was sad to think of it. As days passed, however, I came to know the inner lives of these people. I notice that the owners of these beautiful orchards live a miserable life. I see their ragged clothes, their dirty homes, their children in dirt and misery. It is true that life is dear to them. But is this life? Their cattle live in better condition. Is such a life worth living? Then I put myself in the place of some European or American. Wouldn’t they think that, although the massacres of Armenians were cruel, they also put an end to their miserable and worthless living? The lives of the Armenian peasants couldn’t have been better. It was an endless circle of toil, drudgery and misery. How big of a loss is it for the world for some such miserable souls to pass away? Of course, it is noble to help such people out of their ignorance and misery, so that they might live a decent life.” The peasants were ignorant, stingy and cruel toward the cattle. Our house owners had a calf called Gizda. For six months she was not let out of her narrow stall and was underfed. They would steal her share of milk from her mother caw to sell it at the black market for 50 levas a liter (in peaceful time a liter milk costs 10-12 levas, now in 1948 the official price is 80, and at the black market it costs 100, water and all). Gizda was always hungry and would “moo” piteously. They would go to work without leaving sufficient food or water for the calf. I would try to feed her, but the poor creature wanted her mother’s milk. These men have such dull sensitivity. At the end they slaughtered her and sold her for 9000 levas. The butcher would sell the meat for 250 levas the kilo. In time of peace with 250 levas one could buy a sheep. It would be ingratitude to God, however, to say that I got only persecutions and no appreciation. On many occasions people from near and far have shown appreciation. People from other cities were more appreciative. Whenever I have traveled to other places, or someone has been introduced to me, they have often expressed their joy of meeting the man whom they had been admiring for his articles. The Armenian press also in time changed its attitude. First among them was “Balkan press”, published in Sofia. Its editors showed great appreciation for my
articles and often put them as editorials or as the most important column. I was often mentioned, twice they published my picture. If it happened that I hadn’t sent an article for more than two weeks, I would receive a letter from the editor, affirming his appreciation and begging me to write again. And so I did, until that weekly also was stopped by the new regime. The nationalistic party (Tashnags, or Federation of Revolutionary Parties) had a split. My friend Haig Asadourian and others wanted to pursue a more pro German policy and started a weekly “Rasmig” (warrior). As they became more nationalistic, they began also to show more appreciation for the Armenian Church. In everything else we were at opposite poles. Even though combating each other’s ideas, that paper never once attacked me personally. He was a loyal friend and so was I. We recognized the fact that the laws of friendship stand above political ideas. In time my first opponent “Azad Hosk” (Free speech) changed its attitude too. It stopped printing articles against me. When I published a little book “Advice to parents”, that paper wrote the best book review. In gratitude I wrote four articles in the paper. Even “Bee”, which had been most violent in its attacks, began to stop them. The above mentioned book was published by the aid of a certain rich Armenian, Ervant Atamian. The paper wished in its New Year issue ten authors like me for Atamian, and rich friends like Atamian for me. Only the “Lighthouse” till the end remained an enemy and never missed an opportunity to revile me. The new regime put an end of all those papers and issued a new one “Yerevan”. The editor was a teacher from our school, a man who had only primary school education. He had helped efforts to help the German army in its fight against Soviet Russia. But after the revolution of 1944 he became a Communist. His greatest quality was that he could cringe and crawl. Naturally he became quite arrogant. My second and third articles were thrown in the waste basket. In other ways also he encouraged my enemies. So I stopped writing for the paper. Later on I began to write in the Bulgarian Evangelic organ “Zornitza” (Dawn). But I’ll talk about that in the next chapter. One of my earliest students Vahram Apkarian in time studied law and became a good writer and a very good orator. One day in a circle of teachers he said that two men have had the greatest influence upon him - I and his teacher of philosophy in the Gymnasium. In a letter to me from September 4, 1945 from Pazardjik, among other things he wrote: “My sincere respects and appreciation for your person, ideas, method of action and the struggle you are carrying on. I am very happy that with my few words of appreciation I have encouraged you. That is small thanks for your invaluable love and care for me, when I was your student. I also, like you, in my intellectual pursuits encounter difficulties. But never mind, I have always admired and loved those people, who have walked alone, misunderstood by the crowd, of whom the greatest was Jesus!” In an earlier letter he had written: “My Dear Teacher, when 12 years ago I first saw you, I could never guess what a great influence you would have on my future outlook on life. Often I say to my friends: “Three people have given me education, my father, mother and my teacher of religion and history at the progymnasium. I do not think there is another student graduating from the progymnasium, who knows as much philosophy as I knew then. Perhaps many Armenian bishops haven’t understood the meaning of the Gospels as
I understood it then. After that I read several times the Gospels and, in my opinion, two people have understood their meaning, the great Tolstoy and you, my dear teacher. I have read Tolstoy’s “Resurrection” and many stories by him, but my copybook for religion remains for me an encyclopedia of religious knowledge. I learned to love history, to respect human beings, to love democracy, altruism and the principle “love your enemies”. Vahram Apkarian” From among several letters of appreciation I shall quote also from one by a man whom I had never met personally. At first I received a post card from him, which said: “Dear Mr. Vetsigian, May be you have received already or shall receive an open letter, which I mailed to your address from Sofia. It is a small expression of gratitude. First I had decided to have it published in “Balkan press”, but later I thought, lest your enemies think you are making propaganda for yourself and lest it hurts your modesty. For that reason I decided to send it directly to you. I have written it with a poor pen, but with sincere appreciation and love. Yours, Ardashes Kazandjian” Next came the letter. “Dear Mr. Vetsigian, you must know that the words of this letter spring from the depth of my soul, with which I want to express my appreciation, thanks and love to you. Unselfish workers like you, examples of goodness and brotherhood are worthy of all honor. The whole Armenian community in Bulgaria must encourage you morally and materially… How few are people like you, who over and above their daily duties, instead of using their time for rest and comfort, devote their time to the noble ideal of educating people. You with your meaningful articles, books, speeches, etc., do us a great service. And how do we repay you for all your sacrifices? With condemnable neutrality and indifference, instead of gratitude toward your great labor. When such men of great soul disappear in misery and poverty, then the public thinks of them… But you, dear leaders of thought, brave princes in the realm of wisdom and knowledge, you are good and magnanimous and noble. You will not keep grudge against the public for their indifference. Continue your noble labor for the small circle of friends and admirers, who far from any personal pride or jealousy anxiously wait to read your beautiful writings and, appreciating your patriotic noble work, are grateful to you. Sincerely yours, Ardashes Kazandjian” Similar letters of appreciation I have received also from my teacher in Anatolia College A. Alodjian, Mrs. N. Kazandjian, a teacher in Yambol, Mrs. V. Moumjian, teacher in Sofia, from another former student Meline Dikranian and several other simple people. My remaining director of this school in such a difficult community is a significant fact. I had very few compatriots, humble people, who could not give me any assistance whatsoever. I have not entered into any party, because with none I could share ideals. Therefore I had no defense from those quarters either. No church body stood behind me, because priests and pastors disliked me for various reasons, mentioned above. Even people who have had such connections haven’t been able to stay more than 13 years. That record belongs to the first director of the school, who had been a native of the city, with strong family connections. The next longest in office, eight years in all, again had been a native. At the time of writing this I have
