These children with carefree faces and naive eyes in the photo were the Armenian inhabitants of the Mush orphanage. In the center is their mentor Margarita. The photo was taken by an employee of the Organization of the Scandinavian Mission and missionary Bodil Katharine Biørn. Prior to the tragic events of 1915, Biørn worked in the orphanages of Mush and Mezre.
In the summer of 1915, exterminating the Armenian population of Mush, the Turkish army set the city on fire. Thousands of Armenians were burned alive in their homes. According to the writing left by Biørn on the reverse side of the photo, teacher Margarita and all her students portrayed in the photo died in the fire.
Biørn, a witness to the crimes of Turkey, experienced emotional distress after losing all her wards in a single day. She had given all the maternal care and love she could to the children in the prior years.
The cries of the children begging for help would remain in the memory of Biørn forever. In 1916, returning to Mush again, Biørn and her Armenian assistant Karapet Yeghiazaryan gathered 34 orphans from the streets and abandoned houses and provided them with food and shelter. Thus, she saved them from inevitable death, a thing that she had been unable to do for her wards at the orphanage.
“Having lost my orphans, I was very upset, but the heavy despair wasn’t enough to force me to immediately leave and return to my homeland. For five months, I stayed in Kharberd. I was looking forward to returning to Mush again: I hoped to find some of my orphans alive, which would have calmed my soul.”
Mush, 1916. Bodil Biørn, a Norwegian missionary, an eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide. Photo source: Collection of the Norwegian Royal Archives, from the catalog “100 photo stories about the Armenian Genocide.”