“I have an ordinary biography. I was born to a family native to Mush. The great Armenian artist Martiros Saryan once asked me, drawing my portrait: ‘Where are you from, Mher?’ I replied: ‘My father is from Mush, mother from Van. I was born in Leninakan, so who am I?’ The master pondered and said: ‘Listen, boy, you are a real Yerevantsi!’
The fate of an Armenian! My father and mother had miraculously escaped death during the Armenian Genocide. They were orphans living a difficult and terrible childhood. They carried their fear through their life.
Father, Mushegh, was laconic and patient. But if he suddenly exploded, heavy silence reigned in the house. We tried not to move, spoke in a whisper. One time, he got angry and left the home, saying: “I will not come back… I will never come back again.” We waited, waited for him for a very long time.
My father wanted me to become an artist, but I had already participated in many theatrical performances in the club. He was angry, demanding that I leave the theater. He never attended the performances in which I played. Painting, painting only!
He worked as an apprentice in a textile factory. In the difficult post-war years, he bought a special notebook for drawing and strictly, demandingly, ordered me to redraw pictures from textbooks into it. Once, instead of the “task” given by father – the cavalry hero Chapayev – I painted a portrait of the writer Turgenev (by changing the dates under the portrait).
My father looked and said: “Don’t you dare to think that I won’t distinguish Chapaev from Turgenev!” And he slapped me with such strength that I still have ringing in my ear.
He himself painted a flower all his life. Only one flower!
Years have passed. Once, I was told that father is in the auditorium. I got embarrassed. The curtain fell slowly. Backstage… I hadn’t seen him for a long time. He seemed aged. He came closer to me: ‘Lao [boy, guy], I want to sit with you this night…’ I remember that night as if it was yesterday.
He talked about difficult and long roads, cold dawns, crowds of homeless people (he, like many, went through the camps of Siberia). And about that stone, behind which he hid from the Turks as a child… And about his father’s song in that distant April dawn: ‘They wanted to erase us from the earth, but they only managed to massacre us.’”
An excerpt from the book “The Eternal Monologue” by Mher Mkrtchyan.