completed my fifteenth year in office, having also passed through a revolutionary period. This is due to four causes. 1. The grace of God, that has sustained me so wonderfully, as in the past. 2. My high education. Except Haig Asadourian, there was nobody among Armenians in Bulgaria with equal education. 3. My faith in God has made me also very patient. I don’t revenge or keep grudge. I leave vengeance to God. Haig Asadourian used to say that never in his life he has met a man with so much patience as me. “You have iron will and infinite patience” he used to say. 4. I have tried to be faithful and diligent in my work. Irrespective of the treatment I have received from trustees, parents or teachers, I have always tried to do my duty faithfully. Beside the heavy work of such a big school, I have written many articles and books. From 1934 until 1946 I have published 181 articles on different subjects. On moral and religious questions they are 71, 34 on education and science, 61 historical or political, 15 on various other subjects. They were mostly published in the period 1935 – 1943. In 1944 and after 1946 I have not published any. They were appreciated by the public, as the letter above testifies, as well as several letters from the editors. I have never been paid for any article. As to speeches and sermons, I have no account. I have also several books published and a few still not published. The important ones are unpublished and God knows when they will be. My first publication was a reader for the fifth grade in 1936. The next year I published one for sixth grade, the following year for the fourth grade and a textbook of religion for the second grade. I have ready textbooks for printing – readers for first, second, third and seventh grades, Armenian history for fifth, sixth and seventh grade, Grammar for the same grades, “Great religious leaders” for the fifth grade, “The great prophets and their teachings” for sixth grade, “Life and teachings of Jesus” for seventh grade. In 1941 I published “Advice to parents”, which was appreciated by the press and public. The following year “Advice to young people”, again appreciated. The expenses for both books paid Ervant Atamian. In 1944 I published “The history of the Armenian School in Plovdiv”, dedicated to the new school building. The expenses were paid by the benefactors of the building – the Tutundjians. The previous year (1943) I published a brief history of Armenian literature from the fifth to the fifteenth century. Nearly a year I spent writing “The history of Armenian Literature” from the beginning to the 18th century, unpublished. In six months I wrote a kind of systematic theology, which begins with psychology and ethics, finishing with theology proper. In three years I wrote the “History of Shabin Karahisar”, which I consider my greatest work. From oral or scattered sources I compiled a history that printed might be 400 pages. In my diary I have formulated so the reason to write it: “It is human to sympathize with suffering. We get interested in a wounded animal, in a fallen little bird. Even more we sympathize with human suffering. When that suffering is born with great patience, our sympathy grows greater. But when it is born bravely, heroically, then we are moved to immortalize it in some way. That human sympathy is the cause that moved me to write the history of Shabin Karahisar. I have tried to immortalize the heroism of a few thousands humble folk, who suffered immensely, but heroically and bravely.” Along with it I wrote a smaller book “The cause of the Armenian tragedy”. I wrote a historical play, based on Shabin Karahisar events. And several smaller things for children and young people. I also have a few poems. My last work so far is this
Autobiography, which is the result of two summers’ intensive labor. After this I shall devote my time to a free commentary on striking passages in the Bible. That work will be in English as well. So I have kept Prof. Macintosh’s advice to write, although I have written mostly in Armenian. I shall end this chapter with the following entry in my diary: “June 22, 1944. Most men idealize their childhood and would like to return to it. This seems to be a universal desire. Only I am an exception, it seems. There is no period in my life that I would like to relive again. The whole past is terrible to me, full of suffering disappointments and sins. As the years pass, and also by writing more books, I gain more self reliance, I grow happier. If it goes on like this, old age will be desirable to me. Already I see signs that it will be so. The pleasures of life seem to me to be so insignificant in value, that old age, when bodily pleasures will diminish, but my mind may have become stronger, my will with the experiences of the years more unshakable, seems to me a desirable period. Old age will, I hope, be more pleasant than my unfortunate childhood and youth.” Editor’s note – The archive of Souren Vetsigian, with the above mentioned unpublished manuscripts, including “History of Shabin Karahisar”, are preserved in the Public Archives – Plovdiv
A TEST OF FAITH All through the war I have rejoiced sincerely over the victories of the Red Army. Every evening I would take my maps and draw with a red pencil the Eastern Front. I didn’t have any hostility toward Soviet Russia. I knew that religion is not important for them, but I also believed that they are realistic enough to recognize a friend like me, who all but in one point is for them. I am a socialist by conviction and see the righteousness in many of their legislations. I am a good student of history and see that Armenia cannot have any other helper except Russia. I am a man that knows to control his likes and dislikes and, if I were given freedom of conscience, I could be a faithful citizen of a Socialist regime. When the Red Army crossed the Danube, my best friend, a Social Democrat, almost Communist, gave a banquet. I was present too, and to emphasize the unique greatness and importance of the event, I did not decline to drink “rakia”, a strong brandy, which under no other circumstances I would have drunk. On the 9th of September 1944 the Fatherland Front took the power by a bloodless revolution. I was among those, who rejoiced for it, for though the former government also had democrats, in this one the Communists were also represented, so it was more democratic. Soon after in every city and subdivision of it were formed FF comities, composed of people with marked anti-fascist tendencies and loyal to the regime. I was chosen as member of one of the comities and attended regularly all meetings. After about 20 days we were asked to make a classification of our neighbors as fascists, anti-fascists, etc. I declined such a task and I was never called again to a meeting. The trustees of the Armenian Church and school were overthrown and a FF Committee took power. Again I rejoiced. There wasn’t one man in the committee that did not know my position. We had been on the same side of the line.
