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 Mariam Meymaryan
The face of grandma Mariam is easily seen through the glass in an old frame of a wooden window. The face with deep wrinkles is full of light sadness of this year’s rainy May. Grey silver hair neatly tucked under a white scarf, childlike thoughtful look - she is beautiful in her old age.
“Come in. I will make coffee till you take your sit,” said Nvard, Mariam’s daughter.
Grandma Mariam was sitting at the window; it seems she did not notice us. She was leading her fingers on the yellowed pages of an old book placed on her knees, and thinking of something else.
“What book is it?” I asked Nvard.
“It is Book of Lamentations by Grigor Narekatsi,” Nvard said, taking off the cezve. The smell of fragrant black coffee immediately spilled all over the room.
“Book of Lamentations by Narekatsi and an old gospel - all that is left in my mom's memory of her life in Kayseri,” Nvard began her story.
Mariam Meymaryan was born in 1912 in a family of Tigran and Iskuhi. Apple-cheeked and white as snow, she was a cheerful smiling child. Father often seated her next to him and read some extracts from "Book of Lamentations", leaving notes in the margins.
In 1915, Mariam’s mother and aunt took the children and went to Adana.
“They went to work at a plant. Once they came back, they saw that the house was robbed.”
Alarming news about the massacres against Armenians throughout the country reached the family of Mariam. They could not even imagine that one day their family would face the unspeakable brutality.
In 1918, escaping from persecution, Iskuhi fled to Greece. The family of her husband was mercilessly shot to death by Turkish police officers.
Iskuhi had to care not only about Mariam, but about three other daughters – triplets.
Many survivors of the Armenian massacres were forced to leave their children on the road, as they could neither feed them nor bear on themselves. Sometimes their weeping and cries attracted embittered Turkish police officers who were sent to catch fleeing Armenians.
“Grandma often lost consciousness. Once, when she regained consciousness she found that triplets have disappeared,” Nvard said.
“Did the Turks find them?”
“No one knows. They say that they were kidnapped by the Arabs who met them on their way.”
The disappearance of her daughters was an open wound in Iskuhi’s heart. She blamed herself that could not protect her babies until the end of her life.
In the 1940s, Mariam got married. She gave birth to three daughters and a son. In 1947 - during the Great Repatriation – the Meymaryans moved to Armenia.
In Yerevan, Mariam was engaged in carpet weaving – an art she learned from her mother.
“Grandma had gifted hands. Whatever she did, it was a success,” Nvard said.
Nvard is the only person to take care about her elderly mother. According to her, grandma Mariam rarely leaves home because of problems with legs, she is walking by using a special device. She often sits quietly in the corner of the room and looks out of the window, probably thinking about something that is difficult to imagine for us 100 years later.
Photos by Arsen Sargsyan/NEWS.am
The previous articles in the “Survivors” project are:
Khosrov Frangyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Arevaluys Amalyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Margarita Mkhitaryan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Aharon Manukyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Sute Kocharyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Nektar Alatuzyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Silvard Atajyan: 100 years of expecting repentance
Andranik Matevosyan: 100 years of expecting repentance