In 1981, Arto left for the United States. On his birthday, August 4, in 1984 he decided to surprise his parents and visit them in Istanbul. “I didn’t give them any notice that I was back from America; I just went home. They were sitting at the table, drinking to my health and wellbeing. My mom was crying and I knocked on the window three or four times. My mom drew near the window and said, “Sedrak, how much did we drink, that we hear Arto’s voice?” and I answered back, “Mom, it’s me,” then my dad came out to embrace me,” recalls Arto.
“Only then, for the first time, did my father talk to me about what he had witnessed during the massacres in Sebastia,” says Arto. Until that day, he knew the Genocide only through his father’s silence. Sedrak could not share the horrors with anyone and tried to ease his pain with alcohol.
“He was extremely afraid of speaking out. You see, they used to cry for no reason sometimes. My dad wouldn’t tell us anything, but finally told us of his neighbors, the sisters, whose throats were slit. He told us that just before passing away. One has to share something before death, that’s why he told us that story,” says Arto, adding that he understood everything from the look on his father’s face.
“You know, I presume in those times, dying was the easiest thing to do. The deceased were gone; those who remained suffered a lot,” notes the musician. Between 20 and 29 members of Arto’s mother’s and father’s families were killed in the Genocide. In December 1984, Arto called his sister in Istanbul to inquire about his father, and learned that he was in a coma.
“To me, there’s no centennial or millennium of the Genocide. The 101st year is the same as the 200th year. The important thing is how people preserve the Armenian nation. All we have to do is not cheat each other and live a pure life,” says the leader of the Armenian Navy Band.