Without any worry or suspicion I went to do my duties as director of the school, since the opening of the school was at hand. We had to enter for the first time the new building, which still was not sufficient for all our needs. I had to make some arrangements that did not suit one of the kindergarten teachers, a Communist and a great trouble maker. She had complained to the Committee members. In consultation with them I proved the reasonableness of my arrangements. But that had been just a pretext. My enemies, who had hurried to enter the Communist Party, wanted to utilize that fact, and also that I did not enter it. They wanted G. Asarlakian, a graduate of the Armenian College of Sofia, to be director in my place. He and his wife were the most ambitious, most diligent and also most able to do evil. The motive was jealousy - I had done them no evil. On the contrary, I had been their best friend. They too, on many occasions had given tokens of gratitude and appreciation. The blow therefore was a lightning from a blue sky. Naturally, other friends of mine had frustrated the plot. There was no reason why I should be degraded. But once the evil started, Asarlakian should get some satisfaction, or else they knew his capacity to do evil. It was decided to divide the school. He was to be head of the primary department (I – IV classes), and I – only to the progymnasium (V – VII classes). That did not please him altogether, but it was something. His first act was to throw out religion from the curriculum. In state schools it had been done, but it was not binding on us. We were semi-independent and especially in matters of religion, the state had no right to meddle in our affairs. It could be done, therefore, through initiation of Armenians. The arrangement was that we should be left free to conduct the school as we pleased, that was his condition. In spite of this, he came to order me to leave out religion. Of course I refused. I said I would do it only on two conditions. If the Inspector were to send me a written order, or if the leaders of the Armenian organization call a meeting and it is decided by general consent. They brought me a circular without signature or seal. But it was not addressed to me – it was a general circular to the state schools. I refused to yield to the trick. A delegation went with me and found out, that according to a decision religion could be taught optionally in our school. This did not suit my opponents. They tried to do the second, to call a meeting of the leaders. Communists dominated in that meeting. No one dared to stand by me. I succeeded to keep in the curriculum at least ethics, instead of religion. This victory would cost me dearly. My enemies now had a weapon against me. I was not progressive and I was not a friend of the regime, since I opposed to kick out religion from the school. The year 1944 passed in conflicts and turmoil, together with the economic hardships. We thought that since the war ended, we shall be moving toward betterment of economic conditions. Instead things began steadily to move toward worse. All salaried people and wage earners were in bad condition. We were worse, for only I worked in our home and there wasn’t great demand for English lessons, moreover I did not have much time for them. For the first time I gave announcements for lessons. What the government gave us was very little and we had no money for the black market. In spite of it we were in debt and still we are. Twice I saw my wife crying for spilling oil or burning something in the oven. And I marked them down, for we had fallen very low indeed. Our condition was heavier than the described in the Bible famine of the Jews. They have had where to buy from and enough money to pay high prices for various
foods. But my salary was not enough even for the necessary vegetables, leave alone more valuable food and clothing. For years we, husband and wife, haven’t tasted butter. Lately we cannot afford to buy it even for the children. Cheese we eat very rarely, because we do not have enough even for the children. This year we ate just a few eggs. This year meat is given more often, but I cannot buy even our allotted share. Whereas many people who have money, buy from the black market also. We do not have any macaroni, we are badly off with rice, and we don’t even have dry beans. Twice I found a few kilos through friends. We eat mostly bread, but for lack of cereals, it also was given in insufficient quantity. This year we don’t have any fruit, and vegetables are very expensive. Some entries from my diary will tell the story better. “March 5, 1948. During the First World War also I have lived through a famine, but this one surpasses it. Then bread was cheaper and more plentiful. Fruit also could be found in plenty. The poor like me could go to vegetable gardens and dig up potatoes and carrots. The famine now is unusual. Searching – finding nothing, except propaganda.” “October 1, 1947. The janitor of the school is much better than I am. He has had money and his son also works. He can eat cheese, whereas I have to eat only rotten marmalade or vegetables. I cannot buy cheese even for my children. Often they remain without it.” “October 24, 1947. This morning I saw again what the janitor was breakfasting, he was eating eggs. A peasant had brought him bread, so he had plenty of it. Whereas I, the director of the school, breakfasted on corn mush, without oil, butter or sugar on it. I put a little marmalade, as if to sweeten it, but even that grudgingly, we have so little of it too.” During the summer of 1945 the government wanted to send 85 of our children to camp. Asarlakian, instead of taking them, took about 50 “Septemberies” (children of 9th of September) to another place. He had many helpers, teachers and young people. It was fashionable and profitable to help that new children’s organization. I had to leave my pregnant wife in the city and, taking my eight years old daughter with me, to go to camp. I had one teacher helper, the janitor and two women to cook. I did my best to make the camp a success. A teacher from Sofia, who had visited me at the camp, wrote later: “Pardon me that I delayed in writing to you and thanking you for the pleasant time I had with you at the camp at (the village) Pavelsko. Those days will remain as some of the most memorable in my career as teacher. Especially the camp fires were delightful. I enjoyed them as much as the children. I could see that you were doing everything to develop in your students the love for the good, the true and the beautiful. Often I tell my colleagues about your self denying labor as a teacher, which, let it remain secret between us, I think is partly at least the result of your American education. V. Moumdjian” While I was doing my duty to the utmost at the camp, the trustees had been plotting against me. They had reasoned that nothing but dismissing me would satisfy and pacify my enemies. To make Asarlakian director would shock the public. So they had been looking for someone else. They had written to other teachers. Some of them were noble men and told me about that – Dr. Manougian from Sofia and O. Shirinian from Pazardjik.
At the same time I had to go to a teachers’ conference in Sofia. There I had to report about the needed textbooks. For a few days I left the camp and went to Sofia. I gave my report and presented my textbooks. The appointed committees examined them and approved them. But the central committee for Armenians did nothing to get permission and paper for their publication, in spite of my repeated request to do so. In Plovdiv also no one undertook it. Never mind that the children would remain without textbooks – books by a non party member cannot be published. In Sofia I reported also on the program for Armenian language and history, which was accepted with little alteration. An educational board was also elected in which I was elected as a member too. When our daughter was seven years old, she had had a conversation with her friend Titi, four years older, as to what kind of husbands they would like to choose in the future. Titi had wished for a rich husband. Our Annie had wished for a kind, diligent and wise husband. While reporting this to me, she added: “I want to marry a man like you. Only that I am not going to let him become a teacher. What is this? Meetings, quarrels, and they annoy you so much. Let him choose another profession.” That was the opinion of my daughter. But in my diary I have the following entry: “October 1, 1945. Lately I red an