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Survivors stories

Aghavni Mkrtich Mkrtchian’s testimony
1909, Bitlis


Aghavni Mkrtchian is a native of Bitlis. Before the massacres there were seven boys and five girls in their family. All the sons were killed by the Turks. They also killed Aghavni’s father, and her mother died of cholera in Etchmiadzin. A witness represents their deportation path telling about the bloodstained Euphrates and the crucial meeting with Hovhannes Tumanyan.



mkrtchian
We are natives of Bitlis. I’m the granddaughter of Moukhsi Vardan. The Turks destroyed our house. Our family was composed of seventy members. There were seven boys and five girls in our family. All the boys have been killed by the Turks. From our large family, only I have survived and Missak, who is now a general in Moscow.

Before the deportation, in 1914, they took my eldest brother to the army; he became a corporal. Once he came to see us. My father said: “Khosrov, lao, don’t go.” My brother said: “How can I? I’m a corporal, if I don’t go, the Turks will burn you.”

He went and never came back. A few Armenian soldiers had decided to run away; the Turks opened fire on them, but they threw themselves into the Arax River and were saved. They joined the Russian army.
My father had run from the Turkish army and had hidden in the straw heap. The Ottoman Turks came, drew him out and killed him. We remained orphans.

Our neighbor, Turk Yousouf efendi had pity on us and took us to his house. The Kurd Hamidié soldiers came and asked my mother: “Where are your gold coins?” Terror-stricken, my mother said: “There, they are in the jar.” The Turks took the gold coins and went away.
Our Turk neighbor, who had taken care of us, got angry with mother and asked why she hadn’t given the gold to him and put us out of his house. We came out; the corpses of the killed Armenians were everywhere; they had massacred all the Armenians. Those who were still alive, were driven we did not know where. On the road there was confusion and uproar. The Turkish gendarmes drew us forward with bayonets. At night they came and took away the young women and girls. One day they took away my mother, too, and then they brought her back. It was good that my father was not alive and did not see himself dishonored.

I remember, on the road of exile our cart turned over into the water. Many people were drowned in the Euphrates River and many were killed and thrown into the river. That was why the Euphrates River was completely colored bloody red.

Walking on foot we reached Kars. We saw the statue of Loris-Melikov – a man, who had put his foot on an eagle. From there we walked to Igdir. With the refugees we reached Edjmiadsin. The exiles, sick, emaciated and exhausted, lay under the walls of the monastery: old and young, all of them ill and dying. Two men came and distributed bread and eggs to the children. They gave mother an egg and some bread. My mother said: “I have two children.” They gave one more egg and we ate. In fact, one of these kind men was had been Hovhannes Toumanian. Suddenly it began pouring and all the exiles remained under the rain. My mother covered us with tarpaulin.

Hov. Toumanian sent the sexton to the Catholicos to fetch the keys to the monks’ chambers, to give shelter to the refugees, but the Catholicos had refused saying that they would soil the chambers. Hov. Toumanian took an axe and began to break the doors of the chambers and let in the exiles. He said: “Go and say that the Catholicos of All Armenians refused, but the poet of all Armenians Hovhannes Toumanian broke the door with an axe and sent in the refugees.”

My mother took away the tarpaulin, poured away the water and took us into a room, where it was warm. But in the morning many of the refugees had died. Cholera had infected most of them. My poor mother also died of it. I remained all-alone. Together with the refugees, I came to Yerevan. They did not accept us well in Yerevan. They used to call us “refugees.”

In Yerevan I studied at the school named after Khachatour Abovian. In 1933 I graduated from the Agricultural Institute, which, at that time, was a faculty of the University. From 1933 till 1936 I worked in Stepanavan as an agronomist. I was acquainted with Aghassi Khandjian, while Matsak Papian was the chairman of our kolkhoz. I have received the title of “Honored Agronomist.” During the war I served in the rear and have received rewards. For fifty-five years I have worked at the Ministry of grain storage as a chief specialist, and I have received rewards.


Verjine Svazlian. The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors. Yerevan: “Gitoutyoun” Publishing House of NAS RA, 2011, testimony 20, p. 117.






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