Thursday, April 12, 2007


(Born in 1901, Moosh, Vardenis village)

My grandfather's name was Hovhannes and my grandma's name was Kishmish. In the days of the Sultan they took my grandfather to Istanbul by force. They imprisoned him. My grandfather died in the prison.

I was born in 1901 in the village of Vardenis, Moosh region. There were eight hundred Armenian families in our village. Meghraget (Honey River - in Arm.) flowed through our village. When it rained, the fish came out of the water. We brought drinking water from the fountain in jugs.

The roofs of our houses were covered with earth. The tundir was in the middle of the house. We used to bake lavash (Armenian bread) every day. There was a hearth outside the house and we burned wood in it. Outside, there were two stones at the foot of the wall, upon which there was a cross-shaped iron grate to hold the cauldron.

The house, where we lived, was large. We had no garden. There was a special place in our house where we arranged the folded beds one on top of another, which reached the ceiling. There were no bedsteads. It was a dark world. We raised sheep, cows, buffaloes, horses. We sowed wheat, lentil and linseed. We had twelve buffaloes, eight cows, two hundred sheep. We had a plough. Five-six families came together and ploughed the land and sowed. We had so much wheat that there was no place to store the crop.

The land belonged to the Turks. We paid land tax. The wheat was sown, was harvested and threshed, then the bran was given to the wind. When they finished, a man came from the Turkish government together with the village chief and he brought a stick with him. He drew lines on the wheat pile. The Turk measured seven parts gave them to the owner of the wheat and took away one part. There was no tax for peas, lentil and linseed.

In our house everybody knew his work: they were divided. Seven women lived peacefully in the house, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law; the eldest woman was the manager. Our daughters-in-law were Voski, Mariam and Naré...

In the evening and morning everyone went to church. Elderly women, young women and girls used to wear their nice clothes and went to church. On holidays we fasted. There was church service every day. Our village had two priests. The Turks killed both of them. There couldn't be any marriage without the church. The bride used to wear nice clothes made of good material, a jacket, on her head there was a head-wear made of silver. Her face was covered with yellow-green-red cloth. Her face remained closed till she had her first child born. The bride's dress was velvet. The clothes of our country were nice. The girls were married at the age of thirteen-fourteen. If she became twenty, they didn't marry her, they said: "She's old, she has remained at home." They used to have many children. They gave the girl a dowry: quilts, mattresses, pillows, shawls and stockings. The bride was given gold rings, golden necklaces as a present. On carnivals dhol-zourna (Armenian national instruments) played: they ate and drank. We made halva: gata. During the feast days we made bishi (pastry fried in oil - in Turk.).

It was hot in our country. There was a shed: in hot weather we used to sit there and talk. The women didn't work outside; they worked only at home. In hot weather we used to bathe in the river every day. We had a well. There was something like a pond where water gathered: horses used to bathe in it and then they let the water flow to the fields.

In Mush there were no doctors; there were hakeems. We were very healthy, we lived well, there wasn't much to care.

There was a school in our village. Children came from ten other villages to our village-school. The school was for boys. Girls didn't go to school; they made handiwork at home. There was a teacher in our village. There were books. The people of our village read the Bible; they read Armenian books.

Until the proclamation of Hurriyet they didn't take young men to the army. My uncle went to the Turkish army.

We had Kurd friends from Kurd villages; they used to come to our house. The plates, spoons, cups for the Kurds were washed and kept in the bread barns. We had no right to eat with them. My cousin was ten years old during the massacre; our Kurd friend took him to their place and saved him. The Kurds were better than the Turks. There are good and bad people among the Turks, there are good and bad people among the Kurds, and there are good and bad people among the Armenians. There are good and bad people among every nation.

Teacher Margar, God bless his soul, was a revolutionary; he fought with the askyars, they took him to Moosh and hanged him. The Turks cut off his head. The Armenians bought his head with gold, took it to St. Karapet of Moosh and buried it under the monastery wall. It is said that a ray of light descended every day on his grave. Margar's grave had become sacred place of pilgrimage for the Armenians.

Under the pretence of taking the youth to serve in the army, the Turks gathered them, took them away and butchered them.