article entitled “The inner voice”. The author relates how providence has guided him in a certain case and he concludes “Since I have come to believe in Jesus, I have listened to this inner voice and never have I been disappointed”. Now, looking back at the nearly 20 years since I have walked with Jesus and have looked to him for help in every difficulty, I can say too, that in all that period I have never been forsaken by him, not once. He has given me everything that I have aspired to. I am not rich, but I have never prayed for it. Beside riches, he has given me everything necessary for a happy life and has guided me in wonderful ways.” Our son, Horen, was born on the 31st of August 1945. Right away I started a diary for him and on the first page I wrote: “August 31, 1945. Today at 8 AM we had a darling boy baby and we named him Horen, after the name of his uncle, who hardly eight years old experienced all the horror of the 1915 massacres, lived among Turkish peasants in wretchedness and misery and had a very tragic end. May his innocent spirit guard his nephew. May God save him from sufferings for his uncle’s sake.” I found out about the tragic end of my brother while coming back from America. I stopped in France to see my cousin, who too was saved from the massacres with one of his sisters (now in Armenia). He had found his way to Constantinople where in an American orphanage he had met one of the boys who were with me in the first Turkish village Ghayi. He had told my cousin that on a rainy day the river had been flooded. His brother and mine had tried to cross the river on the backs of buffaloes. The flood had carried away my brother. He had drowned and his body hadn’t even been found. That was the end of the miseries of my unfortunate brother. As my old protestant friend had said, my son’s luck was born with him. Somehow our friends got wind of our economic situation. Clothing and food began to pour in. Mrs. R. Todd of New Haven, my dearest friend from Yale Rev. Russell Hiatt, Prof. and Mrs. Bainton of Yale Divinity School, Mr. Marsh of California, a former teacher, later on Mrs. Kraemer of Hanover College and Mrs. Turner of New Haven, my classmates, as well as a few other unknown friends. In clothing we were better
than in peace time, Horen’s food for the most part came from America, even part of the bread. For the year 1945 – 46 the appointment of the teachers was made on a different basis. Some of the trustees were against dividing the school. Asarlakian had gone the previous year so far, that while on Martyrs’ Day, April 24 th, I closed the school and took the children to church, he didn’t do it, because he knew that after the service I would talk to the children in the hall. This scandalized many ordinary people. To carry animosity so far as not to respect the memory of a million and a half martyrs! So this time they wanted to make a change. To appoint Asarlakian again as a simple teacher seemed to them out of the question. All the Communists were with him, that is why he had become so arrogant. Many Communists, formerly my personal friends, now had a cool attitude toward me. I couldn’t understand what the reason was. Later on I understood that party discipline forced them to do so, but they fell too much under the vengeance of Asarlakian. Whatever the majority decides, the minority also must do. So that year Asarlakian was appointed vice-director – in reality a spy over me. He would have right to control all my official correspondence and have the power to order teachers. In a sense he was more powerful than me, because he was also elected secretary of our professional group and was the leader of the organization “Septemvriyche” (“Septembery”, a child of 9th of September). Both positions gave him big privileges and power. Except for his few satellites, I was still popular among the majority of the teachers. I was still having classes with prayers as we used to do. Two or three teachers of the more courageous followed my example. This could not be kept secret from Asarlakian. He had reported to the Central Committee for all Armenian affairs in Sofia that religion was being taught under the guise of ethics. I received a letter from the Committee on March 22, 1946, in which they noticed in surprise that out of all schools in Bulgaria, only in ours religion was still being taught. They reminded me, that by government decree the Church was separated from the state and from the schools, that neither I nor anybody else had the right to introduce religion in the curriculum, and that the former order for optional choice was not valid any more. I answered that according to the decision of trustees and other bodies, instead of religion we teach ethics and I refuse to put it out of the program. All the year the state was cleaning its schools of all “fascist” elements. Whoever opposed any government arrangement was a fascist. At the end of the school year, as usual, I sent the teachers’ permits for collective renewal. Sometime in July came an order that in order to renew the licenses or permits, each teacher had to have a certificate from the local Fatherland Front Committee. Asarlakian was at a camp with his “Septemberies”. He came down and in one day got such certificates for himself and his friends and went back. Before I had gone a teacher came to me in alarm. They had refused to give her a certificate. She said her name was in a black list and she had seen mine and other names also. She was the youngest teacher, the least experienced and she was crying. I hurried to give my petition. They gave me the same answer. An order from the militia forbade them to give me such a certificate. That was a nasty surprise. Whoever heard it was scandalized. I went to the chairman of the new progressive Organization “Yerevan” to ask what recommendation they had given for me. They alone were authorized to say which Armenians are fascists, and which are not. I was assured that my name was at the lead of the antifascists in our school. It couldn’t have been different, they all knew me personally. All other teachers had in the past cooperated in some way or sympathized with the fascists. No one could say that about me, and while Asarlakian
then wouldn’t dare even to open his radio to listen to news from forbidden stations, I used to give news to people and write dangerous articles. Then who had done this dirty trick? My friends began to put pressure on the FF Committee to give me the certificate. They began to hesitate. Asarlakian was called from the camp. He had to tell them why my name was in the black list. A lady, whom I knew, came to us grasping for breath. She had been at the office of the FF and had seen Asarlakian to enter the inner office. The door had remained open and she had heard everything. The hard pressed Committee members had turned to him: “Listen comrade Asarlakian, just what has Souren done? Many people come to intervene for him.” Well, I was not a fascist, but I have been a great oppositionist of the FF regime. I oppose all progressive orders at the school. After fifteen days of uncertainty I got the certificate. Six other teachers couldn’t get it, or if they got it, it was too late. I helped three of them to find positions in other schools. I remained at the school surrounded by enemies anxious for my downfall. Asarlakian’s attempt to get rid of me was frustrated. But he knew he was powerful. There was a party behind him and he had great credit in Bulgarian circles especially, for apparently he wouldn’t hesitate to do any service, even spying his friends. So that year he had given a petition that he would not remain a teacher, if I was kept as director. The trustees were alarmed. They decided not to appoint the teachers by themselves. They decided members of other Armenian committees to be present also. A Bulgarian Committee leader was also present. I was called to that meeting. Asarlakian was present in his capacity of member of the Executive Committee of the “Yerevan” organization. He was a teacher, but had a position higher than the trustees, for they were appointed by “Yerevan”. Besides, he was a member of the Armenian “active” of the Communist Party, that is, he was considered one of the most active of its members. There I was rebuked for disobeying the order not to teach religion. I was accused for my reactionary manner of teaching history. They were annoyed when I told them that I know one kind of ethics, that of Jesus. Why while teaching the principles, I couldn’t tell that they were said by Jesus? I was told to leave aside all old prophets and Jesus and talk about the new ones and their new teachings. Finally I was offered a declaration. If I were to sign it, I would be kept at the school, otherwise I would be considered resigned by my own will. The declaration was: “The undersigned, as director of the Armenian School in Plovdiv, I give the following promises to the trustees of the same school: 1. During this coming 1946-47 academic year, I shall neither teach religion, nor ethics, nor other teachers will do so, neither will I try to make propaganda for religion. 2. I shall do my utmost to propagate the reforms of the FF in the school and its ideas among students. 3. I shall have friendly relations with the teachers and in case of troubles I shall report to the trustees. I shall do nothing without the collective decision of the teachers’ body. 4. I shall always inform the trustees of such decisions. 5. I shall do my utmost to prepare good citizens for Soviet Armenia. 6. If at any time the trustees get proof that I have gone against any point of this declaration, they have the right to annul my appointment. For the acceptance of these conditions I put my signature hereby. September 12, 1946”
