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 101-year-old Aharon Manukyan
Speaking about his mother, 101-yer-old Aharon closes his eyes. Much has been erased from his memory behind the haze of years, but recollections of that time are still alive and sadden his old heart (PHOTOS).
“Dad loved his mom very much,” his daughter Ruzanna said showing to the yellowed photo of a young woman with the imprint of courage and hidden suffering on her face.
The third son – Aharon – was born in the Manukyan family on March 20, 1914.
In 1915, his father Khachik was killed in a fight for defense of Van. Learning about the death of her beloved husband, young Mariam hastily dressed children and came out of the house where she never came back.
“Mom was carrying me in her arms, while Melikset and Vahram were holding her skirt,” Aharon said.
Days and nights they were running away from death, from their past and warmth of the native home, struggling with hunger and fatigue. They could not stop, as Turkish soldiers, who were watching the Armenians who survived the massacres, could find them at every step.
One day in 1915, being exhausted and confused they reached Etchmiadzin.
“Mom went door-to-door begging food for us,” Aharon grandpa said, reverting the eyes and trying to hide the emotions.
Awkward silence hangs in the room. Minute, two or three... the silence is broken only by a knock of clock and grandfather's breath.
“What happened next?”
“Granma Mariam took away her children to Leninakan and left them at an orphanage that was founded by an American couple. Dad called them Mr. Yaro and Mrs. Limin. They lost their son and dedicated their life to orphans to survive loss after the death of their child,” Ruzanna explained.
She said since orphanage Aharon has a childish habit of keeping sweets and candy under his pillow.
In 1920-21 the couple decided to come back to U.S. By that time Mariam found job in a laundry and took the sons home. Once Mrs. Limin came round.
“She wanted to adopt Dad and take him to America, she promised he would have everything he needed.”
“Dad resembled her dead son, and she wanted to give him warmth and attention that she did not manage to give her own child.”
But no arguments and promises could make Mariam give her son. Mrs. Limin put gold jewelry on the table, but Mariam was unwavering although she was very much in need of money.
In 1945, Aharon entered the Yerevan State University to study history. He was invited to give lectures in different universities and worked for zoology institute at the Academy of Sciences. It seemed the hardships were left in the past.
In 1952, he got married to Ripsik Tadevosyan.
“Mariam grandma died that year. Dad took Mariam's death hard. One photo is the only thing that she left,” Ruzanna said.
The first girl was named after grandma – Mariam. Ripsik gave birth to Lusine, Aram and Ruzanna.
“Dad never misses an opportunity to mention Van. Whenever we eat fish, he says: 'You have to try tareh (herring) from Lake Van.' We know that he himself had never eaten this fish, but we understand how important for him is to talk about his native land.”
Grandpa Aharon is sitting silently with his eyes closed. I do not know whether he is asleep. The last rays of the setting sun slide on the walls of the apartment which had not been repaired for a long time. Grandma Ripsik is sitting in an old armchair in the corner of the room.
Ruzanna carries the burden of caring for elderly parents.
“It is very difficult to do everything alone. Sometimes to dress, bathe and shave them is a big problem,” she said while seeing me off.
A few minutes later the door shut with a swam and left behind another story of people who once faced unspeakable cruelty, but managed to survive with a sense of dignity.
Photo by Arsen Sargsyan
The previous articles in “Survivors” project are