Survivors of the Armenian Genocide – The New York Times

Tigranuhi Asatryan, born in 1910, Kagizman town, Kars Province. 2010.

“We emigrated from Kagizman on two occasions. I don’t remember the first time well. But I remember the second, in 1918, very well — that terrifying day, the dead children … until we managed to get to Leninakan. We lost our relatives — my aunt, her three sons. They tortured my uncle in a Turkish prison, then killed him. There were suffering Armenians everywhere.

“I was the daughter of a rich household. But they did everything during the massacres — murders, rape, everything — nobody was spared.” 

This and the following captions contain excerpts of what survivors told Ms. Armenakyan. In some of the photos, survivors hold up portraits of themselves when they were younger.

Azat Tovmasyan, born in 1916, Korter village, Bitlis vilayet. 2008.

“I was born on the migration journey.

“At 40 days old, I contracted chickenpox. My mother wrapped me on her back as if she were carrying things. When they got to Julfa, she took me off her back and saw that I wasn’t making a sound, I wasn’t breathing. She thought I was dead. An old man approached and said, ‘Your child is alive, don’t be afraid.’”

Hovhannes Avetisyan, born in 1908, Tzpni village, Kars Province. 2008.

“There were 12 people in my family, I am the only one left, the Turks killed all 11. I remember I was 4 or 5 years old. We migrated from Tzpni in Kars. It was impossible to walk in the middle of the road, there were bodies strewn everywhere. The cart couldn’t pass over the corpses — the bodies were all around.”

Manik Manukyan, born 1910, Silivri town, in the vicinity of Constantinople.

“We escaped at night, and reached Greece in ships.

“My mother took us to the village of Vodina, we lived well there. Then I got married and moved to Thessaloniki. We were very rich in Greece. When we came to Armenia, our lifestyle worsened. My husband couldn’t bear those conditions and died early. I worked as a tailor and sewed wedding dresses all my life.”

Mariam Avoyan, born in 1901, Bitlis Vilaye, held up a wedding image of herself and her husband, while her daughter stood behind her. 2008.

“I remember the massacres. Armenians and Turks lived in peace until then, but afterwards … 5- and 6-year-old children witnessed a whole genocide. They took us Armenians — man, woman, child, young and old — to a large and open space and began.

“They poured gasoline on people and burnt them. There was smoke and soot, the nauseating smell filled the air. The sky grew dark. People turned to ash in the fire. Thousands of corpses lay in that field. I was lying under dead people, not making a sound. There was the shadow of a man right in front of me. He was firing through the smoke at those who had remained alive. The Turkish soldiers waited until the last person was burned, and then they left. We finally managed to get to Armenia, to Talin. I got married, had six children, my young husband went to the war and never returned.”

Movses Dermishyan, born in 1908, Haji-Hababli village, Musa Dagh, Aleppo Vilayet, sitting with his wife, Sara Dermishyan. 2008.

“Musa Dagh consisted of six Armenian villages. Nobody else lived among them, no other ethnicities, no other religions, all of them were people of the same religion.

“Those six villages decided together that it is better to go up the mountain, defend ourselves and fight, rather than die in the streets.”

Gabriel Gabrielyan, born in 1914, Annavan village, Van Vilayet.

“We migrated to Baghdad in 1915, then to Armenia in 1926. For 50 years, I worked as a teacher, a historian. I write songs and poetry.”

Avag Harutyunyan, born in 1911, Keghis village, Bitlis Vilayet. 2008.

“The genocide deprived us of everything. Those who stayed alive managed to preserve only their lives.The Turkish soldiers were killing everyone.

“Before the massacre began, the village men were rounded up and taken to the Turkish Army, my father was with them. My mother went on the dark path of deportation alone, taking me along with my sister and two animals.”

Tigran Farajyan, born in 1907, city of Sis, Adana Vilayet.. 2008.

“The Turkish state forced all the Armenians of Cilicia to migrate to Mesopotamia, and then wiped its hands clean. My sister was kidnapped by Arabs, and my stepmother abandoned my younger brother on the road. They made me wear girls’ clothes and had sewn in gold pieces under the skirt.

“I ended up in an orphanage first in Aleppo, then in Jerusalem. Arrived in Armenia in 1924.”

