“Turkey stands with and will continue to stand with friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan with all our means and all our heart.”
– Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, regarding the current fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenians defending Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh)
April 24, 2015. Marking one hundred years of commemorating the genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkey, beginning in 1915; a genocide denied to this day by modern Turkey.
Along with countless tens-of-thousands of Armenians from Armenia and around the world, I walked in silence that day toward the Armenian Genocide Memorial on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. It was a somber sight, a rainy day, umbrellas everywhere but still soaked. I remember a wide pathway – a long downhill, allowing me the view of a river of umbrellas headed toward…well, we couldn’t see it, as we would turn a few corners before reaching the plaza and the monument.
I had visited the monument before, during one of my previous trips to the country; a necessary stop for all Armenians. Inside the museum, a map of Turkey, with villages marking Armenian populations – well, the populations prior to 1915. I saw two gentlemen pointing to Kayseri, discussing the city. I spoke with them; my maternal grandmother also was from this city. She, unlike many in her family, survived.
The monument itself is made up of twelve slabs positioned in a circle, each slab representing a lost Armenian province in present-day Turkey. Rising above it all is a single pillar, 44 meters high, representing the rebirth of the nation. In the center of the circle, an eternal flame dedicated to the 1.5 million killed. On the day of this visit, on the 100th anniversary, this eternal flame was encircled in flowers left in offering, one by one, by the visitors – all passing by in silence. By the time I reached it, the flowers were already piled four or five feet high. Still, behind me the crowds were endless.
I arrived that day by bus, avoiding, momentarily, the rain, until I began my slow procession with the multitudes. However, my return to the hotel was on foot and alone – not even sure, exactly, how to get back. I found myself complaining – rain soaked, the umbrella of little use. I quickly stopped myself. What a pathetic, miserable soul I am.
My grandparents and their families – like countless thousands of our grandparents – were forced from their homes, many husbands, fathers, and sons killed or forced into work camps. Wives, mothers, children, forced to march into the Syrian desert in the heat of summer. Starving, raped, dying. And I am complaining about a little rain, while many, one-hundred years ago, died for lack of water. So, I took down my umbrella and continued walking.
My paternal grandfather would tell the story of his father, taken – like others at the time – to work on road crews, perhaps for the Berlin-Baghdad railway, perhaps for some other purpose. His job was to break rocks; not really a job, as that implies a mutual agreement for compensation. My grandfather saw a vision of his father dying there, begging his son to bring him a little water and bread. Maybe it happened this way, maybe it didn’t.
This great-grandfather was named after Jesus’s hometown – Nazareth. My grandfather was named for one of the Apostles that first brought Christianity to Armenia – Thaddeus. But in Armenian we say Tateos. Following a supposed tradition, my father – the firstborn – was named after his grandfather. Each in this line was firstborn, as far back as I have any knowledge.
As I was firstborn of the firstborn, my grandfather expected that I would receive his name. I thank God that my mother refused. Thaddeus would be OK (well, maybe for a middle name), but Tateos would have been tough to grow up with in America.
Armenians are funny with names – funny in a good way. We name our children after ancient
Article from LewRockwell