By Ani Afyan
Armenian News-NEWS.am continues publicizing stories within the framework of the “Survivors” project, which is launched on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.
“Survivors” is the stories of ordinary Armenian people who lost their childhood and homeland.
“Survivors” is one hundred years of recollections and pain, and one hundred years of expecting reparation.
“Survivors” is a diminishing group of people who will not lose their hope for the acknowledgement of their pain.
“Survivors” is 103-year-old Andranik Matevosyan.
The district of Sari Tagh in Yerevan has a life of its own. The time passes by calmer and quieter, as if saying there is nowhere to hurry.
If the God were wandering all over Yerevan, he would definitely stop at the house of the Matevosyans – here the Armenian capital is spread behind the eyes (photos).
The invisible presence of God was felt by Siranush Matevosyan in 1918 when she grabbed her six-year-old son Andranik and the first things she saw and ran out of the house together with her husband – Artyom. However, some force was pulling her back to the barn.
“There we had flour, beans, honey and an icon of Narekatsi,” said 103-year-old Andranik, “I guess God wanted us to take the icon, and it saved us.”
Artyom has learned about preparing pogroms of Armenians while serving in the Russian army and immediately deserted to have time to save his loved ones. However, his mother-in-law, as well as father- in-law and their son were brutally murdered by the time he came back, and everything he had to do was to escape from Kars along with his wife and son.
“My mom had too light skin to look like as a Kurdish woman, she smeared ash at her face and tied a black scarf on her head,” grandfather Andranik said quoting his mother.
They were running from a village to village leaving behind their native land, their house and the property they had.
“We had a large farm ... plow, cow, ox,” grandpa Andranik said, “Money was kept in a special hiding place. Only my grandmother knew where it was, but she was killed, and everything has gone.”
On the roads of wandering, said the grandfather, they tried not to speak in their mother tongue, so that Turks could not guess their origins.
“Mother said we were walking day and night. The food ran out soon, but we had to go, in spite of the fatigue, hunger and cold.”
Once on their way they met a Turkish soldier.
“Dad was carrying me on his back, covering shoulders with an overcoat. The soldier thought I was a gun. Then he saw it was a child and asked about our ethnicity. My dad said we were Kurds.”
The Matevosyans reached Batumi soon and settled in one of the military barracks. Grandpa Andranik said there was a chance to leave for UK by a ship from Batumi, but they decided to stay and left for Russia's Maykop in two years.
In 1930s, Andranik got married to a young Armenian woman who had his mother’s name – Siranush Matevosyan. They had seven children: Tevan, Khachik, Gohar, Angin, Araksya and twins Rafael and Razmik.
In 1936-37 the family moved to Armenia, to Etchmiadzin.
“I thought they were Russians living in their land, and we Armenians have to go to our homeland,” grandpa Andranik emphasized.
The Second World War started in 1939 claiming lives of millions and changing the fates of several generations. Granpa Andranik was not taken to the army, but during the war he worked as a road worker in Goris, Akhalkalaki and other cities.
Later the Matevosyans moved to Yerevan where Andranik built a house and where he lives now.
“So, this is how I spent my days,” Andranik completes his story, longingly speaking about the lost youth.
Artyom Matevosyan died early, his wife Siranush died in 1993. The wife of Andranik and his three brothers - Gurgen, Karen and Arsen – passed away.
Today he is surrounded by care and attention of children, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren - all are more than 70.
As to the icons of Narekatsi, for more than 90 years it was passed from hand to hand and wandered from house to house. No one knows exactly where it is now, but grandpa Andranik continues to believe in God who once saved his family from the hands of the Ottoman Turks. He always wears a small cross in a pocket of his shirt.
Photos by Arsen Sargsyan/NEWS.am
The previous articles in the “Survivors” project are: