|A surprise visitor at the back door!|
Photo by Marash Girl
Today is the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the mass killings and deportations by Ottoman Turks that led to the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. Few survivors of those attacks -- which the Turkish government says were part of a civil conflict, not a genocide -- remain. Some settled here in Massachusetts, where Armenian-Americans now number about 30,000. In the excerpt below, Peter Bilezikian, 92, Newton (native of Marash), shares some of his memories
''The dream I used to have, a Turk would cut my ears off, cut my nose, pull my teeth, gouge my eye out.'
''All I remember is, we were hungry, and I thought that was a normal thing. . . . There were so many people dying. . . . I remember children dying with the big stomachs . . . dropping dead right in the middle of the street. And a cart would come along, pick them up as if they were nothing, and throw them up on the cart and keep going. There'd be a big hole somewhere, they'd just dump it in there. During the 1919 war, when the . . . Turks rebelled against the French . . . there was a war in the city. We were in one place and it was fenced. A lady was baking bread. I was hungry and I went over there and asked for a piece of bread. She wouldn't give it to me: 'This is for my children. If I give it to you, then my children won't have any.' So I waited, I was hoping she would take her eyes off the bread, I could steal. She never took her eyes off it, but they were shooting from a minaret . . . I had a cowlick, like an Irish boy, you know . . . [the bullet] singed my hair and hit her between the eyes. She died. I grabbed all the bread that she had baked, ran under a stairway and ate it all up. I didn't care what anybody [thought]. It wasn't a nice thing to do, looking back. Poor woman died, and do you know, I never thought anything of her dying? These are all dreams to me today. When I came to this country I lived in Newtonville. At night I used to find myself under the bed in a cold sweat. The dream I used to have was, a Turk would cut my ears off, cut my nose, pull my teeth, gouge my eye out. I would wake up all wet. . . . I never had these dreams in the old country."