Hripsime Haji-Sargsyan, born in 1911, Tavshanli village, Kutahya Vilayet. 2008.

“I was a child, but I remember how the Turks came and killed my grandfather, who was sitting by the door. My grandmother stepped out towards my grandfather and they killed her too. And within seconds, two corpses lay next to each other in front of our house.”

Rehan Hakobyan, born in 1914, Krkhu village, Bitlis Vilayet. 2008.

“The Russian troops helped us and we emigrated. We passed between the two Masis mountains, through Nakhijevan. My father worked for the Russians. When he saved up some money, he managed to save us from the Turks and brought us to Armenia.”

Remella Amlikyan, born in 1905, Vagif village, Musa Dagh, Aleppo Vilayet. 2005.

Gohar Amlikyan recalled of her mother, Remella, that “she’d always tell me about the defense of Musa Dagh. She was 10 years old. In 1915, her two uncles were killed, another one was taken by the Kurds during the flight so that they could hide him, but the Turks later found the poor man, put him inside a wall, blocking him in.”

Vardush Hovhannisyan, born in 1908, city of Van. 2008.

“I remember a woman, she was probably my mother, we were walking along the beach. … We were on foot. The refugees had gathered in the tonir room, and a man was shooting, standing in front of the door. I remember the face of that man to this day. My parents died. My sister and I stayed alive.

“In 1915, we emigrated to Kars. In Kars, the Americans divided the people into two parts — one group went to an orphanage in America, the other was sent to orphanages in Leninakan, Kirovakan and Dilijan. I ended up in Dilijan.”

Vasil Sukiasyan, born in 1912, Harin village, Van Vilayet. 2008.

“When the massacres began, my father was not at home, my grandfather and grandmother were. The Turks entered the village and called a meeting of the men. When my grandfather went, 90 percent of the men in the village had already been killed. My father returned at night. They pierced my ears, dressed me in girls’ clothes and hid me in the tonir.”

Parandzem Hovhannisyan, born in 1910, Prkhus village, Bitlis Vilayet. 2008.

“My two elder brothers died on the way, only the younger one and I remained. My mother had hung small sacks to both of her sides and kept halva [an Oriental sweet] in them. When we got hungry, we’d take some out and eat it. My poor mother was pregnant on the way, she gave birth in a cart, but she bled so much that she died. My brother took care of me. My husband was from Kars: He had kidnapped me. We had seven children.”

Hovhannes Balabanyan, born in 1913, Bithias village, Musa Dagh, Aleppo Vilayet. 2013.

“There are no mountains and no spring water anywhere else like the ones we had there. My grandfathers Karapet and Movses built our house — it had two floors and two entrances, one leading to the garden and the other to the street. The two brothers lived with their families, 25 people, in peace and harmony. We left in tears.”

Aregnaz Karapetyan, born in 1904, Igdalu village, Ankara Vilayet. 2009.

“I don’t remember a thing. I only know that my father tied me to his chest and took me across the Araz River. I was a small girl, plucking cotton. I spent my life in torment, up to now.”

Abraham Sargsyan, born in 1905, city of Diyarbekir. 2008.

“I was 10 years old when the deportations started. My three brothers died on that journey. My mother, father, two sisters and I escaped towards Syria through the cane fields of the Khabur River, so that we wouldn’t end up in Der Zor.

“In 1946 I moved to Armenia with my sister, wife and elder daughter. And my parents came in 1964.”

Noyem Hovhannisyan (Jamkochyan), born in 1910, Musa Dagh, Aleppo vilayet. She held up a portrait of herself and her deceased husband. 2008.

“There was a disease — cholera — and the corpses lay swollen beneath the walls. The flies would gather on the healthy ones — who could escape? Many died. My mother, two brothers, uncle, aunt and grandmother died there. My father would say that he had so many corpses that he became confused. The two-three priests were unable to cope with the burials of all the dead.”

Ashkhen Avetisyan, born 1907, Latar village, Bitlis Vilayet, died just before Ms. Armenakyan came to photograph her in 2009.

Her sons told Ms. Armenakyan that they were deported in 1915. They said that Ms. Avetisyan had told them that there had been corpses on the road everywhere and that her mother, their grandmother, used to cover her eyes so she would not see the bodies.

Source: The New York Times




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