My father Abraham had a rifle, the Turks came and killed him with his own gun, then tied a rope to his neck, pulled him and threw him into the fire and burned him. My mother Altoun saw it, couldn't stand it and died on the spot. My brother Hovhannes sucked his mother's milk only for ten days. My brother and I remained orphans.

On the day of Vardavar (the Transfiguration of Christ), 1915, The Turkish askyars (policemen) brought Chechen brigands from Daghestan to massacre us. They came to our village and robbed everything. They took away our sheep, oxen and properties. Those who were good-looking were taken away. My aunt's young son, who was staying with me, was also taken away, together with all the males in the town. They gathered the young and the elderly in the stables of the Avzut village, set fire and burned them alive. Those cattle-sheds were as large as those of our collective farms. They shut people in the stables of Malkhas Mardo, they piled up stacks of hay round them, poured kerosene and set on fire. Sixty members of our great family were burned in those stables. I do not wish my enemy to see the days I have seen, lao! Only I and my brother were saved. From the beginning, they took away the young pretty brides and girls to turkize them and also they pulled away the male infants from their mothers' arms to make them policemen in the future. The stable was filled with smoke and fire, people started to cough and to choke. Mothers forgot about their children, lao! It was a real Sodom and Gomorrah. People ran, on fire, to and fro, struck against the walls, trod upon the infants and children who had fallen on the ground. ...What I have seen with my eyes, lao! I don't wish the wolves of the mountain to see! They say that, at these distressing scenes, the Turkish mullah hung himself. During that turmoil the greatest part of the people choked and perished. The roof of the stable collapsed and fell upon the dead. I wish I and my little brother had been burned down in that stable and had not seen how sixty souls were burned down alive. I wish I had not seen the cruel and ungodly acts of those irreligious people. The Armenians of the neighboring villages of Vardenis, Meshakhshen, Aghbenis, Avzut, Khevner and others were burnt in the same manner in their stables. I do not wish my enemy to see what I have seen. There was a very old woman among us. Those who knew her called her Polo, Arshak's mother-in-law. She was about one hundred years old. When smoke began to enter the stable, she gathered the children and made them lie on their faces, their nose and mouth on the ground, then she made their mothers lay on them. She made my brother also lie on the ground. She took off her apron, covered him with it and pushed me to lie down on my brother and not let him get up, even if he cried. May God bless her soul. That woman said: "Lao, what's the use of crying, we must act so that from each house one boy remains alive and comes out of the fire, so that their hearth is not extinguished, so that they may tell the world the acts of these godless and ruthless Turks. People, don't get disappointed, don't lose your head, be staunch in your belief. God is great; He shall open a door." I covered my brother with my body. Fallen on his nose and mouth in the dirt of the stable, the poor boy wasn't able to breathe, he wanted to come out. He cried and cried, he cried so much that he fainted and calmed down. When the roof of the stable collapsed, the flame and the smoke escaped from the opening, and air penetrated in the stable. I and my uncle's daughter, Areg, took my unconscious brother by the arms and legs and, treading on burnt logs and corpses, we came out through the breach. There we saw the Turkish soldiers dancing in round, swinging and striking their sabers and singing merrily 'Yürü, yavrum, yürü!' ('Walk, my child, walk!'). Up to this day that song resounds in my ears. That dance, lao, should never be danced in an Armenian house; that's the dance of the ruthless, godless, wild beasts. Fascinated with the dance they didn't see us. I put my brother on my back and ran away. I escaped and entered the nearby reeds. When dark fell I took my brother and ran away. How far did I run, or where, I don't know? Suddenly I saw people coming towards us. I took my brother and hid under the shrubs. Then I heard those people speaking Armenian. I ran and joined the group. That was Andranik's group. May I die before his foot-dust! We went. Wherever we went the Turks cut our way. We went to Persia together with Andranik, on the way to Khoy, the Turks were in front of us. We ran away: we went to Nakhidjevan, Gharabagh, Ghapan, Goris, Sissian, Sevan... Eh, lao, where didn't we escape to, where didn't we suffer! From the Goris pastures we came to Talin. What days I've seen, lao, I don't wish my enemy to see!

In a village near Sissian or Goris - its name was Aghoudi-Vaghoudi - the refugees had gathered wheat ears about 5-6 kg. Together with 8-10 small children they had gone to the water mill of the valley to grind the wheat. Those children went and didn't come back. Grown-up men went to see what was the matter. What did they see? I wish my eyes had become blind, so that I wouldn't see... The Azeri-Turks had filled the children into the chimney of the mill and had burned them. Lao, the Turks here don't differ from the Turks there. To tell the truth, they are even worse, more pitiless and crueler than the Turks of our country.

