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Survivors stories

"I would not even wish my enemy see what I saw those days"

Shogher Tonoian’s testimony
1901, Mush, village of Vardenis


Shogher Tonoyan’s story begins in 1915 on the day of the Feast of Vardavar, when massacre started in their village. First they looted their village, took away the cattle, then gathered all the men, seized the girls and young women and led away. Both the elderly and children were burned in stables. 60 of her relatives were burnt, and only she and her brother suvived. On the road of exile they met the group of Andranik, and headed to Persia, Khoy, Nakhchivan, Karabakh and Kapan … In 1922 they reached the village of Katnahbyur of Talin region where Shogher married Grigor Tonoyan from Sasun and gave birth to nine children: Ahavni, Vardush, Gulnaz, Mkrtich, Sarkis, Vachagan, Hreghen, Anahit, Shushik.



tonoyan
…On the day of Vardavar, 1915, The Turkish askyars brought Chechen brigands from Daghestan to massacre us. They came to our village and robbed everything. They took away our sheep, oxen and properties. Those who were good-looking were taken away. My aunt’s young son, who was staying with me, was also taken away, together with all the males in the town. They gathered the young and the elderly in the stables of the Avzut Village, set fire and burned them alive. Those cattle-sheds were as large as those of our collective farms. They shut people in the stables of Malkhas Mardo, they piled up stacks of hay round them, poured kerosene and set on fire. Sixty members of our great family were burned in those stables. I do not wish my enemy to see the days I have seen, lao! Only I and my brother were saved. From the beginning, they took away the young pretty brides and girls to Turkify them and also they pulled away the male infants from their mothers’ arms to make them policemen in the future. The stable was filled with smoke and fire, people started to cough and to choke.

Mothers forgot about their children, lao! It was a real Sodom and Gomorrah. People ran, on fire, to and fro, struck against the walls, trod upon the infants and children who had fallen on the ground.
…What I have seen with my eyes, lao! I don’t wish the wolves of the mountain to see! They say that, at these distressing scenes, the Turkish mullah hung himself. During that turmoil the greatest part of the people choked and perished. The roof of the stable collapsed and fell upon the dead. I wish I and my little brother had been burned down in that stable and had not seen how sixty souls were burned down alive. I wish I had not seen the cruel and ungodly acts of those irreligious people. The Armenians of the neighboring villages of Vardenis, Meshakhshen, Aghbenis, Avzut, Khevner and others were burnt in the same manner in their stables. I do not wish my enemy to see what I have seen. There was a very old woman among us. Those who knew her called her Polo, Arshak’s mother-in-law. She was about one hundred years old. When smoke began to enter the stable, she gathered the children and made them lie on their faces, their nose and mouth on the ground, then she made their mothers lay on them. She made my brother also lie on the ground. She took off her apron, covered him with it and pushed me to lie down on my brother and not let him get up, even if he cried. May God bless her soul.

That woman said: “Lao, what’s the use of crying, we must act so that from each house one boy remains alive and comes out of the fire, so that their hearth is not extinguished, so that they may tell the world the acts of these godless and ruthless Turks. People, don’t get disappointed, don’t lose your head, be staunch in your belief. God is great; He shall open a door.” I covered my brother with my body. Fallen on his nose and mouth in the dirt of the stable, the poor boy was not able to breathe, he wanted to come out. He cried and cried, he cried so much that he fainted and calmed down. When the roof of the stable collapsed, the flame and the smoke escaped from the opening, and air penetrated in the stable.

I and my uncle’s daughter, Areg, took my unconscious brother by the arms and legs and, treading on burnt logs and corpses, we came out through the breach. There we saw the Turkish soldiers dancing in round, swinging and striking their sabers and singing merrily ‘Yürü, yavrum, yürü!’ (Dance, my child, dance! – Turk.). Up to this day that song resounds in my ears. That dance, lao, should never be danced in an Armenian house; that’s the dance of the ruthless, godless, wild beasts. Fascinated with the dance they did not see us. I put my brother on my back and ran away. I escaped and entered the nearby reeds. When dark fell I took my brother and ran away. How far did I run, or where, I don’t know? Suddenly I saw people coming towards us. I took my brother and hid under the shrubs. Then I heard those people speaking Armenian. I ran and joined the group. That was Andranik’s group. May I die before his foot-dust! We went. Wherever we went the Turks cut our way. We went to Persia together with Andranik, on the way to Khoy, the Turks were in front of us. We ran away: we went to Nakhidjevan, Gharabagh, Ghapan, Goris, Sissian, Sevan… Eh, lao, where didn’t we escape to, where didn’t we suffer! From the Goris pastures we came to Talin. What days I’ve seen, lao, I don’t wish my enemy to see!

In a village near Sissian or Goris – its name was Aghoudi-Vaghoudi – the refugees had gathered wheat ears about 5-6 kg. Together with 8-10 small children they had gone to the water mill of the valley to grind the wheat. Those children went and did not come back. Grown-up men went to see what was the matter. What did they see? I wish my eyes had become blind, so that I would not see… The Azeri-Turks had filled the children into the chimney of the mill and had burned them. Lao, the Turks here don’t differ from the Turks there. To tell the truth, they are even worse, more pitiless and crueler than the Turks of our country.

They came and told Andranik that the Turks had filled the young boys into the chimney and had burned them alive. General Andranik took off his papakh, knelt on the ground and swore that he would avenge the young boys’ massacre. He did avenge. He made short work of the Turks of that village, may I fall a victim at Andranik’s feet.

In 1922 we came to the Talin Region, to the Mehriban (now: Katnaghbyur) Village. This village had been an Armenian village. The Turks had occupied and destroyed our churches; when they began constructing the road, they dug the ground and many khachkars were found. I married Grigor Tonoyan from Sassoun, Arpi Village. My husband became the first chairman of our village-council. He had no education, but he was very intelligent. Of my ill fate, he died in 1955. I have brought up nine children. Their names are: Aghavni, Vardoush, Gulnaz, Mkrtich, Sargis, Vachagan, Hreghen, Anahit, Shoushik. I have thirty-six grand-children and great-grand-children. They are good children. None of them became a hooligan…


The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors. Yerevan: “Gitoutyoun” Publishing House of NAS RA, 2011, testimony 9, pp. 98-99.






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REMEMBER

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Tigran Polatyan was born in 1876. He worked in Adanian and Nersesyan colleges of Aintab as a teacher, and later in Sis, Urfa, Tigranakert etc. In 1915 he was deported to Deyr zor. In the jail he was tortured and then killed in 1916. A victim of the Armenian Genocide.

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