By Ani Afyan
Armenian News-NEWS.am continues publishing stories within "Survivors" project launched ahead of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated in the Ottoman Turkey in 1915-23.
“Survivors” is the stories of common people who lost their childhood and homeland.
“Survivors” is a hundred years of memories and pain, hundred years of expecting retribution.
“Survivors” are a diminishing group of people who won't lose their hope for acknowledgement of their pain.
“Survivors” is 102-year-old Arevaluys Amalyan
“Where were you born dear?” Arevaluys Amalyan asks me, holding my hand in her warm hands and looking at me with starlight in her eyes.
It is hard to imagine how these hands were building a house, a marriage, a new life... (PHOTOS)
“In Yerevan. And where are you from?”
“I am from.... I am from Yergir,” she said, folding her arms and staring at the window silently. She made it clear that she is reluctant to continue a conversation.
“That's it. She will not say a word,” her son Levon said.
Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – more than 60 of them - lavish attention and care on Arevaluys, but she still cannot reconcile with her past where she left her orphan childhood and the lost home.
“Yergir” is translated as “native land, homeland”. This is how Armenian survivors call Western Armenia, being unable to adjust to new life.
Arevaluys Hazaryan was born in Arabkir on January 4, 1913 to a family of craftsmen.
In April 1915 her father Khachatur was brutally killed. Vergine – her beautiful mother – got married with Turkish pasha in exchange for saved lives of her children and other family members.
Grandfather and sisters of her father took care of 2-year-old Arevaluys. Her brother, 4-year-old Hovhannes, was taken to Aleppo by the brothers of her mother. This is a tragic story of how her big and friendly family was scattered around the world.
The survivors of Arabkir massacres did not manage to come back to their normal life, and finally Armenians – among them Arevaluys and her aunts – said goodbye to the native streets and took to the road in 1926. They reached Batumi first and then moved to Yerevan by a train. Here they were given land to build a house. There was a new district in Armenia's capital city called “Arabkir” to commemorate the oldArabkir.
In 1930s Arevaluys married Sargis Amalyan.
“Was he a native of Armenia?”
“No, my father was among refugees from Arabkir. He has a tragic story, too,” Levon said.
Sargis Amalyan was almost 8 when Turkish soldiers broke into their house and took away his family. He was the only one who managed to escape and hide in the forest. On the next day he was found by Armenians who took him with them.
“My dad said he witnessed the Turks lined the Armenian up against the bank of the Euphrates river and hit with truncheons on their heads and threw them off into the river.
“Has he found anyone of his family?”
“How many children do Arevaluys and Sargis have?”
“They are three, except for me. Sirush, Anahit and Grigor”
“Have you ever tried to find your uncle in Aleppo?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, we have not seen him. He died in a horrific accident many years ago.”
“What happened to Vergine grandma?”
“She gave birth to three sons for pasha. They said he loved her very much, allowed praying and keeping Bible under her pillow.”
Levon said Vergine managed to find and establish contacts with her brothers in Aleppo. Once after the death of her husband, she kissed her grandchildren and left unnoticed. No one saw her since that day.
“Where did she go?”
“To her brothers in Aleppo.”
The local journalists were so much interested in the story of Vergine that they published an article entitled “I came to die as an Armenian”.
Photo of Arevaluys' mother Vergine (first from right)
“Did grandpa try to find Arevaluys?”
“She found us through his brothers. But she could not believe that her daughter is alive. Once our mutual friend came to visit us from Aleppo and she asked him for something.”
“To make sure that Arevaluys was her daughter, she asked to check whether she had a birthmark on her shoulder. Being assured that her daughter was alive, Vergine said she wanted to see her, but Arevaluys refused to meet her mother.”
“All these years my mom hid the story of her mother. She could not forgive her for marrying a Turk, and when asked, she always said her mother was killed by Turks together with her father. When we learnt the truth, she said: ‘How could she be the wife of a Turk? It would better if they killed us.”
Vergine Hazaryan died in Aleppo at the age of 106. They say she was not losing hope to see Arevaluys till the moment she died.
Photo by Arsen Sargsyan
The first article of “Survivors” project is Khosrov Frangyan: 100 years of expecting repentance