They came and told Andranik that the Turks had filled the young boys into the chimney and had burned them alive. Andranik pasha took off his papakh, knelt on the ground and swore that he would avenge the young boys' massacre. He did avenge. He made short work of the Turks of that village, may I fall a victim at Andranik's feet.

In 1922 we came to the Talin region, to the Mehriban (now: Katnaghbyur) village. This village had been an Armenian village. The Turks had occupied and destroyed our churches; when they began constructing the road, they dug the ground and many khachkars were found. I married Grigor Tonoyan from Sassoun, Arpi village. My husband became the first chairman of our village-council. He had no education, but he was very intelligent. Of my ill fate, he died in 1955. I have brought up nine children. Their names are: Aghavni, Vardoush, Gulnaz, Mkrtich, Sarkis, Vachagan, Hreghen, Anahit, Shoushik. I have thirty-six grand-children and great-grand-children. They are good children. None of them became a hooligan.

My brother got his education in the orphanage of Kars, he became a well-educated teacher. I wish I hadn't given him to the orphanage, he had better stayed with me and became a choban (shepherd - in Turk.), then he would have married, have his family, his children, he would have filled what the Turks had emptied. I saved my baby brother from the Turks' sword and fire, thinking there wouldn't be other swords. I said: "This is Armenia: there aren't any Turks or fire here. I thought, let him study and become an educated person and let him tell the world what we saw. How should I know, lao, that there would be the 1937 exile [of Stalin period in the USSR] for us?"

My brother Hovhannes Abrahamian was born in 1912 in Moosh. My brother came from the orphanage, he went to Russia, Krasnodar, then he came to Meghri, Aparan as a school-inspector, then he became director of Talin - Azizbekov, Gndevaz village schools. In 1937 he was accused as a member of the Dashnak party. 1937 was a year of harvest. They took him away, they took away many, many people, they took away my only-born brother as well. They connected my brother with Yeghishé Charents and Aghassi Khandjian and they took him away: they took him away and they ruined him. I freed him from the mouth of the beast, I saved him and brought him here and I threw him into the mouth of the godless hyena. The godless and impious hyena took away my only brother; it took him away and devoured him. I cry night and day. I will cry up to my grave. I want my brother's name to be written on my grave-stone. In this big, large world I have no one else left besides my children, nothing else, I'm all alone...

My son Sarkis
1 is my sole hope and protector. God is in Heaven, here, below is Sargis. My son Sargis took me by the hand and we went to the Monument of the Genocide [in Yerevan]; mourning and crying I lay flowers there and it seemed to me all my burned ones were there. It was the Tomb of all my lost ones. I cry very much, I want to go to our land. I want to go and drink the sweet water of our Meghraget, I want to breathe the fresh air of our mountains, of my sweet land. The taste and smell of our land was different, lao. I want very much to go to our land. I hope, by God, I know, I won't see it, but my children, my grand-children shall see it, our Moosh will become Armenia, as Yerevan is our city today.

I wish all the Armenians hope, love, faith honesty and conscience. This country is good, but it doesn't believe in God. If you have conscience, you are righteous; your soul is holy.

1 Shogher Tonoyan's son, Doctor Sargis Tonoyan, has told us about his uncle Hovhannes Abrahamian's and Armenian poet Yeghishé Charents's friendship. It turned out that Charents and Hovhannes had been in the same jail in 1937. Doctor of Historical Sciences, Colonel Armenak Manoukian has discovered from the archives of the Ministry of State Security, Republic of Armenia, Y. Charents's poem "He Burned the 'Capital'," where the great poet has written about his prison life and has dedicated several verses to our tormented narrator Shogher Tonoyan:
Holding grand-son by the hand,
And a sack on her shoulder,
Poor old Shogho her head bent low,
Implored the guard of the prison:
"It is three days we have left home,
And we're waiting for our turn,
To hand over some clothes and bread."
But who was listening to her?
"The chief of guards came," they said.
Poor old Shogho ran to him.
"About meeting with him again?
Then tomorrow...!"

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