HAGOP JOSEPH APIKIAN
My late mum, Antoinette
God rest her soul in peace, told me this story when I was young and I was deeply touched to this day.
This is one of 1,500,000 million suffering.
Today I would like to share the journey of my greatgrandparents, Bedros and Vergine Deyirmenjian.Bedros Deyirmenjian was a musician who played the Armenian instrument, the Canon, and travelled across cities in Marash, western Armenia which is now occupied by Turkey.
He and his wife, Vergine Deyirmenjian, had three children, Zekia, their first daughter, Hagop, their son, and Lutfia, my Grandma, I always called her Lucine medz mamig, the youngest, they were respectively 7, 4, and 1 years old in 1915. Following the Young Turk revolution, Bedros, my Great Grandfather, was taken from home, and assassinated. Once My Great Grandmother, Vergine, Had a dream, of a man dressed in white who visited Her and taught her the spinning of cotton and it was from this dream she woke one day and decided to do so as a profession, but the death of Bedros, was a heavy burden that took a toll on her heart. She was tormented. As a widow during hard times, her two brothers promised to help her and look after her two daughters.
In early 1920 Life was difficult, and only worsened when on 13 February 1920, the Turkish National Movement started in Sadjak Marash, pushing the French army out, they eventually left muffling their horses' hooves with cloth to avoid making noise. At the time the Turks started to kill Armenians, my people, living in Marash and take our lands and burn our churches. . Marash was known as the city of 6 churches. When the Turks began their attacks, Armenians escaped and took refuge in Armenian churches, however, the armenian Catholic Church was burned to ashes with Armenians trapped inside since they were being shot at... They all burned alive!
My Great Grandmother, Vergine, her son, Hagop, and her two brothers took refuge along with other Armenians at Mr. Hagop Kerlakian house. He was a noble man, the Marash representative, also known as Mebus. Other Armenians took refuge in the Doctor's house, since all couldn’t fit in one house. All Armenians hiding in both homes were waiting nightfall for the French Army to come and rescue them with the mutual agreement that if the French army visited one home before the other the rescued party would inform the French of the whereabouts of the remaining Armenians. Night came and the French army came to the Doctor's house.
All were rescued but for some reason they did not come to the Mebus house. In the morning the Turkish thugs however, came knocking at the Mebus house door. The Turks requested that Mr. Kerlakian open the door, while he tried to persuade them in vain to leave and return another day. the Turks insisted and promised not to harm him or anyone and convinced Mr. Kerlakian to open the door. They lied. He was killed instantly by an axe and all Armenian refugees panicked and began running for their lives. The Thugs showed no mercy or humanity, smashing heads with their axes and shooting at the refugees. My Great Grandmother's two brothers were killed by axe, but miraculously Vergine and her son escaped to the fields and hid in a irrigation canal. It was February and the water was very cold. In the meantime, the French arrived and began to engage in crossfire. Many Armenians were stuck in the canal under fire and Hagop was shot and pulled away by the current. After loosing her husband and witnessing the murder of her brothers and the water taking away her bleeding son, Vergine lost her sanity and saw no hope or reason to live with such pain. She came out of hiding and stood right in the middle of the fire and screams "kill me! Kill me, I don't want to live", until someone rescued her and took her to the French camp.
A miracle happened that day since my Great Grandmother's clothes were ripped with bullet holes but no bullet had hit her. "It was her guardian angel who also had helped and taught her the spinning the cotton trade' my mother, Antoinette, a devout Christian, told me. Vergine was hysterical and asking for her son. Some French soldiers asked her where exactly she lost her son and they went to find him and brought him back to the camp. There, they operated on Hagop to remove the bullet from his foot. At night, however, all his bed was soaked with blood and after checking they found another injury. He survived.
At approximately the same time, 1920s, my Great Grandmother had sent her daughters, my Grandma, Lucie who was 6-7 years old at the time and her older sister to take refuge in an American missionary school. Since the missionaries were serving food to refugees, mostly vegetable soup. At times the two had to eat the globular drupes of the Pistacia Terebintus tree, Menengic in Turkish. Sometimes they even had to go through horse droppings to find food remains. What was most important was that they were safe since the Turks would not attack foreign missionaries at the time.
Eventually my Great Grandmother, her son, Hagop, daughter Zeika, my Grandma Lucie reunited in Aleppo. My Great Grandma a midwife at the time, would be offered food by some families, as appreciation after delivering their babies safely. That was not enough to raise 3 children. The two girls had to stay in a Franciscan order sister orphanage.Time passed and my Grandma met my Grandpa, Melkon Boudakian. They had one son named Melkon after my Grandpa, my late mum, Antoinette, aunt Juliet, my late aunt Alice and dear aunt Vergine.
My father Joseph Artin Apikian, was a genocide survivor as well! To this day big nations, the so called democratic countries: USA, England, etc. don’t recognize the Genocide. Furthermore, every time Turkey denies the genocide they commit a new genocide.
Genocide is a big crime and denying it is the mother of all Genocide.
Mum thank you and God bless your soul!