Gayane Chebotaryan, Karen’s mother
Alexander and Yuraper Stepanyan, together with their five children, spent the remainder of their lives in Akhalkalaki. “They called their children ‘five diamonds’ - although not all of them were diamond-like. My father, Ashot, had a military career and then became a deputy editor in chief of a newspaper in Yerevan. There he met my mother, an Armenian from Rostov, who came there with her academic advisor to establish the Yerevan Conservatory. He had an older brother Wilson, named – at the suggestion of the friendly Americans who were then stationed at Akhalkalaki – in honor of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson became the second secretary of the Yerevan City Communist Party Committee, a VIP of the times. But even greater was their brother Tsolak, a correspondent member of the Academy of Sciences. He would support everyone and help everyone in the family, especially their wayward brother Elias. Elias was the family’s clown and hooligan, and my mother was actually afraid of him; he would often come to our house drunk and demand that mother leave father and move in with him. Mom would hide behind the sofa. There was also aunt Shushanik, which means ‘lily.’ She was like a lily, too — quiet and very beautiful. She died from pneumonia when she was still young,” Karen explains. “All of these are trifle, funny little things. Who remembers now the drunk Elias or Shushanik’s visits to our house? But these trifles are so unbelievably important. I once thought to myself: here you are, Karen, you have written 150 books on literature, but you never wrote down your family’s history. And this always pains me.”
“I don’t know whether I can speak about politics and about the Genocide from the political stand-point. I am not a political scientist and I am not a researcher, I don’t know who was right and who was wrong. But I know one thing for sure: to this day, my heart is bleeding for all those who, like my family, met their Turkish brigade, but who were not so lucky. Should we condemn and judge? I don’t know. One thing I know; we should remember, and not just on April 24, but always. That’s for sure,” says Karen.