Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Grandmother, Victoria, a Genocide Survivor

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Victoria, a young beautiful Armenian woman, woke up screaming and crying. Her nightmares were not surprising to her husband and five kids. They lived in a modest home in Tehran.
Victoria and Alex got married very young. They were both survivors of a vicious genocide. Their marriage was for survival purposes. She was only 14 when she got married.
The young couple were from an Armenian town in Turkey called Garin. In the spring of 1915 the Turkish soldiers started calling the Armenian men to join the army during the First World War. The Armenian men were leaving their homes believing they were going to serve in the Turkish army. Little did they know that was their march to be massacred.
My grandmother, Victoria, was only 7 years old. She was home playing with her fabric doll that her mother had made. Her 6 month old sister, Berjik, was quietly sleeping in the bedroom. Her 12 year old brother, Hambo, was playing with some pebbles.
A sudden silence fell over Garin. It seemed that the birds had stopped singing. For a few minutes there was no wind, no air, and no sounds. Then, a loud knock on the door shook the world. Hambo opened the door and two Turkish soldiers entered screaming, “Ermeni, yavour” dirty Armenian.
Victoria’s mother rushed to the door and saw the soldiers with their daggers on Hambo’s throat. She screamed and begged the men to leave the house. But the Turkish men started laughing and yelling, “You want to save your son? You have to dance for us.” Victoria was hiding under the bed. She was shaking. She was very young but wise enough to control herself not to make noise. Listening to her mother’s and brother’s cries her heart was pounding fast. Hambo got very angry seeing how these men were insulting his mother. He tried to protect her and pushed the men away, running towards his mother. The soldier got angry and slashed cut Hambo’s throat. “Oh, no, God, please save my son.” “Your son?” yelled the other soldier “I’ll give you another son.” He pushed the woman on the ground and raped her. She was devastated and shaking. Before she could realize what was happening to her, the other soldier raped her too. But that was not enough. They did not want to listen to her crying and killed her. The men, exhausted and satisfied, left the house without entering the bedroom.
Victoria came out of the bedroom and saw her loved ones’ bodies soaked in blood. She wanted to scream but she could not. Perhaps she was afraid the soldiers might return.
She grabbed her baby sister and left the house. There was commotion all over the town. Women and children were running, screaming and crying. She walked and walked and got very tired, hungry and thirsty. She could not continue carrying the baby who was also hungry. Victoria left the baby under a tree. She put some rocks around her to protect her from animals and went to look for food. After a few more hours of wandering and walking, she fell asleep out of exhaustion. The next day she could not find her way back to her baby sister. Where was she, under which tree, in which direction?
Victoria met some other women and started walking with them. They went through the deserts of Iraq. After weeks of walking they arrived to Iran.
She connected with other genocide survivors from her town. That’s where she got married at a young age. Her first son was named Hambo and her daughter was named Berjik to honor her lost sister. Berjik was my mother. My grandmother had her own family but she could not stop thinking about her baby sister. She always wondered what happened to her. Did someone rescue her? Was she eaten by animals or killed? The guilt and nightmares continued to the next generation. Her mental and emotional condition affected her kids and grandchildren.

Karine Armen
June 13, 2009

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