Nurel Beylerian

Nurel Beylerian

To this day I think about my father’s superior officer. He was a Turkish sergeant – I don’t even know his name – but without him my grandmother, my aunts and dozens of others would never have survived the genocide.

This is the story of my father, Yervant. In 1915 he was a 25-year-old soldier in the Turkish army, serving at the customs office at Haydarpasha rail station in Istanbul. One day his sergeant – whose name I never knew – warned my father that the Armenian community in his native village, Geyve, would be evacuated. He told Yervant to bring his family to the city immediately.

My father sent a cable to his parents. My grandmother believed in the warning and left immediately with her three daughters, my aunts. My grandfather dismissed the message.

“We are innocent peasants, nobody is interested in us,” he said.

He stayed with his brothers and their families. The entire village was wiped out in 1915; my grandmother and aunts only survived because they came to Istanbul.

Another time the same sergeant told my father that a wagonload of Armenian exiles from Edirne would be held in the station overnight. Late at night, my father found their train and opened the escape hatch, helping them to flee. When the train arrived in Konya a few days later, the sergeant heard that one of the carriages was empty. He mentioned this to my father. Yervant said nothing and the subject was never discussed again.

Even today I often think of this Turkish sergeant. He saved many people who would not have made it otherwise. We need to tell his story, and the stories of people like him. The problem with Turkey, and with many Turkish people, is that they do not identify themselves with the people who saved the Armenians. Often it’s quite the contrary …

My greatest achievement is raising three Armenian children. Nothing else in my life is as important as that.