Hripsime Gasparyan tells the story of her grandfather. “I will tell the story of my father Hayrik Mkhitaryan’ grandfather’s family. Gaspar Mkhitaryan (born in 1881) and Mariam Mkhitaryan (born in 1888) were Hayrik’s parents. They had 5 children – 3 sons and 2 daughters. They lived in the village of Bulanlugh in Mush.
At the end of the winter of 1914, on the orders of a Turkish pasha, the garrison of Mush entered Bulanlug, gathered about 40 Armenian men, and brutally killed them in front of their families. Before killing Gaspar, the Turks offered him to give his wife to the Turkish pasha in exchange for his life. Gaspar refused and was killed.
The mother of Mariam helped her daughters and grandchildren escape and hide in the house of their Kurdish neighbors. But she herself stayed at her home. She would be incinerated in the hayloft along with other women and children. After the death of her mother, Mariam could no longer hide in the house of the Kurds and had to leave.
She cut her hair and smeared her face with soot to become unrecognizable. Along with her children, she would wander for several months, attempting to hide from the Turks. During those months, her youngest daughter died, unable to endure hunger and cold. Grandpa Hayrik, who was 11 years old, would recall that they saw half-crazed Komitas among the migrants.
Mariam many times tried to jump into the Euphrates River and drown herself, but her eldest daughter Sadaf wouldn’t allow her to do that.
At the end of April, they took shelter in the Kurdish village of Murat. They stayed in the house of one Kurd for a fee. While staying there, two of Mariam’s children died from measles.
In the middle of May, it was reported that a Russian detachment was helping refugees to cross the Murat River. Mariam along with her surviving children Hayrik and Sadaf joined the group of refugees. When they reached the river bank, one Kurd approached Mariam and asked her to let Sadaf look after his young children while his wife was giving birth. Mariam reluctantly let go of her daughter.
After Mariam and Hayrik made it to the other bank, the Turks suddenly ordered to close the passage for those who stayed on the other side.
Many people rushed into the river, and for a moment, it seemed that the flow of the river stopped. On the other side, Mariam begged the Russian soldiers to return her girl Sadaf. Unfortunately, no one understood the language of the poor woman.
For three days and three nights, Mariam would come to the river and wait for Sadaf, but to no avail.
Along with other refugees, she and Hayrik were transported to Leninakan (Gyumri) where her brother Gevo lived. Mariam and Hayrik would stay there for 3 years. Then, they moved to the village of Makenis (Vardenis district).
Years later, Sadaf would tell that the Turkish pasha took her from the Kurds and brought her to his home. The pasha’s wife treated the girl very badly. One day, the girl decided to run away into the forest and commit suicide. On the way, she met the pasha and begged him to let her go. The pasha agreed and sent Sadaf to an American shelter in Beirut.
At the orphanage, Sadaf met Tigran Terteryan, a boy with the same fate from the village of Korhak in Mush. When Sadaf turned 18, they got married. Thereafter, the couple was sent to Marseille, France.
Mother and daughter would look for each other for many years, but to no avail.
In 1948, Sadaf left an advertisement in a French-Armenian newspaper. Thanks to it, Mariam learned that her daughter was alive. In 1950, Mariam wrote a letter to the Armenian church of Beirut and then addressed an Armenian newspaper to print a photo of Sadaf with the address of her mother and brother.
Having learned about this, Sadaf sent a message to her family, telling that she had applied for a waiting list to come to Armenia. Unfortunately, her turn came 5 years later. In 1955, arriving in Armenia, Sadaf found only her brother Hayrik. Mariam had passed away in 1951, yearning for her daughter. Grandpa Hayrik would pass away in 2004.”