Victoria H.

And Then We Ran: Memoir of Kevork Kayarian

Running faster and faster away from the place I once called home. It was one of those situations that you knew deep down that it would come, but your mind kept telling yourself that everything was fine. So here I am, my loved ones off in the march of death in a place unknown to all but the wretched beasts who have relegated us to savage status. The land I have once known, surrounded by the great architecture that our ancestors have blessed us with. Yet they, the Turks, have come to take our nationalism away and leave us to wilt and die like a flower deprived of water.

Life was beautiful and peaceful growing up in the small village of Harpoot, Armenia with my wife and niece. However, all happiness ceased to exist when they came. At first it was all one big rumor. Villages getting burned and families sent off to march to the beat of their own deaths. Spring of 1914, I found myself surrounded by the bitter enemy. My mind raced as I looked into their swords to see the reflection of my own death. No. I am Armenian. No one can tell me otherwise. And so I ran, I ran until I reached a ditch reminding me of the fate I had escaped. My eyes widened and tears pricked my face at the site of corpses of young Armenian men so brutally mutilated one could not make out their faces. What have these people done to my brothers? Suddenly, I heard footsteps from the woods ahead. Moving as fast as I could without making a sound, I hid behind a rock. My heart was racing, my blood boiling with anticipation.

Ten minutes later, the men’s voices grew fainter and finally disappeared for good. I crept out from behind the rock. Then I ran. I ran over my brothers’ corpses. The thought of stopping never crossed my mind until I had reached home. My wife and niece suffocated me with happiness when I walked through the door.

However, that was not the end. Everyday Turkish soldiers stopped by my house asking if any men were home. My wife chipped away a hole in our wall where I would hide. She put a rock over the opening and let me out as soon as they left. One day neither she nor my niece came to release me. I pushed the rock out and searched for them. My heart sank to the ground as I realized that I was officially alone. That night I packed up the remaining food I had and snuck out onto the roof of my house. Off into the distance, my neighbor's house was alit, the only one I saw with activity. Jumping from roof to roof, I made my way to the house. Looking in the window, I saw a gathering of the last men from the village. They were overjoyed to see another villager had survived and let me in immediately. Our hunger pains were eating away the skin we had left covering our weak, fragile bones, but water was the most desired. The only way of getting water was to go out to the springs which were located on the roadside. The youngest of our group of five was the one selected to undertake the task. He was small in stature and light in weight which was a decided advantage, for he could easily be taken for a woman when dressed in appropriate clothes. We dressed him as a Turkish woman carrying two pails at either side.

Fearfully we watched the streets ready to warn him by various sounds and actions if someone appeared. He was able to fill the pails with the delicious, spring water. Eagerly we gulped down the delicious fluid. For days we had been without water and the sight of it was enough to craze us, but later an obnoxious odor and bitter taste assailed us causing much anguish; we discovered that the spring pipes were broken and waste and water had mixed.

Upon searching for another place to stay, we found an orphaned girl and her crippled brother living up in the hills. Seeing the fatigue in our eyes the girl immediately let us stay with her. The next day our spirits were squashed, we had received information that the government had begun to ransack the homes and sell them to its people. We could at least fight; henceforth we prepared ourselves with knives, axes and other crude implements. We had a slight chance of escaping alive and we were to use that advantage. Through God’s circumspection, they did not finish the task, for they were called out on another errand.

We wrote to the girl asking her if it were possible, and would she please find the means to remove us to a distant city, as the other boys had relatives to go to. Each day, this brave girl would accompany one or two of them dressed as Turkish women until I was the only one left.

Early the next morning, we left the house also disguised. Suddenly we were confronted by twenty Turkish women. Seeing us they stopped, but we tried to keep away- but to no avail. “I was in agony. Sweat stood on my brows; the whole world seemed to be against me. Oh, if I only could get away.”[1] Finally we separated. We arrived at the American Consul where they helped us in every way possible. With another group of refugees, I returned to Erzinga where we all enlisted as soldiers in the Armenian Army. Here I met this brave, faithful, and courageous girl who in the face of odds, saved five men. About a month later we were married. Our race had gone through one of the most savage acts of human kind. Yet here I stand today in America, still and forever more an Armenian.

[1] Kayarian, Vera.  "Armenia to America." School Life May 1937:  11-17



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