Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fleeing from Marash in a Snowstorm

At NAASR's Thursday night's talk on Humanitarianism, historian Keith David Watenpaugh referred to the Armenians fleeing Marash in 1920 during a snowstorm (snow rarely fell in that region), the Armenians following the French army who had abandoned the Armenians in Marash, stealing out in the middle of the night, covering their horses'  hooves in burlap so that no one would hear their departure (ref. Marash Girl's interview with Steve Balyozian oral history, 1973), leaving the Armenians who had already suffered and lost so much, to once again suffer and lose so much.  In those days, the women carried their babies on their backs, and doing so in the snowstorm, most of the women were walking with dead babies on their backs, never realizing that the babies were no longer alive.  Not so Auny Nectar.  Now the story.

Growing up, Marash Girl loved her Aunty Azad but always wondered why Aunty's eft eyelid was droopy, unlike the eyelids of other folks in her family.

Marash Girl's father Peter told the tale.

During the exodus from Marash in the snowstorm of 1920, Marash Girl's Great Auntie Nectar and Great Uncle Karekin walked with the Marashtsis away from Marash, away from their homes, away from certain death into the snow, into an unknown future.  They had with them a wee baby, Azadouhi, a baby Auntie Nectar carried until, having tired, gave the baby to her husband, Uncle Karekin.  Uncle Karekin, facing the blizzard, starving and barely able to walk himself, did the best he could.  Miles into the walk away from Marash, Nectar turned to Karekin.  "Where's the baby?" she asked.  Karekin, slight of frame, admitted that he  had been unable to carry the baby any longer and had put baby Azadouhi down in the snow.  Nectar, screaming with rage, turned back to Marash, and walked the mile (was it a mile? was it longer?)  in the snowstorm to find her baby by the side of the road, not yet completely covered with snow.  She gathered the baby up into her arms and with long, energetic strides, an energy no doubt made of fury and determination, returned to the group of exiting Armenian Marashtsis, Armenian Marashtsis leaving their homeland, leaving all they knew, but NOT leaving their children behind.

The baby was Marash Girl's Aunty Azad.  Aunty Azad's eyelid had frozen in the snow, but Aunty Azad had survived, thanks to the courage of her mother Nectar.

1 comment:

  1. It so happened today that a young woman came by with a copy of Survivors (Lorna Touryan Miller and her husband), and some other book on Turkey and I asked what her interest was. she said: I'm a history nerd and I've always wanted to know about this. So I shared your blog on the departure from Marash and some of my personal family history. I happened to have some pictures of grandpa and his family which I showed her.

    ... I also told her about the movie Ararat. Her family was from Italy and her grandmother had talked about the changes when Mussolini rose to power.

    I wish I could control the emotions. I suspect they come from the unexpressed guilt of my grandparents and my mother.

    So your story went the extra mile today.