My first reaction was to refuse to sign it. I suspected that it would be easy to accuse me breaking any of the promises, since almost all the teachers were now with Asarlakian. Thus they might dismiss me in the middle of the year. I started out. A friend came out after me and in a few words assured me that all these was done only to appease Asarlakian and his party friends, not to get it so seriously. So I went back and signed the humiliating document. After all I had a wife and children. In years like these, when with a steady income we can hardly make a living, what could I have done without work? Asarlakian was kept as vice director and this time I was ordered to take absolutely no steps without consulting him beforehand. That year in October a law was passed by the parliament, by which all minority schools, Armenian, Jewish and Turkish, were to be nationalized. Asarlakian was jubilant. The law provided that the director should be of the same nation, be a Bulgarian citizen and politically desirable. I could not fulfill the last two requirements. He wrote an article, as if to enlighten the public about it, but as many friends called my attention to it, he was really trying to tell the public that I was doomed. In a hurry I made a petition for citizenship. Already in debt, I had to spend another 20000 levas, more than two salaries, and left the rest to God. In the school Asarlakians, husband and wife, became more arrogant than ever. They made my life unbearable, being sure of my fall. The trustees considered themselves now superfluous, expecting any time the order to surrender the school, so they were paralyzed. Asarlakian and his clique could do whatever they pleased. Although I was having a hell of a time at the school, my diary of that time tells a different story about my inner life. Once I had watched children playing in a brook. With great labor they were building dams, trying to block the course of water. The water without protesting was yielding to their whims, until gathering enough strength behind the dam, suddenly burst it open, sweeping all obstacles before it. “Such is the case in human life also. Man’s enemies or envious people may try to block one’s course. They may succeed for some time. But that which gives worth to the man, his abilities, gather up behind the dams and someday sweep and carry away all the lies and intrigues that are built on his way. And he moves on toward his destiny ordained by God. Indeed, it is hard to be patient and bearing, but one needs to be, seeing that the outcome is going to be victory.” “September 11, 1946. The difference between Old and New Testimony religion is that whereas the former shows us possibilities, the later affirms their actuality. Let us take as an illustration the question of receiving aid in time of troubles. The psalms are full of supplications and hopes that God will not forsake those who trust in him. But Jesus does not give us merely hope or the possibility of receiving such aid. He goes farther and assures us in victory...” Because the fight for faith itself, overcoming sufferings, preserving ones spirit and faith, are already victory and award. “December 5, 1946. I was reading in the Acts of the Apostles about the persecution of the early Christians. Suddenly it occurred to me that ours also is a glorious age, for we can be tested too by the courage and sincerity we display.” “March 2, 1947. I have had the privilege of studying at one of the highest institutions in the USA. But since then I have passed through a higher course of religious education, namely, persecution for Jesus’ sake. The result is that my faith in God’s omnipotence and fatherly love is firmer than ever. Now I can claim more
direct knowledge of God’s grace and assured that Paul’s saying “That all things work together for good to them that love the lord” is perfectly true.” I have a few other entries in this spirit. I not only was not afraid of all the persecutions, but also entered into the arena to defend the right of teaching religion in schools. Whenever in our professional organs would appear articles against religion, I would write an answer. They would never be published. They would be in accordance with “capitalistic” democracy. In “people’s” democracy only one side is allowed to speak. But I did not lose hope. The official church never took openly a stand on the question. As to the Protestants, they rejoiced that the Orthodox Church is receiving a blow. I never shared such a view and blamed them for it. It happened that one day I preached at the Bulgarian Evangelical Church on “The social massage of the prophets”. In my sermon I tried to show that the modern prophets really had nothing new except their methods. In the congregation happened to be one of the trustees of the Evangelical weekly “Zornitsa” (dawn). After the service he asked me to send that sermon. I did and it was published. At that time the editor was Rev. V. Zjapkoff, a social minded religious worker and a friend. He asked me to continue writing to his paper. In July 1946 he wrote to me: “Dear Mr.Vetsigian, Although very busy, I want to write these few lines to thank you for your articles. They were excellent and many open minded people thanked me for them. Of course, there were also a few block heads who did not agree with you. But I don’t think about them. I shall rejoice much and be thankful if you write more often in “Zornitsa”. Every number should have an article from you. Waiting for your farther cooperation, Yours in Christ, V. Zjapkoff.” Really, I received a letter also from a partially literate protestant, who thought I was neither Protestant, nor even Christian, that I was destroying faith in the Bible, God and Church. Of course I did cooperate with Zjapkoff until my sworn enemies got wind of my corresponding with “Zornitsa”, caught something in my articles and put even my friends among Communists in tight situation. Besides, Zjapkoff resigned, a new editor took charge of the paper, who in accordance with the will of the authorities, reduced religion or Christianity to celestial relations. The church must not say anything on social questions and leave alone politics. I have nothing to do with such a paper. (Editor’s note – Soon after Zjapkoff is persecuted by the regime).
In March 1947 the nationalization of the minority schools had its effect. The teachers were classified by the state as was done to the other ones. Among others I was considered an irregular teacher, because my university diploma was from the theological department. As soon as I had come to Bulgaria my diploma was legalized and I was recognized as a university graduate and had the privileges of all other such graduates. Now the new regime made me equal to teachers who did not even have a high school diploma. My protests were of no avail. Fortunately my enemies did not have much reason to rejoice, for Asarlakian himself, who was only a College graduate, was considered irregular for a progymnasium as well. I applied to the ministry and was told to send my college diploma to see what could be done on that basis. In the meanwhile we had to live with an even smaller salary as irregular teacher. For the irregulars do not get an increase of salary according to the years they have worked, and they are appointed just for one year and don’t have a stable position.
