Vagan Egiazarian

English
Intro: 
“Armenia is not going to disappear from the map. Turkey won’t disappear, either. We are neighbors and we are fated for reconciliation — it will happen sooner or later. I am sure that one day, Turkish society will find it in itself to admit the Genocide of Armenians,” Vagan Egiazarian believes.
Weight: 
-3 500
Story elements: 
Text: 
“Armenia is not going to disappear from the map. Turkey won’t disappear, either. We are neighbors and we are fated for reconciliation — it will happen sooner or later. I am sure that one day, Turkish society will find it in itself to admit the Genocide of Armenians,” Vagan Egiazarian believes.
Text: 
My ancestors from my mother’s side lived in Ottoman Turkey, in the city of İzmit, on the Sea of Marmara. On the day the massacres began, my great-grandfather Grigor and his brother Karapet were playing in the attic. This saved them from death, but not from witnessing terrible things: they watched through the cracks in the floor as soldiers broke into the house and killed their parents and grandparents. The boys were afraid to go outside, and only after the soldiers left and the neighbors rushed in did they risk leaving their hiding place. The brothers were hidden away and taken care of, until there was an opportunity to send them to Athens, where a lot of Armenian refugees were gathered. A charity organization took the boys under its wing and gave them the name Ayotsian – they didn’t remember their own last name.
 
I don’t know the names and nationalities of those who saved my great-grandfather and his brother, and it’s possible that they were Turks. What’s important here is that in those days, when the world was overflowing with rage, hatred and fear, there were people who weren’t afraid. They lent a helping hand to two little boys.
 
After that, it was almost like a movie. The brothers grew up and moved to the Kingdom of Bulgaria, to the town of Yambol. There, Grigor met my great-grandmother Mary Damatyan, who came from a rich Armenian family. They were also refugees, but, before the Genocide, they’d lived for a long time in Bandirma, and then in Istanbul, where they owned several factories. Mary’s family was able to leave for Bulgaria a few days before the massacres began in 1915. Their other relatives either didn’t make it in time, or they didn’t want to abandon their property, or they didn’t really believe in the impending danger, so they stayed behind. Many of them were killed in their homes, while the rest were subjected to the so-called “peaceful deportation” — they were sent to the deserts of Mesopotamia on foot, without any food or water. Among them was my great-grandmother’s cousin, Lusaber, a very beautiful girl.
 
The majority of the “peacefully deported” died on the road.
 
But Lusaber made it to what is now northern Iraq. There, during one of the stops, not far from the town of Sulaymaniyah, the guards sold her to an Arab. From there on, any trace of her is lost. A few days later, the soldiers massacred almost everyone who still remained in the caravan.
 
Mary’s family was able to take some savings when they left; later, they used that money to open a chain of hair salons, so they had a rather comfortable life. For this reason, for quite a long time, Hakop and Tagui Damatyan refused to let their daughter marry my great-grandfather because he was poor. But back then, there weren’t a lot of grooms to choose from in Yambol, especially since her parents wanted Mary to marry an Armenian. In the end, Grigor and Mary got married. They played an active role in the Committee for Helping Armenia, fought against the Nazis as part of a guerrilla unit during World War II and, in 1946, moved to Soviet Armenia, their ancestral land.
 
Once, I was at the international military music festival, Spassky Tower in Moscow with the Armenian delegation, and I was able to have some conversations with the Turks from the traditional Otto-man mehter orchestra and with a dance group. A conversation turned to ancestors.
 
I told them that my great-grandparents were from Ottoman Turkey.
 
“They lived there before the Genocide of Armenians,” I said, pausing for one of the musicians, who played the role of the interpreter, to translate my words. But he said that he didn’t know how to say “genocide” in Turkish. I knew a bit of Turkish, thanks to my university education, so I prompted him with the word soykırım. I repeated it several times, so it was impossible to hide the uncomfortable truth of our conversation.
 
I told the musicians about Grigor, Karapet and Mary. After that, some of the Turks stopped talking to me. But there were others who became friendlier and more forthcoming. They empathized with me and, judging by their eyes, they regretted the crimes of their ancestors. This really made me happy. 
 
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team. 
Subtitle: 
"They lent a helping hand to two little boys."
Story number: 
102
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