Dream – In commemoration of my predecessors who walked through the horror of a cruel Empire

A procession of tired, withered women and children in ragged clothes and barefooted, were walking through the desert and I was following them from above the air witnessing the torture and annihilation of an ancient nation walking towards its grave. My eyes moved from face to face, remembering every feature of their distinguished race. It felt as my breath stopped and my brain like a camera – taking photos and yet my heart was numb. I opened my eyes, and I could not believe it was a DREAM – how is it possible to see faces you have never seen before, and feel their soul pain.

It was not easy to forget the DREAM, but my daily life took its turn, and it seemed modern, worthwhile and full of aspirations and wonders again.

I was walking in the metropolitan city of London, full of Victorian buildings, glazed offices, and beautiful gardens until I reached the big gates of the British Museum. I met with my friends all excited to be able to see some ancient pieces, relics in the museum. We visited different halls, with sculpture, books, artefacts and my eyes stopped at an antique map, written “URARTU.” I was wondering if the Armenians were originally from Urartu as most historians are claiming to, and if I am their descendant. While commenting on this with my friends, I shared with them a true story: “One of my relatives was running from Van[1] with his wife trying to escape the biggest massacre in 1915. During the night, the wife gave birth to a baby girl near the lake. They put the baby in a watermelon rind. In the morning the husband screamed seeing his wife’s face all in blood. She drank from the Lake Van during the night – the lake where the blood of the massacred Armenians was floating”. My friends were speechless like I was telling them about the latest horror movie; they were unaware of the cruelty Armenians suffered under the Ottomans.

I told them that, consequently because of thousands of tragedies and atrocities of the Ottoman Turks, the surviving Armenians abandoned their native lands and settled in different lands and live in Russia, the Arab world, America, Latin America and Europe.

The bitterness of my story stirred up the curiosity of my friends who did not know the facts about the fate of the Armenian people.

Going home I enjoyed the spring sun, which suffered from tides of brightness, but I was accustomed to this change. I was fasting with Philip Marsden’s book in “At Crossroads.” It turned out that there is no chapter in the Bulgarian translation, as the author himself shared with me when he had a presentation of his other book, ‘Ethiopian Tragedy.’ His message to me: “An Armenian from Bulgaria, a citizen of London,” was a modest slogan to the diaspora, proving that we are all over the world. Marsden is an outstanding narrator of the fate of the Armenian people, based on historical facts from books, papers, stories from survivors of the Genocide, and his moral assessment of what happened to the Armenians during the Ottoman Empire.

The title of his book “At Crossroads” is meaningful. Even today, I wonder whether the Armenian people are once again at the crossroads, whether today, 100 years later, the truth about what happened to them during the Ottoman Empire would be revealed to the world.

Travelling to Italy – Firenze

I was about to travel to Italy, and my heart was filled with joy and impatience. I visited my twin brother and his family in Florence. The colors, the atmosphere had a special effect, and the Italian temperament in the market was also felt, where people talked heatedly and freely waving their hands expressing their emotions. One of the sellers asked us what we are, where are we from? We replied that we are from Bulgaria, but that we are of Armenian origin. His reaction was swift: “Ah, we know about the massacre of the Armenian people, about the genocide.” A seller in the market knew in Italy about the Armenians and their fate.

We all attended a classical concert at ‘Casa Buonarroti,’ one of the most extraordinary Florentine museums and a place to remember and celebrate the greatness of Michelangelo.  The house was full of paintings, beautiful sculptures, fine furniture, a grand piano and an amazing garden with a fountain. The concert was in a marquee in the garden, all presented in 15th Century costumes and Venetian masks. The music was captivating, and we lost ourselves in Verdi’s, Donizetti’s, and Puccini’s beautiful arias.  My niece couldn’t keep her emotions any longer, and as the concert was at its end, she got up, applauded with great enthusiasm and shouted ‘Bravissima.’ My eyes and my brother met with joy and approval.

Lucy began curiously to look at the garden and seemed to be looking for a comfortable place. In that luxurious ‘Casa Buonarroti’ Lucy sat on a red velvet sofa with golden – wooden backrest, and I couldn’t help but admire her gracious figure and pretty face fitting so well with the whole atmosphere – as she belonged to Buonarroti family, she was very comfortable within the surroundings. Suddenly Lucy looked with her huge and warm brown eyes and asked me to sit by her. Lucy grabbed my hand and started telling me her dream under the influence of classical music.

Lucy was talking slowly, but with deep emotion – how in a large old house in a strange town enters a tall and ardent man with three Armenians. The man turns to the hostess (an old woman) with the request to hide the refugees in the basement. The next day two ‘zaptie’[2] enter and search the house. The daughter-in-law was silent, but the old woman pointed to the basement. The three Armenians were beheaded in front of the house. A little girl started yelling and striking her grandmother stronger and stronger. ”

I stopped Lucy because I felt her tension. But she went on: “The little girl started stuttering, hiccups and completely lost her ability to talk.”

This dream was poignant, but the more terrifying was the truth that all this had happened, that was the story of my grandfather Ovanes, living in the lands of Van, where he was famous with his bravery and protecting the local Armenians. It was amazing as if Lucy was blessed with an intellectual insight through her dream. My grandfather, Ovanes, went to the house of a Kurdish friend of his, and since the owner was not in the house, he trusted his wife and daughter-in-law to hide an Armenian woman and two young Armenian men. And as in Lucy’s dream, these people have been discovered and beheaded. When Grandfather Ovanes understood what had happened, he set fire to the house of the Kurdish, rescuing the daughter-in-law and the child, and the old woman shouted to the burning house for help.

I am filled with sorrow and rage, even now after 100 years. Was my granddad’s passionate Armenian patriotism a cause for our ‘Karma’ to dream or were we condemned by the Turkish/Kurdish old woman who died in the fires.

Is it our biological inheritance reminding us through our dreams our identity – that the cruelty our predecessors walked through cannot be forgotten even if is not told the world.

 

[1]Van Province is a province in eastern Turkey, between Lake Van and the Iranian border.This area was the heartland of Armenians, who lived in these areas from the time of Hayk in the 3rd millennium BCE right up to the late 19th century when the Ottoman Empire seized all the land from the natives. In the 9th century BC the Van area was the center of the Urartian kingdom.[5] The area was a major Armenian population center.
[2]The word “zaptié” is derived from the Turkish zapiteh; a term which was used to refer to both the Ottoman Empire‘s gendarmerie prior to 1923
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