"This is the Armenian Genocide," I thought a few days ago when Sarkis Chaprazian wrote me on Instagram saying that maybe we could meet. My first response was "My grandfather was born in Killis, his name was Abraham and he escaped to Aleppo on the 15th, yours?”
Digging a little and contacting some relatives, I managed to fit the pieces and a part of the story was completed, names and colors began to fill in and make sense in my family tree. “Now I have a cousin in Berlin,” I thought.
“Now I also know that I have a cousin in Canada”
A few days passed and another Facebook contact showed me his genealogical tree. There I was; my dad, my grandfather, my great-grandparents and my great-grandparents were there as well, the "Chaprazian" lineage for five generations, and the story continues to be completed, with faces, names and years. “Now I also know that I have a cousin in Canada,” I thought.
I also wonder what is the use of completing name boxes and knowing how many children each had, the names and their years of birth and death. If I am demanding and I am going to talk about the Armenian Genocide, I have to say that the systematic plan of physical extermination began on April 24, 1915 when the Turkish army kidnapped and murdered intellectuals and great personalities of the Armenian people, it would continue until 1923 leaving a balance of 1,500,000 Armenians massacred.
But perhaps today, sitting on a bed in a city in the north of Armenia, bordering Turkey, 14 thousand km from the city where I was born and raised, I am interested in talking about how the stories build us, and taking into account the stories of the story: what remains with us consciously and what remains unconsciously.
For me talking about the Armenian Genocide is talking about the stories I grew up with.
A grandfather who was born in 1908, told us how at 7 years old he saw how the Turks entered his house and took his mother, without telling us the details of the scene. And a great-grandfather who said convinced looking him in the eye “Don't forget that he was a Christian and an Armenian” before a Turkish family probably raised him and his brother within the walls of Islam and changed their last names. As in so many other stories, a Turk helped the four of them to escape. This is how my great-grandparents returned home with their children, saving themselves from the fatal destiny of the desert trek and that same night they started another trek towards the nearby city of Aleppo, Syria, which at that time was a French colony.
“My grandmother and her family began the trek through the desert towards an uncertain future”
A grandmother who was born in 1922 told how her father, after having escaped from various troubles with the Turks, bought a donkey, and built on it a chair that on one side had a cradle for a 3-year-old brother and on the other side a brazier, to be able to cross the desert at night and not die trying. And so it was that 40 days after his birth and in the arms of his mother, my grandmother and her family began the trek through the desert towards an uncertain future. "You don't know how cold it is at night in the desert" my great-grandmother said every so often as if the memories passed infinitely through her skin.
With permission of the French, they managed to enter Lebanon, and settled in Beirut.
What it the reason of this writing? Far away from romanticizing the Armenian Genocide, I ask myself day and night how we are built, and if I think about buildings I can't help thinking of that ingenious great-grandfather, who put together a brazier and a cradle on top of a donkey to make his passage through the dessert with his family a little more bearable; a great-grandfather who built, with his hands, in each place where he took refuge, a house for his family; a great-grandfather who learned to work and build with his hands, as if he did magic, every object that his children or grandchildren asked him to play with.
We are built of trades, passions, and ideals that inhabited us unconsciously before we knew it.
We are built of stories tinged with pain, mysticism, and pride, by those who bring the stories to us. We are built of stories that when they are completed on the other side of the map, it all makes sense.
“Today I am here and my march is perhaps (…) to reconstruct my history”
A whole life fantasizing about an April 24 in Armenia, in the massive march, in the capital city, Erevan, to take my flower and put it around the eternal flame.
Today I am here and my march is perhaps this, to reconstruct the history, to reconstruct my history. And I repeat to myself, what is the use of reconstructing the family ties of a surname modified by geographical circumstances? No, it is not about to rebuild family ties, it is about to rebuild and recognize the ways of operating of an empire / state willing to destroy everything that was not Turkish, it is the systematization of extermination repeated infinite times in infinite places, around the world, and always effective and victorious, why? Because we have to understand, from the stories which are not isolated facts, that these stories with more or less color are repeated infinitely times in the history of towns. Because one more year, remembering, should be useful so that these atrocities do not happen again. But maybe just remembering them we do not achieve anything, perhaps the objective is to unravel them, compare them and disarm what is already constructed to know how things really work, because only in this way will we make these stories to be remained in history.
Translated by Rocio Dilger