But while I was having all these troubles at the school, the Great Shepard had been “preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. My closest friend in America Russell Hiatt knew of my situation. One day I received a letter from him in which he was writing, since you are so undesirable there, come to the USA, we can make use of you. I thought it was just a good expression of feeling to comfort me. I didn’t consider it possible, because I had never thought of it, as the following entries in my diary show. “October 1, 1945. Even though God has blessed me here in Bulgaria in many ways, still there was in me the feeling that if I had remained in America, I might have achieved more. That feeling used to beset me from time to time, poisoning my happiness. The birth of my darling son was putting an end to this feeling of discontent. For good or bad I came to Bulgaria and became what I am. If God keeps my son and he grows up nicely, I may send him to America. He might go there with better preparation and background and he may, by God’s grace, become what I couldn’t become. Now I realize that a son is the prolongation of ones earthly life. There is an earthly immortality beside the heavenly one. I may continue to live in my son and achieve more through him.” “October 13, 1945. Sometimes I think that I made a great mistake by not remaining in America. Today again such feelings seized me and my mood was spoiled. But soon I found reason to comfort myself and conclude that I have done the right thing. Here I am not appreciated enough and suffer both materially and spiritually. Had I remained in America what causes would I have for discontent? 1. In a land where physical beauty is adored to such an extent, where to be “a nice man” often means to have nice looks, both my wife and I would have a sense of inferiority. This feeling was strong in me while I was there. 2. From the point of view of patriotism I would be on a very low level. Armenians in the USA do not need me – already individual nations have no chance to perpetuate their existence there. Whereas in Bulgaria I am working to keep the sense of nationalism (not chauvinism) awake in the minds of a small community of Armenians at least. Some may deny it, but I am a patriot. 3. The third and the most important consideration is that in America I would not be able to pray. How could I pray to God, if ignoring His command to come here, I were to remain there? Now that I have obeyed that voice, I feel assured also that God loves me and thus far has never forsaken me. Only this should be sufficient reason to justify my coming here. It may be that I made a mistake and it was according to God’s will to remain there. But at that time my conscience used to tell me the contrary and to go against that prompting would have poisoned my happiness. I sacrificed the career and more rewarding life to come here, so that I may be assured of God’s favorable disposition toward me. Did I do right? Thus far my experience tells me, that since I am with God he protects me against all evils.” The proposal of my friend was of course tempting and would be a God-sent relief from my troubles. I did not feel like saying categorically no. I thought that if I were to point out other difficulties to him he would be discouraged and give up the idea. In this I was mistaken. He was a typical American – ingenious, resourceful and generous to the highest degree. Right away he had entered in communication with other very good friends of mine – first of all Mrs. R. Todd and Prof. Bainton. Both of
them sent to me affidavits. They had invented a way to raise money to pay for my traveling expenses. Russell had made a circular of excerpts from my letters to him and sent around to classmates and friends. This is a big part of that letter: “Excerpts from letters of Souren Vetsigian: “October 15, 1945. We have always prayed for the defeat of Hitlerism. I have come very near to imprisonment for being outspoken in my sympathies. Twice I was taken into labor camps to build military highways. When the Allies began to bombard our cities we were in great trouble. Many nights we have run to shelter. Our daughter used to pray “May there be no running to shelter this night”. When conditions became worse, we also, like most people, found refuge in a village. Financially also the population suffered much, especially salaried people and wage earners. Unfortunately the aftereffect of this is still continuing. I am still at the same school in the same position, although several attempts have been made to deprive me of it. But we have an Armenian saying “No wolf eats the lamb that is under the protection of God”. “September 18, 1946. I am having great difficulties in my work also. I am not desirable because I am not “progressive” enough. If I didn’t have such a good record as antifascist in the past, I might be kicked out as fascist any moment. Such are the trends. A new intolerance has swept over the country. But by God’s grace somehow I triumph over the designs of my enemies, who are very strong, but God is almighty. I am not seeking martyrdom, but there is great joy in fighting for ones faith, especially when the odds are great against him. Of course clothing and other articles are scarce in the country. I am suffering for lack of razor blades. All through the war and these last two years I have been using old discarded blades. Please send me, if you can, some razor blades “Valet”. “January 2, 1947. Each of your letters brings some pleasant surprise and tokens of real friendship. This last one, however, dated December 10th, surpassed all our expectations. I have mentioned your generous offer to an acquaintance here, and he could hardly believe it. It is expected from relatives to sacrifice for each other, but friends like you are rare indeed. Your wish, which is also ours, may or may not be realized. God knows what is best. But we will always be very grateful for your generous offer. As a Christian I thought it was my duty to serve my people. I obeyed God’s command and came here. Materially we were never well and we could hardly make ends meet even in times of peace. Appreciation was also little, but we did not care about it, for our aim was to please God alone. Especially now that I am also an object of persecution, many friends here consider me a fool that I have ever come here from America. Some have always said so to me. Moreover, lately, partly due to the terrible economic crisis, partly due to patriotic motives, Armenians are immigrating to Soviet Armenia. Our school, which one time had nearly 800 students, now has only 400. Next year hardly 200 might remain. For very serious reasons we decided not to go to Armenia, even though pressure is being brought upon us to do so. Now it seems, as though your offer is inspired by God. Maybe he thinks that henceforth our life will be wasted here in vain. When we read your letter to Annie, she did not know how to express her joy. Through her readings she has come to love America so much, that in her words “she is mad with joy”. We told her that we should leave all to God, at most she might pray for it. And now she mentions it in her prayers.”
“February 7, 1947. As I look back on my life since 1915, when I remained a complete orphan, for a period of 32 years, I came to the conclusion with the poet that “I have looked to Him in every need, and I have never looked in vain”. So I believe that if it is according to His will, somehow a way will open to us. Now under the terrible economic conditions we are very anxious for a way out. Many Armenians find it by going to Soviet Armenia. Since our aim is not a mere physical existence, but a useful existence for the cause of Christ, emigration to Armenia is for us suicidal. Some Armenian friends, who cannot deny that my fears are well founded, lightly suggest that I put patriotism above my devotion to Christ and look for other fields of activity besides religion. I cannot do it, come what it may. It is true that if conditions continue as they are now, here also I might permanently face the alternative of either being neutral with regard to religion, or to lose my job. But it may come in spite of my wish. I do not want deliberately to go to a country, where it is going to be my inevitable lot. As yet I have opportunity to serve God, though in very modest dimensions, but God knows that I do everything which is possible…” “March 21, 1947… Will I have such opportunity in America? I feel that I might have. I know that nearly 70 millions of Americans have no conscious allegiance to Christ. Maybe we can win some to Christ. We leave everything to God. If he hadn’t prompted you, you could never have thought of all these, for my wish was so inhibited in my conscious mind, that I would only occasionally dream about it. When I left America I burnt all bridges behind me. Now God through you is building a bridge for us. If so, I shall take the opportunity and try to serve Him as my ability permits. Annie rejoices much more over her new ties of friendship with Ruth and Julia. As a child she is very jubilant over every token of friendship. If I were not to chide her occasionally, her expectations would know no limit. For her, as for most children, whatever is wished is done…” Meanwhile a big part of the needed sums had been gathered in America. Russell had also sent a second circular letter. With the help of my former teacher Dr. G. Michaelides, an appointment as teacher at a college in Cleveland had been secured, so that we could go there without being subject to the quota limits. While God through friends in the USA was showing his favors, the Armenian community also began to show more appreciation of me. Many times people have stopped me in the streets to tell me that I shouldn’t lose courage and that public opinion was with me. One day in a shop a very great fanatic Tashnagist said: “You can imagine what kind of people these Communists are, when they torture such a mild man”. These things probably couldn’t remain a secret to the Communists. My arch enemy Asarlakian began to lose credit. He had had a quarrel with other members of the “Yerevan” Executive Committee. The question had been who to be appointed head of the organization. This time Asarlakian had been defeated and he was embittered. But he was a revengeful and spiteful fellow. Probably he had done something to take revenge on his opponents. So that year he was not elected a delegate to the conference of “Yerevan”. To annoy him more, to my great astonishment, I was invited to keep the minutes. Soon after were elected the members of the new executive committee and he was not among them. What had happened in the inner circles that Asarlakian was having such a great fall? I had no means of knowing. Communists must keep decisions in secret. My own guess is that he, who was doing spying in the school and had given evil reports against opponent teachers, was also a spy in the Armenian circle of Communists. This is supported by the fact that although he lost his credit among
Armenians almost completely, he had high credit in Bulgarian Communist circles and they tried to reestablish him. He turned against his former friends and tried to take revenge on them. Then he was expelled from the Armenian section of the Communist party. The arousing public opinion on account of me might have played some role, but I don’t think these things were done for my sake. His evil deeds caught up with him – that was all. He was punished like the sinners in Dante’s hell, by their own sins. In the summer of 1947 the municipality decided to pay an extra salary to all teachers who would go camping with the children. Asarlakian was still powerful at the school. He was secretary of the profgroup (trade union group), leader of the organization “Septemvriyche” and all the teachers were his satellites. He managed to go to the camp with his chosen allies. It was a mixed camp with Bulgarians. “Yerevan” also organized a camp for only Armenian children and I was invited to join it, but with no payment. My wife and children went to Pleven, northern Bulgaria, to visit my wife’s family, while I went camping. I was all the time in anxiety. There were two problems to be solved in my mind. I needed a permission to leave Bulgaria, and I needed to get back my accreditation as regular teacher. Would I succeed in any one of these? Hardly had I returned from camp, when I received a letter from the ministry, according to which I was recognized as a regular teacher. A new law had been passed, by which irregular teachers with at least a college education and five years of experience as teachers, were recognized as regular. I fell in that category. My enemy also obtained the same rights as me. During a meeting on the 9th of September, two members of the Yerevan Executive Committee asked me whether it was true that I was trying to go to the USA. Our secret had leaked out. There was no use of hiding. I told them the truth. They shook their heads. I understood that if thenceforth Asarlakian would receive any more blows, partly it would be due to his evils against me also. The new regime had dissolved all organizations and had allowed the formation of “Yerevan”, which would follow the FF in everything. All power and authority over the Armenian community was concentrated in the hands of its Executive Committee. After the opening of the 1947- 1948 school year, “Yerevan” invited the teachers of the Armenian school for a meeting in order to put an end to the dissentions in the school. Beside the 20 teachers, about that many leaders of the community were present. The meeting was conducted by a former partisan Tsetso Kouyoumdjian, a man utterly unknown to me. We were told bluntly that the troubles and their causes would be investigated and a verdict would be given as to who was right or wrong. And then each teacher had to respect the decisions. Except the teacher of the kindergarten, who first started the troubles, but subsequently, due to my magnanimity and Asarlakians tactlessness came to my side, all other teachers were against me, although not all spoke openly. All spoke one after another and marshaled the following accusations against me: I teach religion to children; in history I promote reactionary ideas; I oppose FF legislation; I am against the new Armenian spelling from Soviet Armenia (because even though teaching the children the new one, I was doing some of my writing in the old spelling); I don’t teach enough Armenian, because I am incapable (never mind that the hours of studying were diminished, and we had no textbooks, and I was just continuing what other teachers had started); I am incapable as a director. When my turn came I spoke little, mostly answered the criticism and said almost nothing about my enemy’s evil deeds against me, for which I was blamed
later. I thought that this investigation also would be like the earlier ones. They would hear the facts, see that Asarlakian was guilty and I was innocent, but he being a party member, would be slapped on the back, would be mildly scolded, but praised for his alertness in defending the cause of FF and introducing “progressive” ideas in the school, and it would end there. But this time, to my surprise, Tsetso Kouyoumdjian began to cross-question Asarlakian. His lies and contradictions were mercilessly exposed. Communists have their sense of justice, though it is quite raw. We were told that in three days the verdict would be read. This time the verdict was read by the chairman Vahinag Hairabedian, an able lawyer and a great Communist. Asarlakian and his party were found guilty. All their evils were exposed. The teachers that suffered with me and were now out, had at least the moral satisfaction to know that they were victims of human jealousy and not fascists. On the contrary, it was said that “Asarlakian surrounded himself with former fascist teachers, formed a clique and persecuted teachers, whose anti-fascist opinion was obvious”. In brief, it was shown that even if for a time Communists had by mistake supported Asarlakian, now they would not do so any more. This was not all. Asarlakian lost his post as secretary of the trade union and leader of the “Septemvriyche” organization. Then he played a farce, resigning as teacher and tried to organize the students to make a strike in his favor. But he failed. The strike was prevented. His resignation, of course, was declined. In Bulgarian circles he never lost his credit. After ten days he came back. He had not learned anything. He continued to struggle against the Yerevan Executive Committee. Sometime in May his case had been brought up for reexamination before higher party courts. I don’t know the result. Against me he began to use my articles in “Zornitsa”, showing them to various people. The inspector of the school was interested in one of them, in which I rejoice that through referendum in France teaching of religion in the schools was reinstalled. I gave it to him and defended my position. He kept the article for some time. Soon he was dismissed and he gave it back to me without any comment. Feeling bigger support by “Yerevan”, I showed a stronger face in the school against Asarlakian and he yielded a little. The whole year however he hadn’t done one thing to help me. All he had done were his classroom duties. In the meanwhile our efforts to leave the country failed. Several influential people tried to intervene, but with no result. In the USA all problems were solved, including the one, which we thought most important – the financial one. A small difficulty here blocked our way. Last summer I was more optimistic, for we had just started on the project. Then I had written in my diary: “June 19, 1947. After the death of my parents God became a father to me and has guided me by his mercy. Not I saved myself from the caravan. God did it through friends. I did not go to Sivas by myself. God took me there. I did not enter the Armenian orphanage. God led me there. I did not try to enter Anatolia College. God heard my silent yearning for learning and led me there. I did not want to go to the School of Religion. God led me there. I did not try to go to America. I had only a silent yearning for higher education. God heard my prayers and opened a way for me to enter Yale Divinity School. Now our friends are planning to take us to the USA. If it is according to God’s will he will lead us there.”
When I came to Bulgaria I understood that my career would be limited economically and morally. My wife could not find suitable work. I looked for better possibilities at Anatolia College, the Melkonian Institute in Cyprus, the American College in Sofia, but all doors remained closed for me. I reconciled with my circumstance. I said “this is my cross, I must bear it”. I did not develop self-pity. I tried to do the best possible. Soon I discovered a latent power in me. I could write books. But, alas, I found out that writing them was easy enough, I have nearly two dozens of them. The problem is to have them published. I could hardly manage to publish nine little ones. How shall I publish the bigger ones? If there is no hope of publishing them, what desire can I have for writing more? In the meanwhile jealous people wanted to take away from me even this humble position. Three years of struggles, wasting of nerves and patience! How many times I have come home nearly broken down. God saw all, heard my silent prayers for a way out, and through one of his best sons, my friend Russell Hiatt, opened a way of escape for us. The project of going to the USA was at first utterly unrealizable for me. The difficulties were enormous. But with the help of many friends and classmates, all the problems in America were solved successfully, in the best manner possible. I think it’s because over there God deals with people who have faith in him. Here a small problem remains unsolved, because God has to deal with people, who are not sensitive to his promptings. But I have not lost hope. To lose hope will mean to lose hope in God. During the First World War for four years I lived with the notion that there were no more Armenians in the world, that they are either killed, or Mohammedanized, that I have to resign to my lot as a Moslem peasant. God’s grace showed his wonders. I fell among Armenians, received high education and attained some importance. God will show his wonders this time as well. For me the important thing is that I have not denied Him and as far as I can, I stand for Him. His infinite grace will do the rest.
Additional notes: “To continue this chapter until my dismissal from school in January 1949 (I was called to “Yerevan” club on the 11th of January. The resignation was handed on the 12th.) The next chapter to be: The Reword (or The Cross)”
FINAL NOTES This book was written in two summers, 1947 and 1948. It is result of 23-24 days of intensive writing from early morning till 11 oâ€™clock at night. The materials of certain chapters were already written in English. Others are from the History of Shabin Karahisar (in Armenian). Certain parts are quotations from my diaries and articles. It was began July 6, 1947 It was finished August 11, 1948
QUOTED SOURCES Part one 1. Archbishop Stephanos Kouver Atonis – History of the life and conduct of our Master Mukhitar of Sivas, teacher and chief abbot – Venice, 1810, ch.2, p. 9-14 2. Mag. The New Armenia – New York, USA, num. October-December 1927, p. 53-55 3. Vahan Totovents – Antranig and his wars 4. Souren Vetsigian – manuscript “History of Shabin Karahisar”, Armenian language, preserved in the Regional State Archives – Plovdiv Part two 5. Johannes Lepsius – Armenian Massacres, Armenian translation, Constantinople 1919 6. Monthly Hairenik (Mother Country), published in Boston, USA, number August 1931, p.176 7. Ibid., number August 1930, article on the booklet of the German Socialist Heinrich Firbucher 8. Ibid., num. January 1936, article by P. Sanasar 9. Ibid., num. April 1933, p.108-109 10. Ibid., num. October 1932, p.160 11. Ibid., num. October 1934, p.100-101 12. Ibid., num. June 1934, article “Our Cross” by Aram Haigaz 13. Ibid., num. November 1932, article “Memories of a Mayor” by Al. Hadisian, p.138 14. Bishop Gregory Balakian – The Armenian Golgotha, Vienna 1922 15. Henry Barby – Martyred Armenia, Armenian translation, Constantinople 1919 16. Mustafa Nedim – The Armenian Massacres, Armenian translation, Sofia, Bulgaria 1936 17. The trial of Talaat Pasha, shorthand record, Vienna 1921, p.87 18. Aram Haigaz – The fall of the aerie, Ararat publishing Co, Boston 1935 19. Frants Werfel - Forty days of Mousa Dagh, novel, Sofia, Bulgaria, 1935 Note: The specified sources are indicated in the position of their quotation in the text with their number in square brackets.
PHOTOGRAPHS of SUREN VETSIGIAN and for Shabin Karahissar СНИМКИ на СУРЕН ВЕЦИГЯН и за Шабин Карахисар Edited by Horen S. Vetsigyan
Редактирани от Хорен С. Вецигян
SHABIN KARAHISSAR ШАБИН КАРАХИСАР
General Antranig Ген. Антраниг
New photos by Rupen Chavoushian/ 2014
Съвременни снимки от Рупен Чавушян/ 2014
BOOKS and MANUSCRIPTS КНИГИ и РЪКОПИСИ
The published in Bulgaria book Публикуваната книга
The deportation roads of the Armenians from the different areas of Turkey (Pointed – Shabin Karahissar)
Invitation to the presentation of the published book
Pages from the manuscript “History of Shabin Karahissar” Страници от ръкописа “История на Шабин Карахисар”
FROM THE BOOK BY ARAM HAIGAZ ОТ КНИГАТА НА АРАМ ХАЙГАЗ
Book by Aram Hajgaz about Shabin Karahissar with included texts by Souren Vetsigian Книга на Арам Хайгаз за Шабин Карахисар с включени текстове на Сурен Вецигян
The Armenian Church in Shabin Karahissar (before 1915) Арменската черква в Шабин Карахисар (преди 1915)
PHOTOGRAPHS OF SOUREN VETSIGIAN СНИМКИ НА СУРЕН ВЕЦИГЯН THE ORPHANAGE OF SIVAS ПРИЮТА В СИВАС
Boys sleeping outdoors in the orphanage yard, 1921 Момчета спят на открито в двора на приюта, 1921 г.
Sivas orphanage, 1922 Приюта в Сивас, 1922 г.
Near by Mineral springs, 1922 Край Минерални извори, 1922 г.
ANATOLIA COLLEGE АНАТОЛИЯ КОЛЕЖ
Anatolia College, carpenters, 1926 Анатолия колеж, дърводелци, 1926 г. With Mr. Compton by the YMCA Cabinet, 1925 С м-р Комптон пред кабинета на YMCA
Sophomore class, 14 June 1926 Втори клас, 14 юни 1926 г.
Commencement day, 1926 Денят Годишен акт, 1926 г.
ATHENS, SCHOOL OF RELIGION АТИНА, ДУХОВНО УЧИЛИЩЕ
Graduation, May 1930 Дипломиране, май 1930 г.
YALE UNIVERSITY ЙЕЙЛСКИ УНИВЕРСИТЕТ
Mrs. Todd, in the 1950-s
DIRECTOR OF THE ARMENIAN SCOOL IN PLOVDIV ДИРЕКТОР НА АРМЕНСКОТО УЧИЛИЩЕ В ПЛОВДИВ
III class (7 grade), 1934 III (7) клас, 1934 г.
In the school yard В училищния двор
II class (6 grade), 1934 II (6) клас, 1934 г.
Class of 1935 / 36
Outing На излет
Teachers 1935 / 36 Учителски колектив през 1935 / 36 г.
Kindergarten 1936 / 37 Детската градина 1936 / 37 г.
Class of 1936 / 37
Class of 1937 / 38
Kindergarten Детската градина
The schoolyard and the Armenian Church Училищният двор и Арменската църква
Асхиг Т., 1945 г.
Laying the foundations of the new school Полагане основите на новото училище 11.6.1942 г.
Kindergarten 1943 Детската градина 1943 г.
Summer camp 1945, Pavelsko, Rodopi mountain Летен лагер 1945 г., с.Павелско
Summer camp 1947 Летен лагер 1947 г.
IIIa class (7 grade) 1946 / 47 IIIа (7а) клас 1946 / 47 г.
SOUREN VETSIGIAN – PERSONAL СУРЕН ВЕЦИГЯН – ЛИЧНИ
Souren with his wife Keena Iliewa-Vetsigian and her mother Сурен със съпругата си Кина Илиева-Вецигян и нейната майка
The family, with the families of Keena Ilieva’s two brothers and her mother Семейството, със семействата на двамата братя Кина Илиева и нейната майка
First mobilization, the summer of 1941 Първа мобилизация, лятото на 1941 г.
Second mobilization, the summer of 1943 Втора мобилизация, лятото на 1943 г.
The grave in the Central Cemetery in Plovdiv Гробът в Централни гробища, Пловдив
100 years since the Armenian genocide of 1915 Souren M. Vetsigian AUTOBIOGRAPHY His guiding hand, to serve my people ANNOTATION SOUREN...
Published on Mar 19, 2015
100 years since the Armenian genocide of 1915 Souren M. Vetsigian AUTOBIOGRAPHY His guiding hand, to serve my people ANNOTATION SOUREN...